From Where I Sit – Leaving a Legacy

The biggest distraction I face when I’m home alone is the TV. Most days It’s on for hours, providing background noise while I read, write, do paperwork, housework, or exercise.

At its worst it splits my focus and makes everything else take longer. At its best it provides me with information and inspiration for story ideas and just getting along in the world.

The other day I was listening to The Voice, a Retirement Living TV production on the ONE channel. It covers issues of interest to retirees and older adults. What a lucky break for me. The topic of the day was legacy. Baby boomers are especially motivated by the desire to leave their mark.

The session that grabbed me was the segment on ethical wills. I had never even heard the term, never mind known what it meant. An ethical will is a written letter (or longer) for one’s children or grandchildren. A last will is a legal document detailing the disposition of your estate. The ethical will is an opportunity to share your beliefs, values, ideas, reflections, and memories of your life with those closest to you. A priceless legacy.

I so understand this. Back in the late ?70s I worked on our community’s history book. Greg was only three years old when the book was published in 1980. What would a three-year-old know (or be able to remember) about who his mother is and what she stands for? It was important to me to have my name attached to something tangible, important, and lasting if I were to suddenly die.

Every day since, I’ve been able to teach through word and deed those things I believe in and stand for. But I also like to believe that I will have important things to say, demonstrate, and teach ?til the day I die. So the legacy thing is a moving target. Surely my legacy today would be richer (because of my life experience) and better received (because of Greg’s age) than it was in 1980.

The reason this idea grabs me is because I don’t think the teaching and learning ever ends. Life is hectic, people are busy. No one I know is taking the time to talk and record memories, words of advice, family trivia. Imagine the value of a document written in your parents? hand about their life and the enduring messages they wanted you to get.

Experts warn against using the ethical will to scold or chastise the reader. They also point out that the written word can appear harsher than the same spoken message, which has inflection, tone, and body language to soften it. we’re also advised to use acid-free paper to ensure the document holds up for future generations.

Note to self: don’t wait to have all the planets aligned and everything perfect before beginning. A short document that gets done is oh so much better than the perfect vision that never reaches the paper. Though surely having a leather-bound album and specialty paper can’t hurt, from where I sit.