Why I Plan to Live Forever

120 years. That’s roughly how long I plan to live. Which is why my husband and I have pretty much completely neglected the question of who should take care of our children if something were to–God forbid–happen to us. After all, a 90-year-old man really shouldn’t need look after him. Time to cut the cord, you know?

Which is to say, we haven’t written a will. This drives my father insane. So much so that every time he sees us his idea of small talk has become, “So, have you written a will yet?” A question only slightly less weighted with meaning than “So, when’s your husband going to finish his PhD?”

My dad turns 80 next month and I came up with the idea that in addition to whatever gadget we buy for him, we could also give him peace of mind.  So, haltingly at first, my husband and I began the difficult discussion of who we’d want to raise our two young boys if something terrible happened to us.

We quickly realized that, well, it’s complicated. There are so many people in our lives who can give our sons love and stability. But who can raise them to be the kind of Jews we want them to be?

My sister is the mother of five happy, well-adjusted children.  She and her Catholic husband are still young and energetic, and our children would be embraced and no-doubt thrive, surrounded by family. But a kosher home? Some kind of Shabbat? Jewish schools and summer camp? No, no, no, and no.

“Surely my sister would take pains to raise my children just as I’d want them raised–especially in light of the tragic nature of our passing,” I insisted. “At 30k plus in tuition a year,” my husband said, “don’t count on it.” And he’s right.

So the question is, is that a deal-breaker? It shouldn’t be, and yet, being Jewish is so much a part of who we are that we can’t imagine letting go of it without a fight.

So what about friends, then? Again, more questions than answers. One couple obviously loves our children. But they’ve already made some choices for their kids we’d never make for ours. Another couple is nearly identical to us in terms of values.  But I just don’t think our friendship has reached the “Would you mind caring for my children in the untimely event of my death?” level. And anyway, how do you even begin that conversation? “Hey guys, remember how you said if we needed anything we should just let you know? About that…”

Finally, there’s my best friend and her husband. They’re a good religious match. They have the means. And I truly believe that in 10, 15, 20 years I’ll still be speaking to them. Except…they live hundreds of miles away, and my children hardly know them. It would be the very definition of upheaval.

There you have it. We are deeply undecided, caught between a thousand impossible compromises, but at least our mortal heads have been pried out of the sand.

So, talk to me–have you and your partner gone through this yet? What values do you think are most important when choosing a new mom and dad for your babies?

Lili Kalish GerschLili Kalish Gersch is the director of literature, music and Jewish life at the Washington DCJCC and the former managing editor of MyJewishLearning.com. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and three sons.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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