Maybe it’s that I received my first official piece of mail from AARP, or that I start an internship for my doctoral program today at Community Hospice. Maybe it’s the beginning of a New Year, a chance to reconsider how I am making use of this ‘one, precious life.’ Whatever the cause, I have been thinking about old(er) age and dying a lot this week.
Please understand, I plan to stick around a long, long time. There are many things I really, really want to stick around to see: my children’s babies pooping all the way up the back of their freshly washed onesies, their toddlers being picky eaters and my youngest pleading with her own little artist about why she cannot draw with sharpie on the family dog. I want to be there when their teen-agers roll their eyes at being sent back upstairs to change clothes, for the dinner conversations about why drugs should be legalized (for everyone but YOU!), and for the first time my own kids belt out a string of profanity over the open potato chip bags in the cabinet and the empty toilet paper roll(s). Oh yes, some glory days ahead! I get all goose-bumpy just thinking about it!
Anyway, Friday afternoon, Jon and I went to see our fabulous attorney, Karen Valle, who has navigated us through the complexities of rebuilding our wills with her signature smarts, grace and good humor. This is no small feat given the twists and turns of our lives, the children and step-children and related other parents, and our shared desire to have these documents reflect the reality of how we have created a family built from love.
Jon’s will is characteristically clear and direct, to the point. Mine has tangents, addendums regarding “feelings,” and home-made appendices for which Karen had to find (read: make up) the proper insertion points in the formal documents.
Short story is that if I die soon, a reign of complexity and turmoil will ensue. If Jon and I both die, we can only wish our family and friends good luck sorting that mess out. So, let’s just assume we will both live happy and healthy lives, into our old, old age. We have no plans to leave the children a bunch of money, or a bunch of anything for that matter. We will get our affairs in order to make things as easy as possible for them to navigate, but we’re not working our bunnies off now to leave them an inheritance thankyouverymuch, just like we’re not paying for (all of) college. We want them to have the satisfaction of earning their own living, by their own sweaty and calloused hands.
What I do want to leave them with is a clear understanding of how we feel about them. Although my mother died at 53 of breast cancer, she did an outstanding job of making sure we all know how very much we were loved, how deeply she had treasured her life, and how confident she was that we would be able to withstand the pain of her death and grow up to be well-adjusted adults. And, we did.
So, in case I cannot say those things that might need to be said for myself, I wrote them for Karen to include in my last will and testament, and share them with you here, in hopes that you find them helpful as you consider your own long term plans and wishes.
My Wishes: What I Want My Loved Ones to Know
I want my family and friends to know that I love them. A lot.
I hope you will forgive me for the times I have hurt you, those I knew about and those I didn’t.
I forgive all of my friends and family for anything and everything- let it go. In my best years, I could barely remember what I had for breakfast by noon each day, you can be sure I won’t remember anything now.
I wish for all of my family members to make and have peace with one another before my death, and if not, to strive for it after until it is reached.
I wish for my family and friends to respect my end of life plans even if you don’t agree with them. Please understand that Jon is my soul-mate, and whatever he decides is exactly what and how it should be for me. No looking back, no regrets.
As in life, please look at my death as a time for growth for all of us. This will help me live a meaningful life, even in my final moments.
I have lived a courageous, fabulous and full on life with many mistakes, and many more joys. I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams, and am grateful to you all for your part in those blessings. I want you to know that I have not feared death, not ever. I do not believe it is the end for me, or for us.
May the memories of our time together bring you joy, as they have brought me. Thank you for walking this path, this wonderful journey with all of its twists and turns, with me
Mi shebeirach- May we all have the Courage to make our lives a blessing.
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This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.