Be Here Then

why and how to write & create an ethical will, hospice card, or other legacy

What matters & how much: visual exercise 1.2

“Sarah” is our guinea pig for this exercise in preparing to write an ethical will, ‘though she says she also was hoping she would find a way to simplify what has become a very hectic life.  She is in her late 30’s and has two young children whose father died years ago.  Currently in a relationship, she also has a sister and several very close friends, one of whom lives half a continent away.  Sarah is an editor/new media specialist who concerns herself with environmental issues, loves old things, and is curious about everything.  She also loves being physically active as she spends much of her day in front of computer screens.

Sarah started by writing a number of things of importance to her on small Post-It notes, stuck them all at the top of her chart, and then began placing them in proximity to her based on their importance.   She said she thought it would be “a snap” to do this exercise, and her first few notes went up easily, without any hesitation — clearly, Sarah’s priorities are the people in her life, first and foremost.

Then Sarah slowed down, and for a long time she stared at the chart, shifting stickies closer, then away….  More aware than many of us are of the fragility of life since she lost her husband, she has been thinking she would like to do two things: one, simplify her life so she can spend more time doing the things she loves most, and can budget her money to allow that; and two, write a letter to her daughters once a year.  This letter, an on-going ethical will/legacy communication, will be tucked away until the children graduate from college or until Sarah passes away, whichever comes first.  She thought doing this exercise might be a fun way to “double-check” what her values are.

Her next stopping point was here, shown in the second image:  but she was clearly uncertain, and expressed her frustration.  “There’s so much stuff, and I didn’t even write everything down, like you said to!”  Sarah found herself having some difficulty prioritizing on the chart, as she was in her life, what activities she should invest with the greatest amount of her time and energy.

As Sarah explained it, she couldn’t quite figure out how best to incorporate some wishes into her life.  She loves travel, but does not have unlimited funds.  As a writer, she has published a few small pieces but longs to finish her novel, part of which takes place in Ireland, where she has never been.  An amateur photographer, she wants to go to Mongolia and shoot the windswept steppes before they are forever changed by mining and the change from a nomadic lifestyle to an urbanized one.  And while she drives a Honda Fit, there is that 1987 Volvo in her garage that she would love to restore and use on weekend jaunts.  And where, in all this, can she find a way to “give back,” a value her parents exhibited in their volunteerism throughout their lives?

Next installment: Sarah’s current resolution of the chart dilemma.


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