Be Here Then

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

Archive for the category “Lifespan Legacy Letters”

Status update: why I am not writing my ethical will just yet

This place is where I usually post “how-to” and “how-not-to” write an ethical will or legacy letter.  However, since very recently I have found myself needing to take family matters in hand for those too ailing to handle those matters themselves, keeping up with my planned posts has been nigh impossible.  Instead of writing about end of life issues, I am living them much more personally even than I did when I volunteered  and worked at hospices.

Living these issues is very different from reading about them.  Those of you who have already gone through the experience know that, but those of us who haven’t — yet — can only think we know.

I realize that this is yet another reason for writing an ethical will or letter to the ones we love, and the ones who will come after us that we can love through the letter’s creation:  each experience we have alters us, shifts our perspective even if only ever so slightly, and if we are really lucky, makes us wiser.

Having read those pamphlets and been in those support groups that say “treasure each moment” with your dementing family member, that some of those moments may be the most meaningful you will remember of them — I’d think “yeah, yeah” and flip the page or wait for a new topic to come up.  Well, la la la, they were right.

So, while the planned posts will indeed come, they will come a bit later.  Right now, I’m living the material I will write about.  What about you?


Ethical will ideas abound in this book…

This article will point you to a book and an example of its contents — a resource for generating some ideas for your own ethical will or legacy letter.  Not the usual “philosophy lite” material, those of you with an appetite for richer, deeper fare may value it:

Sample legacy letter to two stepchildren

Dear Lila and Laurence:

While I am not one of your biological parents, since I had the pleasure of being one of your step-parents for a number of years and since I still have much interest in you and your lives, I thought I would write you this letter.  I am getting to an age where one Read more…

“I’ve got time, I’ll do it later.”

None of us, I’ll wager, thinks to ourself as we go off to the movie theater that we might not come home.  Yet Thursday night in Aurora, Colorado, that is exactly what happened to 12 people.  It happens every day, too, that people go off to work and do not survive the commute.  How many of them, on Thursday, were parents of young children?  How many of us have, on any given day,  some “unfinished business” in our lives we would like a chance to resolve before the unthinkable happens? Read more…

Brief review of structure, format, and sharing

There are several things to consider as you prepare to write your ethical will or Legacy Letter (what follows does not very much apply to a memoir).

Let’s consider structure together with format because they are linked.  We’ll get to ‘sharing’ a bit later.  For purposes of example, let us just consider a one- to two-page ethical will. Read more…

A few words of caution

For most, writing an ethical will feels like a rewarding act of love for family and friends or a spiritual experience.  There are some, however, for whom such work — if done at all — needs to be supported by a counselor, therapist, or other trusted and skilled help. Read more…

The Rule of No — Part II

Let’s continue working with the example we began in Part I, where we noted what the two versions of a sentence shared in common.  What is the main difference between them, do you think?   Read more…

The Rule of No — Part I

Why do we need such a rule?  We are all mostly kind, understanding people, right?  Well . . . sure, most of the time!

In a nutshell, this Rule of No means “do no harm.”  Another way to think of it is “if in doubt, leave it out.”  Many of us probably understand this, and would never deliberately throw a “verbal hand grenade.”  Many of us would never want to write something that we knew would cause hurt, or damage relationships, or create rifts in the family.  Still, it happens, because we are all human, and we don’t always reflect on how we express things. Read more…

What are legacy letters?

What are legacy letters?  And where are they the same and different from ethical wills?  Read on.  In general, think of legacy letters as ethical wills with extras.  A legacy letter ideally would include all the same things you would put in your ethical will, but perhaps in a little different format, and with some elaborations.

Use the immense power of stories to help your readers connect emotionally with your message.   Read more…

The power of handwritten letters as legacy — a talk at TED


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