On Thursday, my wife and I met with a lawyer to put in place a will – a task that was long overdue. I suppose that one of the reasons for the delay was our aversion to confronting our own mortality. Though, we already had many of the difficult conversations necessary to make decisions that form the basis for this binding legal document. The most important of which was the selection of who would serve as the legal guardians to our children should both of us die while they were still young. To even type that sentence is heart breaking.
Yet there was one question that we were woefully unprepared for and frankly had never considered.
What would we do if all of us died at the same time?
If questioning our own mortality is difficult, grappling with that of your children’s is unfathomable. Trying to imagine any situation that would take all of our lives at once can send a chill up your spine and a tear down your cheek.
Once we moved beyond the shock of the idea that we might all somehow die together, the practical question of who would receive our assets still remained.
My knee jerk reaction was simply “I don’t care.” This torrent of ambivalence washed over me as I confronted the primal importance of my children and wife. When I am gone, if they are not here to survive me, then does anything really matter?
Of course, I then reflected on others in my family who could benefit from what we had to leave behind or scholarships that could be endowed, charities that could be supported. Yet it felt empty in comparison.
I have often struggled with, if not had an unhealthy fixation, on what my legacy would be. What would I leave behind? When all along the more obvious question is “Who will I leave behind?
On Friday, I attended the funeral of a local man who was the de facto mayor of our town. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. He was always on top of the latest happenings, quick with a smile and hello and ready to bend your ear with a piece of news, advice or encouragement each time he saw you. He called me “Pops” because he almost always saw me with one or more of my children. Often yelling it across the street as we headed in opposite directions. His death was sudden and prior to his funeral, I learned what I had suspected. While he had no children of his own, he left behind many who loved him.
Immediately upon news of his death, someone reached out to our Mayor asking that a local alley next to the diner he frequented daily be named after him. I suspect and hope that support for such a resolution will be huge and action swift.
We all probably prefer to live in the present. Imagining a future that we are not part of, is a tough lift. Yet sometimes events like the writing of wills or the attending of funerals thrust these difficult thoughts upon us.
Like many undesirable things, we can try to avoid them all together or quickly move on to return to the mundane tasks like a to-do list that composes our everyday lives. Better yet, though, we stop and pay these thoughts the respect they deserve, in the hopes that it grounds us on what makes this thing we call life worthwhile.