Several years ago I read about ethical wills. As is always the case, I was intrigued by the idea and believed writing one for each of my kids would be the ultimate gift.
Unlike a living will or a last will and testament, this document has no legal, health, or financial implications. Rather, it seeks to convey to one’s children (or others) those values we hold dearest. It may include last wishes. It can be as short as a paragraph or long as a book or anything in between. It can be written, audio, or video.
The concept of ethical wills originated with the Jewish faith and goes back to about the twelfth century. They are also sometimes called legacy letters. Googling the topic takes the reader to several websites that include sample wills, resources, and of course retail products or classes. Amazon shows several titles to guide the process.
I’m sure that somewhere in my papers is the original magazine article that piqued my attention. At that time all I did was rush out and purchase two large format scrapbooks. I guess rather than simply writing something and calling it done, I intended to go the collage way by adding ephemera to the pages. To this day the scrapbooks remain untouched.
But, very soon, I hope to report all that has changed. For the last couple of Fridays I’ve been attending a class in Edmonton. There are only five of us, plus a facilitator, so the group size is nearly perfect. I expected we would get assignments and spend most of the time writing, but, so far in class we haven’t written anything other than notes.
Instead, we ponder pointed questions and take turns answering them. The skeptic in me doubted this would work or meet my needs. But in fact discussing life’s big questions with strangers may be easier and more freeing than talking to those people closer to us who have their own take on our life story. To have this work takes a great deal of trust and respect. We have to care as much about listening to someone else’s life experience as about sharing our own truth. And, with four more classes to go, it seems to be working.
Naturally, each of us could still blow this opportunity. Talk is easy. We each need to put pen to paper. The trick for me has been doing the assignment soon after the class so the momentum isn’t lost.
Ultimately, the challenge for me will be daring to start. To know that capturing those thoughts and beliefs, even if it isn’t perfect or complete, is better than waiting for the alignment of the planets before beginning. To know that this is a work in progress and I can keep adding to it as long as I live. To know that there is benefit to me as I do it and for anyone I share it with. Surely this is more valuable than any ?thing? I can leave them, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites..