By Diane Silver
Fourteen years ago, my life partner died of breast cancer, and it felt like I had fallen into an abyss. It felt as if the wind was rushing past my ears. Nothing was solid. No matter how far I stretched out my arms there was nothing to hold onto. At any moment I knew I’d hit a bottom I couldn’t even see, and the pain would be crushing.
I thought, that will hurt.
I thought, but what a relief. Such a death will end my grief.
All those days ago, all that pain ago, I couldn’t allow myself to die, though. I had a child. Seven years old. I had lost my life partner, but he had lost his mother.
While I was learning how to breathe again every morning when I woke up and realized that she was dead… and while I was fumbling to understand how to raise a child alone, the issue of insurance arose.
An insurance company said that I had no relationship with my late life partner. The company declared that our life together had simply never existed. They said this was what they called a “Housekeeper Situation.” That’s when a housekeeper moves in to take care of a terminally ill person, and then takes all of that poor soul’s estate.
In essence, that company said I had never held my late partner, I had never cried with her, I had never laughed with her. In effect, that company said the two of us had never fallen asleep holding hands. That company said the two of us had never gotten up in the middle of the night to take care of a sick child.
Every moment, every hour, day, month and year that we had been a household was simply declared to have never existed.
And there was no legal way I could prove that they had.
I was lucky, though. My partner and I had appeared on TV and in the newspaper talking about our relationship. We were activists. We were visible. Those appearances helped my lawyer prove that we really were a domestic partnership.
That’s why I support a domestic partner registry for Lawrence. The honest citizens of this town shouldn’t have to go on TV to prove the existence of their partnerships.
Passing this registry takes nothing from anyone, yet it helps many people. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the only fair thing to do.
For information about how a domestic partner registry works, see Just the Facts: Domestic partner registries stretch across the U.S. & present few problems.
PHOTO: That's me, our son and my late partner Patty at our son's third birthday party.