Last Sunday, I was invited to a local church to speak about ethical wills to a group of people who were taking their "Mapping My Exit" workshop. Started six years ago, the workshop consists of three, 2-hour sessions to help people get started with planning and expressing their final wishes. Speakers come to talk about legal, health care, financial, funeral, and other matters.
The workshop participants receive an excellent workbook that provides, in one place, all the necessary information that a family or personal representative needs to carry out one's wishes at the end-of-life. Just gather important information and fill-in the blanks on forms provided. What a gift of preplanning for the loved ones you leave behind!
In the midst of my talk, I always include a "reflections exercise" to give people a "living" experience of what it's like to do an ethical will. After taking time to reflect on a question, I ask people to share the thoughts that came to their mind with another person. Of course, the room always starts buzzing with the energy of lively conversation (which I'm reluctant to stop when "time is up" because people are enjoying their telling and listening so much!).
At this talk, I noticed a man in the front row who didn't have a partner to dialogue with -- so I sat down across from him and asked about what he had thought about. His response went something like this: "I've been blessed with 63 years of marriage, a great family, and work I enjoyed. God gave me an ability to teach and I've influenced the lives of thousands of people." I asked him how old he was. "87", he said.
"What about your health?," I inquired. "Relatively good," he said. "I lost an eye years ago. Of course, I asked the usual 'why me?' questions. But, looking back, it didn't really affect my life that much. I was able to serve in the military and teach for years. A few years ago though, I had a problem with my 'good' eye and was blind for four days. When I couldn't see anything and lay there wondering if I'd ever see again, poems started coming to me in the midst of the 'blackness'. And, you know, when my sight returned, I wrote those poems down. And I've continued writing poems. I just wrote one today. Now I have over 200 of them", he said, with a smile and twinkle in his eyes. What a wonderful personal legacy to share with future generations of his family!