I just signed my death away. Literally. For the first time in my life I’ve bought life insurance. The insurance agent just left. Aubrey. Not exactly the first name I would have given The Grim Reaper – Aubrey. Aubrey’s a soft, lovely name, and he’s a lovely guy, my new insurance agent. A real mensch. I guess you need to be if you’re selling someone a product they’re only buying because their wife wants them to – not because she thinks it will look great on you. It’s not exactly my idea of a romantic gift for my wife. It’s not the Taj Mahal that I leave behind to immortalise my love for her. What’s more, both seller and buyer know they’re dealing in a product tainted with the afterglow of the afterlife.
By the way, why don’t they call it death insurance? Surely that’s a much more accurate description of the product? I mean, that’s what it is, isn’t it? Money that goes to your family once you die – payments after my death. I’ll pay now, while I’m still alive, so that I can keep on paying, once I’m dead. Did I get that right?
My wife insisted that I get “life” insurance just in case, you know, God forbid, something happened to me, so that she and our baby boy will be looked after. I’ll be honest with you: I dragged my feet on this for a few weeks. In fact you could say that I was dragged kicking and screaming into this “what happens to me after you die” conversation. I’ve always enjoyed thinking about what happens to me after I die, but here my wife wanted us to talk about what happens to her after I die. I didn’t like the idea one bit. Life insurance was never something I gave much thought to, even after I suffered, and survived, a heart attack 2 years ago, just before my 35th birthday.
Before my heart attack, life insurance seemed like something that terribly boring grownup people did. It seemed a bit of a scam actually, giving someone your money every month on the off chance that they then give it to your family once you die. Why don’t we just give our families that money every month ourselves? Aren’t all these tycoons playing with, and losing, all our life insurance money anyway? And what if I die, and the tycoon who holds my life insurance fund needs to take a haircut? How do they expect me to authorise that transaction? Through a séance?
After my heart attack, when I thought about my mortality quite regularly, the very idea of life insurance seemed to fly in the face of everything I was working so hard to achieve: I was fighting for every ounce of life! I was spending a lot of time trying hard to live in the moment. I don’t need life insurance, that’s for people who think they’re going to die!
But, alas, my wife wears the ’grownup thinking cap’ in this house, so finally she made an appointment with the insurance agent. I knew I was going to be seated across from Aubrey The Grim Reaper, so to give me courage I poured myself a glass of red wine (recommended once daily for people with “heart conditions” or even anyone who just needs to “unwind a bit”) and let him tell me the story of what happens after I die.
“Since you are a young man with a heart disease I can’t get you any decent life insurance policy,” he said flatly, without missing a beat.
“Excuse me but I don’t have a heart disease,” I say.
“Sorry, a heart condition,” he says.
“I don’t have a condition either. I don’t consider myself as someone who has a heart condition. I consider myself a young man who had a heart attack a couple of years ago but who is doing much better now, thank you very much. I eat healthy. I exercise. I work with much nicer people now. In fact I’m healthier now than I have been for most of my life. My cardiologist says I’m good as new. Good as new. I can give you his number…”
“I hear you,” Aubrey says, and I feel like he really did hear me. He even told me about a client of his who had a heart attack in his fifties, and now runs marathons and plays golf three times a week.
“But even he can’t get proper life insurance. I don’t make the rules. For the insurance companies, someone who has had a heart attack is classified as someone with heart disease and they won’t insure you for any medical condition.”
So let me get this straight: even though I’m much healthier now than I was before my heart attack, and my cardiologist says I’m good as gold, I still can’t get proper life insurance? No insurance company wants to take a risk on me?
“Yes,” says Aubrey.
I understand the insurance companies’ position, I really do. Statistically, people who have had heart attacks are statistically more likely to suffer further heart attacks. Which is something I still have to wrap my head around. But why do they have to paint all us heart attack survivors with the same brush? Why does the conversation about my end have to start like this?
But Aubrey had a proposition. He could get me life insurance that wouldn’t require a medical statement from me. It would be expensive, and if, God forbid, something did happen to me within the first three years of the policy, my wife wouldn’t get anything except what I paid every month. So I signed away my death. I figure if I can make it past the first three years, then I’m home free. Free to die, that is.