After I’m gone, I imagine my great grandchildren will look at my name in its position on the family tree, read documents about my life and know that I was loved by a great man, raised wonderful children. It’s not much, but it’s something I would want them to know: this man stood by my side. We lived through life and all it’s ups and downs together.
But what if we hadn’t had children? What if we hadn’t married? And what if he had been a she? Would they think I had lived a sad and lonely life?
I’m pondering these things after reading a heartbreaking story about two women who lived and loved together for 30 years but whose history was stripped away by the stroke of a pen.
Writing in Daily Life, Monique Farmer recounts the moment the funeral director asked her to fill out the Death Registration Statement for her beloved aunt, who had been all-but married to a woman for thirty years and then a widow for another decade.
“My aunt was gay, and her partner died 10 years ago after nearly three decades together. They were married, or at least they seemed that way to me. Their lives were as inter-mingled as my parents’ were, perhaps even more so,” she writes.
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But the handwritten form did not have a check-box for their relationship – married just not in the eyes of the law. The options were: married, widow/widower, de facto, divorced, never married and unknown.
“They weren’t legally married,” writes Monique. “So that didn’t make Julia a widow, although she lived that way once Annie died… [De facto] felt like a cold label for what was a beautiful love affair.”
“Most accurately, Julia had ‘Never Married’, so with a heavy heart I ticked that box. This meant that the next section of the death registration, asking for her partner’s name and other details, was left sadly blank. As if she’d never loved or been loved,” the author continues.
“I’m sure Julia would have married Annie if they’d lived in a future Australia. An Australia where the defining relationship of her life could have been recorded on her death certificate.”
Do you think it’s time Australia introduces same-sex marriage? Does Julie and Annie’s story make you think differently about the issue?