I kept eyeing the candy. It sat there on a handsome conference table, just inches away from me in this well-appointed law office.
But would it be unseemly to reach for a foil-wrapped mini candy bar as my husband and I were discussing our final wishes?
Would it degrade the process of updating our wills and medical directives to be chomping on a Snickers?
Somehow, my anxiety about this visit had transformed itself into hunger for something sweet.
So I did it — I reached for that Snickers as talk of trusts and executors swirled around me.
It's hard to define, let alone describe, how it feels to sit next to the spouse you have loved for 58 years and plan the details of his last wishes — and your own.
It's impossible to imagine life without him, so I've always thought — and said — that I want to go first.
Alas, it's not up to me.
But on this recent afternoon, sentiment and emotion were not really on the table with those candies. Everything was disguised in words like annuities and tax advantages.
The lawyer himself, clearly smart, thoughtful, and kind, had been in these situations before. And so had we, when we realized some years ago that with three children and by then, a couple of grandchildren, we needed to do some advance planning.
That was before we had even reached Medicare age. Now, we're definitely in what's euphemistically called "the twilight of our lives," a stage that comes complete with wreckage and loss and many, many more funerals than weddings.
So sitting at that mahogany table, thoughts raced and got jumbled. My head was being eclipsed by my heart.
I kept looking at my husband's profile, as familiar to me as my own, and he sifted through papers and clauses and the business end of life.
Perhaps because he's been trained in the law — he has had to make hefty decisions as a judge for more than two decades of his professional life — this terrain was easier for him to tread.
But for me, it was the Twilight Zone.
As soon as we began reciting the names and ages of our daughters, their husbands, and, oh, my God, our grandchildren, I felt the lump rising in my throat.
How long before we disappear from their lives, hoping we've left behind our wisdom, our joy in them, and our realization that they — not stocks or bonds — were truly our legacy?
What would they all remember us? What would remind them of us? How could we ever beg their forgiveness for whatever mistakes and missteps we'd made along the way?
This was not a matter of who would get the corner curio cabinet or the old cameo I have loved since their father gave it to me on our fifth anniversary.
No legalese could ever matter nearly as much as the "I'm sorrys" left unsaid, or the "I love yous" overshadowed by foolish arguments and stubborn stalemates over … nothing.
I kept thinking of the words of an old country song as we talked of codicils and clauses: "It was all "filling up my mind … and emptying my heart."
I reached for another Snickers.
In so many ways, this important and entirely sensible visit was shocking: death is our human common denominator, yet it's so deep and unfathomable that confronting it on an ordinary afternoon in an office with leather chairs and handsome trappings has to feel surreal.
But there it was. The elephant in the room.
Had we done some good in the world? Would our children and grandchildren go on to have the lives we dreamed for them?
Would we ever be blessed enough to meet another generation of Friedmans?
Nobody ever told me how much I would care about what happened to the world — and those I love in it — after I died. But this experience, on the surface so calm and deliberative, actually had such pathos enclosed within it.
It was a collision with everything that has ever mattered, or will. Suddenly, I desperately wanted more of what no one can guarantee: time.
And sitting at that table, I reached for my husband's hand. It startled him — and then he squeezed mine with his.
Such a simple gesture. And such a profound one, too.
I got a little teary. He cleared his throat.
And then I made myself sign my last will and testament.
And so did he.