Holidays are a good time to share an ethical will
An ethical will is a document which expresses your wishes, hopes and maybe blessings. It’s something you share with family members while you are still alive. Sound unimportant? Think about it. You could look at it as a way to impart wisdom to those you will leave behind. It’s easier than a memoir and a good way to convey important ideas.
I had a friend – Annette – who suffered a serious brain injury at age 42. Before she went into a surgery, which she knew she might not survive, she wrote short letters to her daughters, husband, parents and close friends. Sadly, she died during the surgery, and some of those notes were read at her memorial. Her daughters were in their late teens at the time, so Annette took the opportunity to give them some wise words about life, how to recognize a good man, and how to have a happy marriage and raise healthy children.
She admonished the rest of us to live our lives fully and not in fear. She even gave her husband the blessing of wishing him happiness, wherever life led him if she passed on. It was incredibly powerful, hearing these thoughts, wishes, blessings that were written by someone who knew it might be her last chance to say them. Annette cried a river as she wrote the notes. But in reality, it was an amazing opportunity which most people do not get. Usually, our important thoughts die with us.
With the holidays coming up and family gatherings scheduled, this might be a good time to think about the positive things you want your loved ones to know. It’s also a healthy exercise for you. Writing about life can have a healthy impact on you and others. It gives you a chance to explore your capabilities, desires, it relieves stress and helps cope with life’s problems, and may change the way you view those in your life. It might even make you sleep better.
An ethical will can also be a sort of moral road map. We all hope that future generations will respect and honor our values, so why not document them? If nothing else, an ethical will paints a picture of you for people you care about.
Where to begin? One way to do this is to just keep a list, as thoughts occur to you. For most of us, these awe-inspiring thoughts come when we’re in the shower or on a walk or trying to fall asleep, right? Start now while there is time and jot down key points which you can enlarge later. Or keep a daily journal, if that’s your style.
One website, celebrationsoflife.net suggests you write about such things as:
• Your beliefs and opinions
• Things you did to act on your values (such as adopting a rescued animal)
• Something you learned from grandparents/parents/spouse/children
• Something you learned from experience
• Something you are grateful for
• Your hopes for the future
• You can also purchase a guide at this website: http://celebrationsoflife.net/shop/ethical-wills-workbook/
After you’ve collected several items, group related items together and a pattern may begin to appear. This should not be a stressful endeavor. Actually it will probably relieve stress if you don’t put pressure on yourself. Write for a while and then put it aside and review it again later.
Keep it simple. Say what’s on your mind, with kindness. Bear in mind, as tempting as it might be to finally let your horrible sister-in-law have it right between the eyes, it’s not a time to tell anyone off. You want it to be a sweet time for uniting and bringing the family closer.