Shhhh. Get ready.
We’re going to pull back the curtain on something you might not have seen before. Some of you might be professional fundraisers and are used to a certain clinical attitude. Don’t be alarmed. This newsletter is a place for us to peer into what leaving a legacy really means. From an insider’s perspective.
We begin with the moment where everything changed.
The Crash – Barb
It was an ordinary day.
My husband and I were getting ready to run a few errands and stop for a lunch at our favorite restaurant. He was ready and waiting for me to change my shoes so we could proceed. From the bedroom I heard an awful crash – and my world stopped and was forever changed. He had suffered a massive stroke and subsequently died. Yes, he was near ninety, with me not so far behind, but I was totally unprepared for widowhood. No woman ever really is…
For the next ten days I was a zombie. The children gathered, fed me, planned the funeral, and held me in their arms. For the next month I could not function. I could not read, I could not cook, I could not knit. Life was going on all around me but I was the lump in the recliner counting the hours until I could go back to bed and shut the horror out.
I am not yet sure when I decided I needed to honor our 67 years of marriage and make my grief appropriate but not consumptive. Although we never talked money with our family, we certainly did discuss options with each other. I doubt the kids knew we had free title to the car, that there were accounts in the bank squirreled away for the inevitable expenses, or that we had wills at the ready.
I thought I could live alone and function just fine. But when I found I could not lug the garbage bin to the curb or open a jar lid or hoist my walker into the auto as my husband had – I knew changes of great magnitude were in order! And they came swiftly.
Throughout our life together we practiced giving of ourselves and our resources. So the framework was in place for a continuation of that legacy. And I was grateful. It took no mind to designate the charity for memorials and continue my support of our pet projects.
I understand now that our children wish we had discussed more with them. They were relieved to find as much planning in place as there was, thankful to not have to decide by Thursday “what do we do about Mother”. But Norwegians are not known for talking about a lot of subjects…So much information was new to them all.
The beautiful cemetery in the desert awaits me and the funeral, when it happens, is funded and awaiting the urn now on the shelf in the closet.
And life as a single entity begins for the ensuing days of my life. I pray I shall be sufficient for the task.
Living the Legacy – Dave
Just after the funeral, someone said to me that they were sorry that my father had passed, but I had the memories of all the things my father had taught me, to savor as salve for the pain. I had to stop and think about that. Those who know me can attest that I did not always agree with my father and even at brief points we did not manage to get along. Long before any disagreements arose he did try to teach me many things.
I was nine when he bought me a $6.00 fly rod. It was a lot of money to spend on a 9 year-old child’s whim. $6.00 could buy 20-30 lbs of hamburger in those days. I had been after him for weeks (years it seemed to me) to teach me to fly fish.
The day dawned sunny and warm. We got the rod and my next memory was standing in the warm lake, while he demonstrated how to cast. With a cast or two he placed the bug at the edge of the weed bed where the big bass lurked. He gave me the new rod with an identical bug tied on and said, “All right, go down the beach 100 yards and you try it.”
He knew the value of practice to hone a simple skill. He also knew the value of distance – hooks are sharp and fly casts have been known to go askew, embedding hooks in people and the fish getting the last laugh.
Did he teach me or did I merely grab for the legacy that was handed down from every Norwegian in every generation that lived by the sea, lake or stream? I learned to cast. I have a closet full of fly fishing gear. I am living the legacy.
I have spent countless hours working with hundreds of people as they sought to leave a legacy to their church, a hospital, their alma mater and more. I have spoken, written and taught countless seminars on leaving a legacy for two decades – but now it is personal.
The Family Huddle – Julia
I heard of my grandfather’s stroke days after I’d arrived in Manchester, United Kingdom. I searched for a flight back, but there was nothing that I could find that would get me there in a reasonable time or for a reasonable cost. I so wanted to be there, wedged deeply into the familial huddle, to process our loss, share in the memories, and begin to grieve.
Instead, my sister, who was able to travel, took her computer down to the hotel lobby and video-conferenced with me, holding me-on-the-screen up for awkward greetings to the other family members who came past. There were also many phone calls and emails, then and in the ensuing months. I wasn’t the only grandchild who wasn’t able to be there, and a collective Facebook group became a place for us to share memories and connect with each other.
I had been an anomaly amongst my friends, as I was into my thirties and still had all four grandparents. Like everyone, I know that death is inevitable, but it is still disturbingly finite. I am grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend with all of my grandparents.
As a professional, I had plenty of experience talking about estate plans and legacies, but my own personal experience has opened up my perspective.
It is our hope that the conversations we embark on here, about personal legacies, about what we want to leave behind, and having them with people who will live on after ourselves, will be illuminating for you. Both in your professional lives and for the time when you need a bridge that helps to cross the cavernous gap between the day someone you love is here and the day they are not.
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