Your Parents Are Fine, But Read This ASAP

Why you need to have an awkward conversation about their death on purpose

Lindsay Robertson


Photo by Aaron Ang on Unsplash

One fine spring day a few years ago, I had a thought — one I probably should have had much earlier, one that would return to me over and over, usually when I was trying to fall asleep: Everything is not going to be okay. For one, my parents will die. I even came up with a comforting counter-thought to recite to myself in response: When the time comes, you will have the tools to deal with it. It was kind of like how women who are having their first child comfort themselves with the idea that their bodies should instinctively know what to do. This comforting thought would turn out to be both true and untrue — but it would have to be untrue first, of course.

I had no idea how close to the precipice I was. My mom would die of cancer, at 61, less than three years later.

There are things I wish I had done back then in those limbo days, conversations I wish I’d had with my mom when she was fine. They wouldn’t have been easy, but they would have been so much easier back when everyone was healthy than post-diagnosis, when even the slightest acknowledgment of the looming specter of her possible early death (like, say, flipping the channel and seeing that Steel Magnolias was on) was enough to send us both into…