What You Take With You

melinda-gimpel-699368-unsplashAfter months of evading the task, my wife and I finally sat down and updated our wills. I was the evader, actually. This subject had been on my wife’s mind for months, and without her persistence I am sure that our old and woefully outdated wills would still be occupying a dusty safe-deposit box.

What compelled this beautiful, healthy, fit woman in the prime of mid-life to become so concerned with our end-of-existence planning? It’s not because we think we will be dying anytime soon; we hope for decades of life to come. And it certainly wasn’t to ensure that she protect the “fortune” that will be hers upon my death – no one gets rich in the 12% tax bracket.

No, we lost young friends this past year, suddenly, and the bedlam that followed for some of the surviving families was almost as painful as death itself. We both have aging parents whose affairs, shall we say, are not completely sorted out, so only God knows what will happen when the inevitable occurs. Meanwhile, two of our children are reaching young adulthood – old enough to take responsibility in our absence – but not seasoned enough to set a wise course for the future. 

Being the superb mother, sibling, child, friend, and spouse that she is, my wife cannot bear the thought of leaving this world without taking something with her when she goes: Some of the chaos. She doesn’t want our deaths to inflict unnecessary confusion or turmoil, and thus, has done all she can to lighten the load for those left behind.

This is a good lesson for all of us, and I am not speaking only of our wills, testaments, advanced directives, and healthcare surrogate decisions (as necessary as these are). We are all going to die. There’s nothing especially morbid about that. And when we go, someone – or ones – will be left with what is left. 

This may force your thoughts immediately to your financial bottom line. After all, most of us would like to be able to leave our children and grandchildren a few dollars, an annuity, or a beach house. There’s nothing wrong with this, but what about taking some things with you when you go, so your loved ones will not be left to sort it out in your absence?

Inflicted shame. Accumulated stigma. Forgiveness unspoken. A decades-long grudge. Generational addiction or abuse. Why not take these with you when you go; let them be buried with you? Why leave others with the chaos of such things? Because of selfish pride or the stubborn refusal to “let go?” It hardly seems worth it.

So, follow my wife’s example: Put your affairs in order – now – while you are of sound mind and able body. And begin with those affairs of the heart. Because for all that you might leave behind, the best things could be what you take with you, empowering those you love to live lives of wholeness and peace.

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