Tuesday, November 28, 2006

On Elderhood: What Is Old Age For?

I've written a couple of times about Dr. William Thomas (The Greening of Aging & An Oregonian Interview) who is working to transform nursing home care and cultural views of the elderly. Last week, I found a back issue of Yes Magazine which contained an excerpt from his book, "What Are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World". Here's a link to the article:

What Is Old Age For? by William Thomas

I love what he says about elders and elderhood in the conclusion to the article:

"Any honest accounting of the potential influence of elders and elderhood must address the contributions not only of fit and energetic elders. It must recognize the contributions that people who are weak, ill, infirm, dependent, demented, disabled, and dying can make to this struggle. The old and frail are able to surmount the dizzy bustle that clings to the young—to enter a time and place in which the spiritual and emotional dimensions of human life take precedence over the humdrum workings (and failings) of organs, tissues, and systems. This is among the most admirable of all human endeavors. What the old and frail do is show us the way. They provide us with greater insight into and a clearer perspective on the human condition."

I invite your comments (and would love some feedback from people working in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the U.S. and around the world).

I have especially enjoyed hearing the insights of elders who have participated in my ethical will classes and introductory talks on life legacies. What a priviledge it was to listen to a 98-year old woman tell stories about her life (as well as hear the wisdom of many people in their 60's, 70's and 80's). They definitely gave me a "clearer perspective on the human condition."
On Elderhood: What Is Old Age For?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Storycatching " on Thanksgiving Day

I received an e-mail yesterday from Christina Baldwin, author of Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story. Her message contained some questions for Thanksgiving which I thought were well-suited for gathering family stories to include in an ethical will.

Christina tells her personal Thanksgiving story then notes "in that space between dinner and when we can face the delicious array of pies, we gather around the fireplace and feed each other a round of stories. A question sets us in a particular direction:

What is a recent experience you've had that gives you hope?

What's a favorite memory about Thanksgiving Day?

What's the most unusual thing you've ever done on Thanksgiving?

What do you hope will have changed/happened in your life by next Thanksgiving?

The kinds of collective spirit that gathers around these holidays hold many stories waiting to be told. Will you be the Storycatcher in your family or circle of friends to create a space and a bit of time to hear each other's tales?"

Thank you, Christina, for suggesting these questions for holiday gatherings. And a personal "thank you" to everyone who reads my blog. May you be blessed with abundance and great memories of Thanksgiving Days in your life!
"Storycatching " on Thanksgiving DaySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Memory: Who & What Do You Remember?

One of the challenges (and opportunities) in creating an ethical will is "memory". We're called upon to recall the people and events of our whole lifetime (so far) as well as reflect on their meaning for our lives today.

According to Piero Ferrucci in his new book, The Power of Kindness (which I'm currently reading):

"The essence of memory is not in the storage of information, but in the emotions we hold, in the meaning we give to our recollections, in the relationships that, because we remember them, stay alive. The friends of my childhood, the pain of a goodbye, the meeting with a special person, a wonderful September afternoon, and so forth -- all these are not merely items I keep in an archive. They are vital ingredients of my history. Through my memories I build my life and my identity. I am what I am by virtue of how I remember what has happened to me, the people I have met, the mistakes I have made, the triumphs I have enjoyed. I remember, therefore I am."

So in creating an ethical or spiritual will, we are reflecting on what is most "alive" in us today from all of our years of experience as a human being. No matter what our age, we can benefit from taking time for reflection, for looking at what lives in our memories, for seeing what meaning we have given to what we remember.

I encourage you to begin exploring memories of your lifetime. In the process, you'll find the "I am" of your life.
Memory: Who & What Do You Remember?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Remembering People Who Guided You

Another new book, "A Hand to Guide Me," by award-winning actor, Denzel Washington, came to my attention when I saw him being interviewed by Oprah recently. The book features 74 stories of well-known people who had mentors who guided them in their life.

Washington, who is a national spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of America (and is contributing book proceeds to the organization), writes:

"The real story, the universal story, is that we all stand upon another set of shoulders. We are, all of us, the sum of our influences. We've all been taken by the hand and led to a better, more purposeful place." He goes on to say,"if you've achieved anything in your life, if you've overcome any kind of obstacles, odds are you've had some help and we'll do well to acknowledge that help and pass it on."

Who are those people who have helped you -- who have stepped up to guide you at various stages of your life? What did they say or do that made a meaningful difference in your life? Take some time to write about those people and, if you haven't already expressed your gratitude to them, do it today. If they've already passed on, write them a letter anyway and read it to someone you love. And acknowledge your mentors in your ethical will or personal legacy letter.
Remembering People Who Guided YouSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Life Lessons: Interview with Ellen Burstyn

This week, Academy Award-winning actress Ellen Burstyn was in Portland to do a reading from her new memoir, "Lessons in Becoming Myself." I've long admired her film work and enjoyed what she had to say in an interview with Grant Butler of The Oregonian.

Here's a link to the interview:

Burstyn on life's lessons

Looking at our "life lessons" is an important part of the process of creating an ethical will. Take some quiet time today to consider what the "ups & downs" of your life have taught you. You may have memoir of your own to write! If not, at least you'll have harvested the wisdom of your life experience to share in your ethical will.
Life Lessons: Interview with Ellen BurstynSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"This I Believe": Inspiration for Your Ethical Will

A few months ago, I commented on the "This I Believe" program on NPR noting that it could be used to "kick-start" writing about your beliefs in your ethical will. I recently saw a copy of a new "This I Believe" book containing radio segments from eighty people -- from the famous to the unknown-- who contributed to the program.

In the introduction, co-author Jay Allison writes that "This I Believe" offers a simple, if difficult invitation. Write a few hundred words expressing the core principles that guide your life -- your personal credo." He goes on to say "Beliefs are choices. No one has authority over your personal beliefs. Your beliefs are in jeopardy only when you don't know what they are."

Are your beliefs in jeopardy? Can you express the core principles that guide your life? Reading the book and/or listening to the archived programs is a great source of inspiration for thinking about the personal beliefs you want to share in your ethical will.
"This I Believe": Inspiration for Your Ethical WillSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend