I love TED Talks and have a “thing” about death and dying. I guess this isn’t such an odd hobby for someone who has spent so much of their career focused on estate planning but most estate planners are not focused on the dying part, just the tax aspects of it. Most of my legal colleagues are only interested in death for the legal questions that arise. Face it, if we were interested in the blood and guts, we would have gone to med school…
However, I am fascinated by how people think and talk about death, how they prepare for it and have a large file of clippings on the funeral industry, mourning practices and commentary. Less interested in mediums, people who say they went to heaven and market it with books and interviews though (although I do play the about the “if I had no morals whatsoever…” game with my family at times and think I’d definitely be a great psychic).
I was in Ithaca, NY this summer and there was a wall in the Commons where people had written answers to “when I die” which we spent a good bit of time reading after dinner one evening. Just stumbled upon this TED talk and was struck by the creative use of public spaces as well as answers to this same question.
I often use ask families I work with to answer this question: Before I die……. For the first few minutes, I get administrative answers (“I want to provide for my family”), then some humor (“I want to clean out my closets so my kids don’t have to”) and then it inevitably turns to the hopes and aspirations of what they truly want from life itself. In identifying these, we can often jettison many of the interim steps, delegating the estate planning and the closet cleaning, and focusing on the legacy aspects, those personal experiences, that will make their lifes meaningful. For me, I hope that before I die, I can take my daughter to Africa, take one more walk with my dog, spend another hour giggling over silly things with my son when he is in a lighthearted mood and remind my husband how wonderful I find everything about him. None of these revolve around getting those photos organized or updating my wills. Funny how the little things just don’t matter.