What do you want people to say about you at your memorial service? That’s kind of an uncomfortable question, but I came by it honestly. I recently lost a good friend who was my own age, and way too young to die. He went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. Frankly, that’s the way we’d all prefer to go, without suffering, but the suddenness rocked me. Any one of us could be diagnosed with a terminal illness, and given six weeks to live. At least then we’d have six weeks to get our affairs in order. But what if I go to sleep tonight and wake up in heaven, like Don did? I couldn’t rest until I answered that question.
If I die…wait a minute… we always say that, but we really should say “when I die”. In human history, there is just about a 100% mortality rate with only a few biblical exceptions. So let’s be honest and say, “when I die”. Hopefully it will be at the ripe old age of a hundred, but what if I die unexpectedly? In that moment my wife’s life would be drastically altered. A lifetime of plans would suddenly and completely change. The thought of my wife rifling through my file cabinet, wondering how she would make ends meet, gripped me.
So I sat down and wrote a legacy list. You know, the one Dave Ramsey always talks about. We already have our wills in place, but the Legacy List is another tangible way we can say “I love You” from heaven. It’s not romantic, but it is a single sheet of paper that has all the information, account numbers and policy numbers that a grieving spouse would need to carry on without us. On second thought, maybe it is romantic. The list includes location of our wills and healthcare directives, policy and account numbers for: life insurance, investments, short and long term disability, health and long term care insurance. It even includes some recommendations on which broker to seek advice from, on how to live on the life insurance and what we have saved. Plus we have to consider that Social Security and pensions change or disappear upon a spouse’s death.
We tend to think:
There will always be time to say the things I want to say to my spouse.
There will always be time to take that trip.
There will always be time to save for retirement.
There will always be time to take a walk, watch a chick flick, or go fishing together.
There will always be time…
But time is an earthbound property; and our time on this earth is like a vapor. Moments like this can be paralyzing or catalyzing. I know myself pretty well, and I know that if I let any time elapse, I’d forget the urgency. There are some important things I need to do today. Then there are other things that I need to do a little bit every day… for my wife, for my children and for others who are important to me.
One of the things I admire most about my friend Don is that he was a man of action. He didn’t just talk about going hunting, he’d plan a trip. He didn’t wait for others to plan events; he would serve others by taking a lead role. He was a real friend and we had a great friendship because he pursued it like a bloodhound. Great relationships don’t just happen, they must be pursued. Thanks Don. Even your death has inspired me to be a better man.