Be Here Then

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

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Grief and the first day without…

Grief is universal, but it feels intensely lonely and personal, and if you are not an animal lover, read no further.  This is not about ethical wills or hospice cards, although that might come later.

While we all have read the incredible stories of dogs and what they are capable of, this is not to tell you mine — it is to help me get through my first day without him, a day I have never wanted to see, a day that I cognitively understand is normal but to which my gut screams No!

Jackson on bench MDYesterday, I had to put to sleep my first dog, my dearest companion, a golden retriever/collie mix named Jackson who just appeared on our doorstep one June 12 years ago.  He was about 1-1.5 years old, had been abused and abandoned, and had been seen running around for several days in our neighborhood in a rural part of Maryland.  Skinny, matted, he would not go to anyone.  He wound up on our doorstep early one morning, whining, and when the door was opened, up he looked with a sweet, tentative look, and a thumping tail, with “please?  I need somebody…” radiating from his entire body.

He’s a rescue dog, and I’m the one he rescued.  I mis-read his body language: what he was really saying was, “please? you know you need me…”  He was, of course, absolutely right.  It just took me a few years to realize it.

This post is to give an answer to the first of my two questions below.

First question:  How do you get up, this first morning without your best friend, and face this day?

First answer:  We were given bladders for just this reason.

Jackson kiss at GA lake cropSecond question, parts A & B:  And DO you still go for that morning walk, and if so, HOW do you go for a walk — without him?

Second answer — Part A: yes, of course, why do you think you were given a dog in the first place and not a cat?  Partly, to get you outside.  Part B: see the previous post.

So I hope you read that post, and I hope it gets to someone else who needs to know it, too.


On the importance of writing the little things

Taking a breather from hospice cards and legacy communications, I found this lovely short article about writing notes on the Good Men Project, and love the idea. Having done similar things myself, often based on little cartoon-like sketches, I can only say this: doing such things cannot guarantee the preservation of a relationship. But it can help.

Sarah, distressed 1
Notice the article says the notes were “written” and remember the emotional power of handwriting:

An ethical will example: short, to-the-point, but done!


Dear Margaret, Laura, and Mitchell:

My time is running out so I want to say a few things to you.  I want you three children to know I love you very much.  If I have not always shown it very well I am sorry.  I hope you find it in your hearts to forgive me.  Mother is not a job you are born knowing.  You have to figure it out as you go along.  As you know my parents died when I was very young so I did not get a lot of words of wisdom.  This is what I have learned so far in a nutshell.  I hope it helps you.

1.    Kids need help every day to learn and remember new things.

2.   Mothers need patience.  Every day and lots of it.  You will not always have it but try. Read more…

After an unexpected break, new posts en route

Several new posts about how to create your ethical will are in the offing!   We will pick up with: A brief review of structure, format, and sharing, to give you something more to think about.  Then we will continue posts with detailed instructions on how to get your ethical will or Legacy Letter going, if you haven’t already done it!  Hint:  don’t forget your photographs.

Life is what happens…

New posts are in the pipeline after an unexpected hiatus for an illness in the family. And some illnesses serve as reminders of the fragility of life. Thinking you will write something for your family “when I have more time,” or “when I’m older”? Think again, will you? Some of us will not grow older. And some of us who will, will not remember how to construct a letter. With wishes for health and motivation to all of you…

Ethical will, “list” style, by a vet

Another sample ethical will for those of you who want to see more but haven’t made it to the Resources page.  For folks who want a simple, straightforward format to help organize their thoughts this “List” style is very effective — you be the judge.  If this had been your uncle, would you have preferred to read it while he was alive, or after he had passed away?  What difference, if any, would it have made to you?  

To my family and friends and all those I love:

I am not big on words.  But I want to tell you some things, maybe explain a few things.  Maybe this letter can be passed on to my nieces and nephews because I would like them to know who I am.

1.  Values.  I value honesty, friendship, hard work, respect for others, and giving a helping hand to other hardworking honest people. Read more…

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