Bossing My Husband From Beyond The Grave
Guiding your spouse through a life without you.
Pack Up The Moon, my twenty-second novel, is the story of a woman with a terminal condition who writes her husband a series of letters to guide him through the first year of his life without her.
It’s kind of a great idea for everyone to do, isn’t it? Especially in my case. Let’s face it. My husband would be helpless without me.
He was twenty-three when we got married, whereas I was a wise and mature twenty-six, so I feel almost as if I trained him in adulthood. Even his mom said I “made him a great man.” (We get along just fine, my mother-in-law and me.)
Like a lot of couples, one of us was in charge of home life and children, social life, date nights, vacation planning, pets, family get-togethers, etc. Hint: It was me. Oh, my husband is wonderful and does all sorts of helpful things …. he’s a firefighter. He loves working outdoors, loves building things, loves tearing things down. His chainsaw is his best friend. He’s not a loner, because he has me.
Which brings us to my death. My father died young and tragically. Being that I’m Catholic and superstitious, I therefore assume that I will also die young(ish). Also, I’m that person who enjoys self-diagnosing as a hobby. So far, I’ve been certain I’ve had a brain tumor, leukemia, ALS, leprosy, exploding head syndrome and various types of cancer. I envision my death daily, either the noble way — pulling children out of a burning car — or the more likely way — choking to death on popcorn at 2 a.m. while watching Project Runway.
Poor Hubby, I think. Without my guidance, he’d turn into a stinky old man who wandered the house aimlessly in hole-filled t-shirts and filthy Carhartt’s, muttering to himself, endlessly watching reruns of This Old House and weeping in his chair. He wouldn’t remember to change the sheets on the bed or wash the dog. A fog of neglect would hang over him, and the kids would argue about him. “No, it’s your turn to feed Dad! I did it last month!”
And so, I’ve made plans. First thing on the list: choose his second wife. I want him to be married again, as soon as possible, frankly. Our kids are grown. They can deal with a stepmother. I have a stable of candidates for him. Julie from Canada, whose bright personality would definitely cheer him up, but whose love of sports might send him to an early grave. Maybe my sister? He does love my sister. However, she’s married, so that’s inconvenient. One of my best friends, who never married (and never wanted to)? At least he could help her put up shelves and paint rooms.
I’d want him to travel, because we loved traveling together (note the past tense: I’m halfway in the grave already). I’d want him to go to all the national parks we didn’t get to see, then visit the ones we did, and shed a few poignant tears without being too sad. Go back to Hawaii, where we had such a beautiful time with the kids. Australia, where he saved me from drowning on the Great Barrier Reef. (Imagine if I had died then, honey! We had years and years after that! Great job!)
I’d leave him a list of what I call the “Secret Mommy Jobs”…things that would never get done without me. Does he know that I wash the garbage cans, for example? That I vacuum the cupboard where we keep the toaster? The hair in the shower catch …. that doesn’t go away by itself, babe.
I’d have to set up reminders on his phone. Time to trim your eyebrows, honey! or Call your mother. I’m serious. Call her.
I’d set up playdates for him with other men, because let’s face it. I’m his best friend, and all his hobbies are things like building rock walls and digging holes in the ground. On my deathbed, I’d have to order books about poker playing or skeet shooting so he could learn to play well with others. I’d sign him up for classes so he could learn new things and not just molder in the living room, power-eating Chips Ahoy now that I’m not around to bake real cookies.
I’d let him keep a few pictures of me in his man-cave or workshop. “Who’s that?” his new friend might ask. “Oh, that’s my first wife,” he’d say. And he’d smile at my picture and add, “She was a peach.” Because I was! (Er…because I am.) But in this scenario, I’d look down from the Great Beyond and smile back. He’d feel warm and loved…and happy. After all, it’s what we all want for our spouses—to have loved and been loved, and to be better for it.
New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins has written more than 20 books, which have sold millions throughout the world. Her last two novels were each selected as People magazine’s “Pick of the Week.” Kristan is also a cohost of the Crappy Friends podcast, which discusses the often complex dynamics of female friendships, with her friend and fellow writer, Joss Dey. Higgins lives in Connecticut with her family. Her new novel, Pack Up the Moon, will be available on June 8, 2021.