We know we are living in surreal times. During this pandemic, we are reminded daily of the fine line between life and death. It is time to get our affairs in order.
I hope you have a will. It seems like common sense. But we learned after the tragic deaths of musicians Prince and Aretha Franklin they did not have a will. The actor Philip Seymour Hoffman also did not have a will. You don’t have to be rich or famous to have a will. Everyone should have a will especially if you have dependents, adult children, and/or assets.
“A will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children. If you die without a will, those wishes may not be followed. Further, your heirs may be forced to spend additional time, money, and emotional energy to settle your affairs after you’re gone.”
Even though we updated our will last year, we made a small change last week to reflect our current wishes. A friend of mine recently divorced and said she needs to revise her will. The New York Times had an article about how doctors are writing their wills. Now is the time to get your affairs in order–if you have not already done so. My husband and I also have a Living Will also called the Advance Directive. You might have this too. Again, I highly recommend it. Another document to review is called Five Wishes.
Recently I participated in an online series of three workshops with Rachael Freed (no relation, but I wish) who is recognized as one of the authorities on legacy work. She is the author of several books, but her book I recommend the most is Your Legacy Matters: Harvesting the Love and Lessons of Your Life.
I wanted to share one learning that made the biggest impression on me. Rachael recommends we write a letter to accompany our advance directive. Talking about death with the people you care most about is tough stuff. But this personal letter we write to accompany our health care directive makes sure we are sharing what we want to happen at the end of life–whenever that may be.
Rachael provided a worksheet and gave us prompts at the top of the sheet. Things such as “What I’ll Miss When I Die” or “What I Want as Part of My End of Life Care.” Then we were to write what came to mind –even making lists of things. Whatever we wrote could be the foundation of a legacy letter to go with the advance directive. This letter would be more heartfelt than just a legal document.
I listed things such as:
- I would like to be surrounded by family.
- I want to donate whatever parts of my body that could benefit someone else.
- I want my favorite music playing in the background.
- I want my millions of postcards to be shared at the service as party favors. People can take as many as they want.
- It would mean a lot to me if each of my sons had something to share at my service,
- My living will says I do not want life support or feeding tubes. However, if I am not elderly, use your best judgment. Whatever you decide, I know that your love for me will guide the decision.
- I would love to be surrounded by lots of candles. You know how I love candles.
This list I will use to write a letter that is saved with the living will. I can also share it any time I feel appropriate. The purpose is to initiate important conversations with loved ones and to clarify my desires near the end of life. Since we never know when that time will come, it is good to be prepared. Most people don’t like to talk about death or even think about death. I plan to write this love letter soon.
I hope you have a will.
Do you also have advance directives?
What about writing a personal love letter to your family about your end of life wishes?