the attorney’s father was a probate judge who never did his own will. with six children and no will, there’s trouble. hurt feelings. old hurts and memories and grudges rise quickly to the surface. they are not speaking, the children, and everybody including us, wonders why a man who dealt with wills for a living wouldn’t take the time to draw up his own. the shoemaker’s children go barefooted, and the probate judge’s children feud.
not a fun way to spend a morning – even with the story and the walk the engineer and i treated ourselves to afterwards (the source of these photos) – but a necessary expenditure of time.
here’s the thing: drawing up a will, creating a living will and powers of attorney (healthcare and property) doesn’t bring on your death. it simply means you are smart enough to know that you will die one day and that you love enough to face that irrefutable fact and show love in a way you never thought about before.
do you love yourself enough to draw up a living will so that your very existence doesn’t fall into the hands of a medical staff who don’t even make eye contact?
do you love your heirs enough to draw up a will so that all you’ve worked for and created doesn’t get divvied up and disposed of by the government?
do you love your support people, be they family or friends, enough to draw up powers-of-attorney so that they can tend to things for you without resistance and interference from strangers?
we have a God Forbid book, i tell the attorney to stop him as he launches into Creating A Will 101. i tell him about how i see this as love – living love, leaving love. i tell him about how as a personal historian and an end-of-life doula i know that people just flat out refuse to put themselves in touch with their own mortality. even the smartest among us, i’m talking about.
i tell him about the God Forbid (as in God Forbid you ever need this information) book i created eons ago for the children telling them everything they need to know – bank accounts, memberships, software, who to call lists, medical info, location of keys and important papers, and well, you get the idea. i tell the attorney how we keep it updated and have annual meetings with our children every thanksgiving (as in we’re so thankful we’re here to tell you about it again this year). he is suitably impressed and we are able to skip ahead to the changes we want made. it’s not that we have much, it’s just that i want our children to have time to grieve. yes, really.
it’s not just the heirs who have all sorts of bric-a-brac float to the surface when dealing with wills. i find myself thinking about who’s been most attentive, who makes an effort to stay in touch, who’s responsible. do i want to use a will to reward? do i want to take the easy and nice way out and just divide everything equally (which feels an awful lot like socialism to me)? some things are obvious and require no angst decision making. the child who always baked the cakes gets the bowl and spoon my grandmother used to make cakes with. the child who laid in the floor laughing as we read bedtime stories gets the books. i’m not saying it’s the right or wrong approach, i just think it’s good to be clear and clean about these things, about the motivation, even if only on the inside. or, if you want to be like me, right out in the open on your blog for the whole galaxy to see. when preparing these important documents, it’s important to bring the right amount of emotion and good sense, to be sure that decisions aren’t made solely on emotions or logic.
a note, though: probably not a good idea to give the child in prison power of attorney, and that’s not a character assault, it’s a matter of needing to have someone who can show up in a jiffy. just saying.
years ago, i began to ask the children what, in particular, they wanted when we die. even though it might be tinged with anticipation, i’m hopeful that the items will be imbued with even more meaning, memory, sentimental value knowing that they will own it one day and i’m now using it regularly.
i make a list and write letters of explanation, just in case.
this year i’ll ask if either of my chiclets want my journals or any of my hymns of cloth. it’s a question i dread asking because i don’t want them to feel obligated to say “yes” even though i deeply and desperately hope to year a quick and hearty “yes”. if you want to know the truth, i want them to argue and fight over the journals and cloths. at least a wee little bit.
will they want pieces from In Our Own Language 1? or 2? or 3? will the Rinse Cycle series prick their interest with tales of pivotal epiphanies in a woman’s life?
will they want pieces from the My Kitchen Table series in which i create cloths for each person who’s nourished my life in some way? like this plate for my maternal grandmother. biscuits from scratch, cake contests, quilts, piano, flowers growing everywhere, feather bed, the irregular whir of the treadle sewing machine, gardens, canning, clothes hung on the line to dry, hand lotion that smelled of rose water. she never drove a car, but she had her very own riding lawn mower, and let me tell you what: she enjoyed using it, always wearing her straw hat, both hands kept on the wheel at all times. i don’t ever remember seeing her wearing pants. she taught me music and sunshine and planning for the future.
preparing for the future.
preserving the past.
not a bad way to spend the present.
All great stuff. My great-uncle James left no will and only had one son, many in the family considered not a legitmate aire. A lengthy lawsuit ensued. Ugly hard feelings. Finally, the case was resolved with DNA evidence, the first such case in North Carolina law, proving what his son’s cousins wouldn’t admit. He was James’ son. A small fortune to lawyers and hurt feelings that have never healed all because James didn’t write a will. He was 80, btw, so he had no excuse.