The Stories We Tell

My mother’s newspaper clipping of Marshall Massacre

In my late teens a woman contacted my mother by way of my Aunt Mary, married to my Uncle Sammy, my father’s brother. The woman, Della, was on a fishing expedition or as it might be referred to today, phishing. She meant no harm though. Long before sites like Ancestry or Geni were thought of, Della was searching for family history – her family and my mother’s family, their roots intertwined with common ancestry. When she learned my maternal grandmother was still living, Della flew east to interview her, harvesting the memories of grandma’s lifetime.

Since leaving the workforce I’ve met lots of writers, published and unpublished, professional and amateur. There are those who plan never to be published. They are writing the story of their lives only for the eyes of their descendants.

We all have a story, especially as we experience more and more of life. And, people obviously want to know where they come from. Genealogy websites can give us records, but the essence of someone’s life, their personal views, their personality comes through in their intimate recollections of people, places and things of their time.

While personal notes can be left on genealogy sites, snippets of a life may not be enough for some descendants. Take my friend whose mother died last year at 97. She left each of her descendants a hardbound book of several hundred pages of family history, including photos, letters and other scraps of memorabilia to be cherished and handed down to future generations. The creation of the book most likely gave her purpose. It is now a heartfelt legacy.

Memoirs, in recent years, have become bestsellers and notable films. Not only do we want to know where we come from, we take a voyeuristic pleasure in peeking at someone else’s life — the more bizarre, the better.  Memoir writing, either for publication or not is a definite trend and for good reason.  Chronicling our histories for the ages provides a glimpse of what life was like at our moment in time.

As Della’s research revealed, my family history on my mother’s side went back centuries in the ‘new world’ with the settling of Pennsylvania. There was one Edward Marshall, who made the first walking purchase in what was at the time colonies belonging to England. But, that’s not the interesting part. It appears Marshall and two of Penn’s sons cheated the native Lenape, who, in turn, took revenge by burning Marshall’s farm and murdering his pregnant wife. So, how did I get here? My ancestor slid into the cold waters of the Delaware River with an arrow in her shoulder where the frigid waters stemmed the bleeding. She lived to tell the story and produce children of her own.

Even if you see your life story as typical or normal or ordinary, write it down. We all have a few interesting anecdotes. Leave a snapshot of you in your words for your descendants. What you did, why you did it, how you did it, in your words, is more important than any thing or money you leave them. Your memories may be your greatest legacy for generations to come.

 

 

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Should Your Kids Take Care Of You?

Last week I contacted my attorney’s firm to make an appointment with him to review our wills. He was no longer with the firm. He gave up his practice and moved cross-country to help his aging parents. What a good son we would all say. And, boy oh boy, is he! He now gets to start over building a legal practice after he passes the bar in another state. Perhaps there is more to the story than what is readily apparent.

But, this reminded me of another day when I sat at lunch with two friends — two childless friends. Somehow the subject of assisted living came up. To my surprise, as we discussed the concept, my lunch mates mentioned how they would be living in such a community one day.

“I plan on aging in place.” I chirped. “Hopefully, I won’t ever go to any type of assisted living.”

Almost simultaneously they both turned to me and said, “Well, of course you won’t. You have children to take care of you.”

Huh? What? Their expectation that my children would care for me was equally surprising. I certainly didn’t have that expectation. My children are my family, part of my emotional support system, but I didn’t have them so they could take care of me in old age.

The primary reason for my planning for independence is my children. I’d like for them to live unfettered with my care. They have their own lives, spouses, children and now, my oldest daughter, has her very first grandchild. Taking care of myself is the best gift I can give them.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be involved in their lives. It means I do everything in my power to remain independent physically, mentally and financially. Contrary to my friends’ assumptions, people with children are no different, than those of us without children. Expecting a child to care for you in old age is expecting them to give up a part of their independence for you.

I grew up knowing a woman who did not have a career, marry or have friends of her own as she spent much of her adult life caring for her parents and a niece who lived with them. Even as a child, I could see she was unhappy with her life. All the neighborhood kids called her “Aunt Ann”.  Even that didn’t bring a smile to her face. Eventually, the niece grew up and moved out. The woman’s father and then her mother passed away. People asked her what she would do now. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and died before she could answer that question. I’m sure this childhood experience colored my view of remaining independent.

We, as parents, should never expect our kids to resign from their lives to care for us. It is up to us to care for us. We owe it to our children to stay physically active, to eat a healthy diet, to pursue our passions, to stay mentally sharp, to develop a community of friends of our own, to stay spiritually true to ourselves. And, if necessary, live in an assisted living community.  That is the best legacy we can leave them.

Can You FaceTime Me?

 

“Can you face time me and iMessage me to sometimes please?”

In today’s technology filled world such a text may not seem unusual. But, it was coming from my youngest grandchild, who recently turned seven. For her birthday, she received an iPod Touch. I don’t remember what I received for my seventh birthday. I do know it had nothing to do with technology. It was probably a doll. On second thought, Betsy Wetsy was a big hit at the time so maybe there was some very primitive technology involved.

In an era when having a television in the house was a status symbol, when I was seven, I never thought I would be conversing with my grandchildren on a machine that fit in the palm of my hand. Yet, here we are. Time marches on and so does technology.

One of my grandmothers lived on the next street over. I would run through the neighbor’s yard to watch Lawrence Welk with her on many a Saturday evening. Sitting cross-legged at her feet as she snipped pieces of cloth to make a quilt , I would take each segment dropping it in a paper bag at the side of her chair — fond memories.

Five of my grandchildren, including the youngest, live nearly eight hundred miles away. None of them will come skipping through a neighbor’s yard to visit me. They do text me and FaceTime with me. The three oldest, teens and twenties, are on FaceBook with me along with my two daughters. Technology then becomes a lifeline to the future, a bridge for a long distance relationship. I embrace it, revel in it, welcome it. There are snippets of their lives; my life. And pictures galore.

Technology has its downside. Some complain it is a way of disconnecting with others. Some people seem almost addicted to it, unable to put down the phone or stop texting. It can be expensive, but so were TVs and phones when we were kids. And how many had parents who complained about the time we spent talking on the phone or plopped in front of the TV, forcing time limits to be imposed? Oh, and the cars, riding ‘The Circuit’ in Asbury Park on a Friday night instead of doing something constructive with our teenage time.

Everything has an upside and a downside. As always, life is a balancing act. While technology exposes us to the wider world, there is also a time to shut it off. There is a time to let quiet enter and to just be. Technology is a tool, like money, like the coffeemaker or the electric drill or anything else we use to enhance our lives.

Yes, dear grandchild, I will FaceTime and iMessage you, too, sometimes. I love you bunches and bunches and I love hearing from you and I love that technology makes it possible to instantly see you and talk to you. I love receiving messages that say, “I love you so much and can’t stop saying it. You and popa are right in my heart.” And, you are right in mine.

Fathers

Dad and me circa 1957

My Dad died in 1989. Yet, he is with me every day.

I see his dimples in my cheeks as well as in the faces of my daughters and grandchildren. I see his love of gardening in the landscape around my house as well as in my children’s love of gardening, which they are passing on to yet another generation. I hear him in my grandson’s guitar playing.  Last week I visited John Campbell Folk School. I was taking tinsmithing, but had occasion to go to the wood working shop. As I watched my birdhouse being cut out on the bandsaw, with the smell of fresh wood shavings filling the air like it did in my Dad’s workshop, his presence poured into my heart.

A father’s influence lasts a lifetime. To all our fathers:

Happy Father’s Day!

Mothers

My Mother

Many of us think of Mother’s Day as being a celebration of our mothers or our mothering of our children. But, there are many kinds of mothers and mothering. There are even some men who mother. Mothers are caring, loving, giving nurturers of all kinds.

A friend without children mentioned her husband was taking her out to dinner for Mother’s Day. I should say without human children as she mothers six furry kids, three dogs and three cats. One of the dogs, a sweet little Sheltie, is trained as a hospice dog. Together he and my friend visit a local hospice weekly to comfort people who are dying and bring a moment of cheer to their families.

I know people who are caregivers of an infirm parent. Roles have been reversed with the child mothering their mother or father.

Some of you have written to me about raising grandchildren. That reminds me of the man behind the counter at a store I frequent. He recently revealed how his daughter died in a car accident and he, a widower, is raising his grandchild as both mother and father.

Many of us retire to find ourselves mothering an ill spouse. We take on most, if not all, of the day to day responsibilities of running the household as well as caring for our partner.

There are even those of us who mother Mother Earth, tenderly caring for gardens, watching seedlings grow to mature plants with the pride of any mother watching a child grow into a fine human being.

Yes, there are mothers of all kinds caring, loving, giving and nurturing.  And we honor all of them today.

To mothers everywhere, no matter your gender or who or what your charge,

Happy Mother’s Day!

Are You A Caregiver?

To Do List

To Do List

Some of my best ideas for posts come from friends, family and, of course, my readers. A friend, who is in the process of finding nursing home care for her 92 year old mother, suggested I write this post on caregiving. With reader comments about their caregiving responsibilities, it’s a subject I’ve looked at before. Admittedly I avoided it because caregiving is such a broad subject with many layers. Where to begin? I decided to begin with the caregiver, a many layered and varied subject in and of itself with as many scenarios as there are people.

According to caregiving.org in 2015 there were nearly 44 million unpaid caregivers in the United States alone. With 10,000 baby boomers arriving daily at their 65th birthday, that number is expected to rise. Boomers are not only giving care, they are needing care. However, caregiving.org reported 1 in 10 caregivers were over the age of 75. Forty percent of caregivers report the care as being a high burden for them and higher hour (44.5 hours a week) caregivers are stressed. The physical burden, especially at an older age, appears to carry a larger emotional burden as the hours of caregiving amount to that of a full-time job with little or no time for a personal break.

As a wife and mother I’ve been in the role of caregiving in the past, one that comes as a natural part of raising children or caring for a spouse recuperating after an accident. Most of the caregivers are, in fact, women. I can imagine that as we age and find ourselves caring for someone, we may not view ourselves as caregivers. It’s what we have always done for family or sometimes, even friends.

I’ve known many people, like my friend, who are either caregiving directly or are responsible for arranging caregiving. It is a complicated subject. There is no one size fits all. Some people are caregiving for an aging spouse or other relative or friend, while others are continuing the care of handicapped adult children and others still are taking on the upbringing of grandchildren. Some retired not expecting to be in this role.

Earlier in the summer I had the pleasure of having one of my grandchildren visit for two weeks as he accompanied Martin and me on a trip to Michigan to visit our oldest daughter and her family. An active, engaging seven-year-old caring for him takes a lot of energy. There are the usual undertakings like making sure he is eating his vegetables or getting a bath or off to bed at a prescribed time to the unfamiliar activities of assisting with the technical gadgets this generation carries with them as a matter of course. Then there was keeping track of him, keeping him occupied, making sure he is spending his time well. I found myself more tired in the evening. What was a snap when I was thirty takes more effort for the aging me. And, I wasn’t having to be concerned with school, financial responsibilities or healthcare.

This reminds me of a conversation I had a few years ago when I was interviewing the local Alzheimer’s Association as a volunteer for United Way. The woman representing the organization remarked about how stressful the role of caregiving is for the caregiver, impacting their quality of life and even their health as they care for their loved one. Support and a respite, if only for a few hours a week is important. Depending on the extent and duration of the caregiving, it can be stressful, especially as we age.

According to the Center for Disease Control more than half of caregivers said they do not have time to take care of themselves and almost half said they are too tired to do so. It’s easy for me to say because I’m not in that role, at least not yet, but this brings to mind one of my favorite sayings, “Put your own oxygen mask on first. Otherwise, you may not be able to help the other passengers.” If you are in the role of being a caregiver, it is important to take care of yourself so you are able to continue to care for your loved one. Otherwise, what will happen to them if you leave this world first?

That means eating well balanced meals, finding time for some exercise, getting your immunizations, health check-ups and taking any medications you may need. A support group where you can share your story and network for needed services can provide some relief for the stress. Is that easier said than done?

As I mentioned above, caregiving and receiving care is expected to take on more significance as baby boomers age. This generation’s huge numbers is expected to be an opportunity for companies in the healthcare and senior care industries. Most of this generation wants to age in place using in-home services. Realistically, they may not have the financial capacity to go to assisted living facilities.  Aging in place may not be by choice but necessity.

As also mentioned, some of my readers have written comments about caregiving responsibilities. I’d like to hear from any and all of you who are engaged in caregiving be it a spouse, parent, adult child, grandchildren or friend. Caregiving runs the gamut of taking someone grocery shopping, to the doctor or doing some housework to being responsible for attending to all physical and personal needs, finances and even some medical or nursing duties.

For starters:  What are your responsibilities?  How does your caregiving impact your hours for taking care of yourself?  Do you have time for activities you enjoy like a hobby? Do you feel burdened by caregiving responsibilities or is it something you enjoy doing? Why is that? Did you expect to be in this role when you retired or did it catch you by surprise? If you didn’t expect to be a caregiver, how did it change your retirement? Do you consider yourself in good health? Has being a caregiver caused your own health to decline? Do you feel more stressed or is caregiving just one more hat to wear? And whatever else you want to comment about.

Let us know what it’s like on the front lines of caregiving. Tell me your story.  I’ll post your comments and pass your observations on to others in a future post. Your story may help someone else.

The Pettie Pets

Portia finds a comfy spot

Portia finds a comfy spot courtesy of a visitor’s suitcase

May is National Pet Month. As the owners of six (yes six!) cats we’re pet lovers at our house. We also like dogs, but I’m highly allergic, so we stick with cats, to which I’m just a little allergic. I love cats that much. We call them the pettie pets.

While it’s not always easy to have a pet in retirement, especially if you are a frequent traveler, it is well worth the effort to add one of these companions to your life. Like humans, what they really want is love and care. In return they give us love and care.

I wake every morning to a dark gray tabby named Portia greeting me with a soft “mrump mrump” as she butts my head and paws at my covers. She loves to have her hunches scratched. Then she snuggles in the crook of my arm as she purrs contentedly listening with perked ears for a certain sound from the kitchen. While this is going on Martin is letting the outdoor cats in from their night in the garage and preparing to feed everyone. The second he pops open a can of cat food, Portia leaps off the bed running to the kitchen. That’s the sound she waits for every morning.

According to Dr. Marty Becker of the American Humane Society, “Dogs and cats have broken down the walls of our hearts. There haven’t been comparable domesticated species in 5,000 years. When you’re petting them, you both get this massive release of oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine, and a decrease in cortisol. It’s a reciprocal biochemical spa treatment.” (quoted from the article on purina.com 11 Ways To Be The Best Pet Owner).

This is just one of the benefits of having a pet. I’ve known for a long time that petting a cat or dog can lower your blood pressure. Having a companion at any age that is a de-stressor is beneficial. Anyone who has been reading this blog knows I also call our cats the Zen Masters for their calm attitude and calming influence.

Trio likes the tubes

Trio likes the tubes

Since loneliness is one of the potential scourges of aging, it may be a plus to add a furry companion as we age. When I come home, the three indoor cats come out of their hiding places to welcome me. Out in the garden, the outside cats show up to laze around under a bush or soak up the sun on a path as they watch me work. In return for belly rubs and scratching under the chin (known at our house as chiny-chin) , I enjoy more head butts, kneading and purring from my loving companions.

Oftentimes, retirees miss the daily structure work provided. Owning a pet can replace some of structure you lost when you gave up your job. We’ve found it takes no time at all for our cats to adapt to a routine. And they have an internal clock that is spot on. Every morning at precisely 6:30 a.m. our diluted orange named Carmen is at the door with our wake up meow. Occasionally, she tests the waters with an earlier weak little mew. Otherwise, she knows what time to get us out of bed. They also know when it’s snack time, dinner time, time for an outside walk. Pets have our number. And our hearts.

Carmen sporting pink nail covers so she won't scratch the furniture

Carmen sporting pink nail covers so she won’t scratch the furniture

While cats aren’t usually pets to put on a leash and take for a walk, owning a dog can help keep you in shape. If you tend to be sedentary, your dog won’t let you make excuses for staying on the couch. I’ve known dogs who got their leash between their teeth and brought it to their owner with a ‘it’s time to get up and out and walk me’ look in their eyes. Fido can be a very good exercise coach. He or she may even help you meet some people.

There are many reasons to own a pet. We never expected to have six cats _ sounds a little like having kids, but two were planned, the other four just showed up at our house. Our cats are a lot of work and an extra expense, but they are also a source of great joy. They put smiles on our faces. And that alone is a great reason to have pets.

Mothers Are Forever

My Mother

My Mother

Not everyone is a mother but everyone has a mother. My mother died in 2008. Yet she is still with me and always will be. Mothers are forever. She is inside my head and my heart. She is in the eyes that look back at me from my bathroom mirror each morning. She is in the hundred cliches I mouth about life’s tributes and trials. She is in my sense of fairness, of responsibility, of duty. She is in my love of gardening, painting and writing.

A mother’s influence and presence is forever _ even if you never really knew her or she is now gone.

Like most people my relationship with my mother had good times and not so good times. As a small child I loved dressing up in her long orange ruched gloves, veiled hats and rhinestone bracelets. My mother often played out story book roles with me. I was Little Red Riding Hood to her Grandmother and the Big Bad Wolf. She read me Walt Whitman poems. But, she also had difficulty letting me go as a teen and young woman. Advice was often forthcoming whether I wanted it or not. And her advice was often contrary to what I did or thought I should do. This strained our relationship. Still, she was the person I could count on to help me out in a pinch.

She taught me right from wrong, how to hold a tea cup in polite society (your pinky finger must be held out from the cup handle in a slight curve), make a bed with squared corners and the best apple dumplings ever. She taught me to say, “excuse me” and “please” and “thank you”, to have respect for my elders. She also taught me to stand up for myself and not give in or give up if principles were at stake.

My mother had a wry sense of humor, somewhat sarcastic.  She saw life’s ironies.  Me, too.  When it came to her red hair and aging, she quipped, “Red heads never dye.  They just fade away.”

She was kind and helpful to people, including strangers. I remember leaving Asbury Park late one week night after shopping. On the way to our car, we encountered a distraught teenager who just missed the last bus to take her home. With businesses closing their doors and turning off lights the streets were quickly becoming deserted. Even though it was miles out of our way, my mother offered the girl a ride home. When she hesitated, my mother took out her police badge, showed it to the teen and told her she would be safe. We took the girl home. As my mother walked the teen to the door of her house and spoke to her father, I could see the gratitude on the man’s face.

Mothers are caretakers. Mothers are influencers. Mothers are leaders. Mothers are shapers of society as they are shapers of their children’s beliefs, abilities and character. Mothers are strong, resilient, resourceful and constant. Mothers are the very fiber that knit our society together. Mothers never leave us. They are always with us in our actions, our words, the voice in our head, the face in our mirror. Mothers are forever.

Whether your mother is with you or not, tell her thank you with gratitude in your heart for all she has given you, including life itself.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

In Order To Keep Them…

As the eighty year old woman standing in front of me related the problems she had with her fifty-six year old daughter, I bet myself this woman didn’t think of herself as an interfering parent. The woman lamented her daughter’s two marriages and subsequent divorces, her dead-end (in her eyes) job and the daughter’s lack of regular communication with her.

“If she would just do what I tell her,” the woman complained, “I know she’d be a lot better off than she is. But she doesn’t even answer my calls.”

I looked at the woman and said, “In order to keep them, you have to let them go.”

“What? I don’t know what you mean.”

I repeated. “In order to keep them, you have to let them go.”

Even after delivering a lengthy explanation of what I meant, the woman refused to believe she was _ you guessed it _ an interfering parent. At eighty, still trying to tell a fifty-six year old how to live her life, one might think she is an aberration. But, frankly, she reminded me of my mother, who was still trying to parent me at eighty and thought I should still be parenting my then twenty-seven year old daughter.

As the mother of two adult daughters I came up with my saying of “in order to keep them, you have to let them go” in answer to my mother’s over reach as a parent. While I love my daughters, sometimes worry about my daughters and give advice if asked, I decided that once they were adults, I was letting them go. And, while I loved my mother, our relationship was strained and that was on the good days. When she died at ninety, she was still criticizing my adult decisions. I did not want that kind of relationship with my daughters.

It was, and still is, my experience that parents who insist on continuing to tell their offspring how to live their lives often ended up with a strained relationship. And, sometimes the well-meaning parent helped create the very mess of a life their offspring lives.

I remember one mother bragging warmly about how she spoiled her seventeen year old son, making him a sandwich while he continued to lay on the sofa watching sports. She did his laundry and picked up his room. She and her husband provided him with a nice allowance and a car even though he did no chores around the house or held a job. “We want him to enjoy being young,” she said. Six years later she couldn’t understand why he dropped out of college, made no effort to find a job and laid around on the sofa watching TV all day while bumming money off his parents to go out with his buddies at night. Protecting your child from life’s responsibilities and hard knocks does not prepare them for a life of independence.

Perhaps worse yet is the parent who continues treating their child like a child long after the child has successfully flown the nest. I’ve known many parents who decide their adult children are all going to be best friends throughout life, even expecting daughter or son-in-laws to all be on best friend terms. While I’ve heard of this happening, most families may continue to get along but the idea that your sons or daughters spouses are all going to mesh to the point of best friends forever, is a pressure few relationships can withstand. After all, we come from different family cultures with different life views. Your children’s spouses came with their own set of friends and family. Respecting that boundary will go a long way in nourishing a healthy relationship with your children, not to mention your in-laws.

I’ve watched as these same parents expect every holiday to be held at their house, totally dismissing the fact that their children’s spouses also have families. When I questioned one mother about the wisdom of this need on her part, she said, “I want all my children with me just like it was when they were kids.”

Well, they are no longer kids. Adults work out their own holiday schedule. This is about recognizing that your children now have boundaries like any other adult in your life. This is about respecting their boundaries. This is about treating them like adults instead of like children. This is about transitioning to an adult relationship.

My dear mother’s over reach with parenting left her bemoaning the fact that Martin and I were moving to South Carolina and not taking our twenty-seven year old with us. “How can you go and leave her behind?” She asked in an incredulous tone.

Your children do not belong to you like a piece of property. They’re not furniture or accessories. The idea of uprooting a mature woman with an independent life was absurd. But, my ever protective, ever shouldering any burden you may have mother always saw her over reach as just part of being a caring mother. She thought I was a derelict in that role. One of the reasons for our strained relationship, which brings me to another point. Foisting your beliefs about anything, parenting included, onto your adult children is nothing short of trying to continue to control their lives, albeit, perhaps, with good intentions.

I’m not a sociologist or psychologist so all the above is just my view from my experience over a lifetime _ way too many stories of mothers and fathers continuing to parent adult children. That said, I believe the best way to parent adult children is to let them fly the nest, set up their own shop and leave them to their own devices unless, of course, your opinion on their life decisions is asked. In order to keep them, you have to let them go.

WHERE THERE’S A WILL

As a young woman I worked for a bank in a branch office. Prior to opening each morning, the teller assigned to the task, went through the newspaper obituaries. If any of our customers was reported deceased, the teller placed a hold on their accounts, including joint accounts, and sealed their safe deposit box. Sometimes, even people with a Last Will and Testament, left their relatives in a bind when the only place that held a copy of the will was the sealed safe deposit box. Waiting for a probate judge’s order to open the box takes time and costs money. Anytime you have to go to court for anything, you should see dollar signs. However, many people did no planning at all, dying intestate, meaning without a will. We had a saying at the bank, “If you don’t have a will, the state has one for you.” You may intend for all your worldly possessions to go to your spouse but, depending on the state where you live, without a will, state law may dictate your estate is split evenly among your spouse and children, no matter what the age of the children. Don’t assume your children will do the right thing by mom or dad and give the money back to the surviving spouse. And with probate courts inundated with cases, an attorney recently told me it can take up to a year for an estate with a will to get through probate. This is reality, folks.

We all know someone who died suddenly, perhaps from a heart attack or car accident. Yet, most of us put off estate planning thinking, “We’ll get to it later.” Yes, we all do it. Even me. Despite all the life lessons from my banking days, until recently, I had not updated my will for years. No one wants to think about dying. We are a frail type, we humans, who don’t want to face our mortality. We like to think we always have more time. We fool ourselves into thinking, ‘later’ will always be there for us. The heart attack or car accident isn’t the way we will go. Oh no, not us. The truth is we have no idea the day, the hour, the minute or the how. My dad used to joke about it saying, “Something’s gonna get ya. Nobody gets out alive.” Then, he’d laugh at his own joke. Fortunately, both he and my mother left a plan, allowing we children to grieve instead of wending our way through the overwhelming task of trying to figure out what they wanted in the way of funeral arrangements or how to pay for them. There’s enough to decide even with a will. Without a road map, it’s really stressful. That’s how family squabbles happen. And, who wants that to be their legacy?

Give the gift of a will

Give the gift of a will

End of life planning is complicated these days. In South Carolina, where I live, probate court can be avoided by having a trust agreement, rather than just a will. Then, there are revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts. And, just in case you forgot some old account someplace or another, a will can be embedded into the trust. This isn’t an ad for attorneys, but, the truth of the matter is, you probably need one to advise you on what is best for your circumstance in the state in which you live. Just in case that isn’t enough to think about, matters are further complicated by the need for Powers of Attorney for both health care and financial management. These documents cover any eventuality where you become unable to make your own decisions regarding your health and money management. Since each document is separate from the other, the health care attorney-in-fact doesn’t necessarily have to be the same person as the financial attorney-in-fact. Before naming someone to either of these positions, be sure to discuss your decision with that person asking them for their agreement to accept the task. Nobody likes surprises. This is serious business, so cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s. You may also be asked to name alternates because, as we know, stuff happens, and your primary may become deceased or incapacitated themselves, rendering them incapable of carrying out the task. Your attorney will most likely ask you to name a runner up, or two. Whew!

Although this is a serious subject requiring serious consideration, action and, let’s not forget, money, it is the best gift you can give to your survivors. Despite my feet dragging on the matter of updating my planning, the big lesson – well one of them – I learned in life is this. If you don’t make a decision and take action, time and circumstance will make the decision for you and you may not like the outcome. To that, someone said to me about making a will, “What do I care? I’ll be gone!” If you care about your survivors, whether spouse, children, siblings, significant others or grandchildren, give them the gift of not having to squabble over your health care, funeral arrangements and money. Give them the gift of being able to just grieve without worry about the details because you left a detailed plan. And, one last thing – no excuses – dreary as it is, there’s no time like the present to create your plan.