When Pillow Talk Goes Downhill: Coronavirus Forced Us to Write Our Will
"We wanted to give our kids, if we died, to another gay family, a religious family, a family who knew what it meant to encounter adversity and come out on top, people who understood our kids for who they are."
In early March, I’d run myself ragged at work as a director at a heart health nonprofit based in New York City. My immune system was extremely low and I started coughing. By mid-March and with my last work event behind me, I laid in bed sick with what I thought to be the coronavirus. My wife, a hospital chaplain, was still working in the hospital before shifting to her work-from-home schedule. One evening, when she arrived home to find me in the bed, while our three kids were glued to the television, she urged me to go to the emergency room. We both hoped that I’d be tested for the coronavirus as my temperature spiked, my energy waned, and my cough worsened. When my temperature hit 102, I finally went.
I was denied a test, as the physician told me that my symptoms weren’t severe enough and tests were limited at the time. They gave me the traditional battery of tests for the flu, RSV, and strep, all of which came back negative. I was discharged home with presumptive coronavirus, a note to excuse me from work, and orders to return if my symptoms worsened. It took me over twenty days to recover completely, but with no test, I still feared I could infect my family. With so much about the coronavirus still unknown, and my wife working in the hospital as a hospital chaplain - while having underlying health conditions of diabetes, asthma and high cholesterol - we decided it was time to make a will.
There was just so much uncertainty with what may or may not happen with the virus. Along with the added worry of what may or may not happen to our children; everything was just so unpredictable. We did know one thing, if anything were to happen to either or both of us we wanted our kids to be taken care of. Death was something my wife was all too comfortable discussing given her line of work as a chaplain. The conversation we needed to have was much harder for me. I could not bear the thought of not being with my kids. I could not bear the thought of possibly missing their high school graduation or the loss of the twins’ first tooth. It was too much to think about on top of trying to actively protect our 4-year-old twin daughters and our 13-year-old special needs son; none of them realized how serious this all was. For me, the reality that I could die or that my wife could die added another burden to our already overflowing plates.
I, for one, had never seriously sat down to think about who would take our kids, part of me thought I was a bit invincible. The conversation made it real; I would not be around forever. Or in some sick twist of fate, that our kids would lose both of their parents to a virus which symptoms resembled the flu. Each night, my wife and I laid our heads down in our cozy bed, snuggled up face to face, talking about the kind of people who would do well with our kids.
We didn’t have a very long list but we did have a certain set of values we wanted the couple to have. We didn’t want our kids to live a life in which they felt burdened with, not only with the death of their parents but also with the fear of moving in with people they didn’t know or already have a relationship with. Needless to say, thinking of a forever home for our kids that was not our own was heart-wrenching.
Some of the things we did not initially think about were how much money we would need or had in the bank, should we pass soon thereafter speaking with the intended parents. We then realized we needed more money in the bank, to increase our respective life insurance policies and truly settle into the choice we’d made. Our nightly pillow talk led us to a decision that came with more difficult conversations with our families, in particular, sharing our final wishes for our kids. We wanted to give our kids, if we died, to another gay family, a religious family, a family who knew what it meant to encounter adversity and come out on top, people who understood our kids for who they are.
We then did the leg work of figuring out what makes a will a will. Did we need it notarized? Did we need to go to court? Did we need to pay out of our ears to finalize the paperwork? Nope, none of it! All we needed was the names of the intended stand-in parents, after having talked with them, written down. It was so simple to do, yet so painfully sobering to go through. Once we’d made the necessary decisions, I was oddly able to breathe easier and sleep better. Each moment I spent with our kids after our will was decided on and typed up, felt a bit sweeter. I looked at them a little differently; the love in my heart for them full. I was confident we’d made the right decision, no matter how uncomfortable the thought of leaving them made me, they would be in good hands, including God’s. Even if we died tomorrow, they would be well taken care of and loved for being fully themselves.
Meet The Family
Nikkya Hargrove is a working mom and lives in Connecticut with her wife and three kids. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Scary Mommy, Shondaland, Elle Magazine, and Cosmopolitan.
She is working on her memoir and is represented by literary agent Stacey Glick of Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.
Read more of her work here: https://www.nikkyamhargrove.com/