We all know that we’re supposed to get our affairs in order prior to death to make things easier on the ones we leave behind — to say nothing of being sure that what we intend to leave them actually goes to them, legally, with no fights over lack of clarity regarding the deceased’s intentions, and no loopholes that allow for some lawyer to twist words into favoring the long-lost relative that comes out of the woodwork at the last minute to claim something that would never have been his or hers in this or any other life.
Such legal preparations that secure our intentions in a sure-fire way that will be carried out after we’re gone, when we cannot make things any clearer, will give us peace of mind for the eternal long haul, and also for the remaining time we have left on this mortal coil — meaning, for example, if we unexpectedly die in our sleep tonight or slip on that misplaced banana peel in the morning, we can go down knowing we covered it all — in plenty of time.
How often have we wished we had taken care of some detail that we didn’t take care of and it came back to haunt us? An unpaid traffic ticket that got way out of hand? That stitch in time that would have
saved far more than “nine”? That neglected health problem? You get the point.
Yet our end of life preparations cannot always be made at the end of our life since we do not know when our time will run out. Therefore, obviously, they need to be made when it comes to our attention in a strong way that such preparations need to be made, even if one is still in their so-called prime of life!
So, assuming that obvious statement meets with most everyone’s agreement — that it is better to make preparations for one’s eventual demise, in terms of the distribution of one’s assets, be they ever so humble, than to not make preparations — I’m going to suggest that it might also be wise to consider making preparations for how one will live while yet alive — and I don’t mean just when one finds oneself on life-support, or has been given the ultimate pink slip, which will likely become effective within a few short months.
We all have just so much time ahead of us, whether closer to the short end of the stick, or stretched out so far that we feel we will never die. Yet we all need to acknowledge our mortality. Facing that, we can then imagine how we might be remembered, and by whom.
Will our family members remember our loving guidance and generosity where needed, or will they remember the contention that we always stirred up over certain issues, and how, when we were able and they were in dire need, we turned the other cheek so that we didn’t have to see that need and offer assistance?
Will our friends remember our loving loyalty and the times we were there for them, in both troubled and happy times, considering spending that time with them a worthwhile thing to do as opposed to something that they felt obligated to do, and did as seldom as possible? Will your friends remember those little unexpected things you did that put a smile on their face, or will they remember that they could never have a real conversation with you without your getting all steamed up if they didn’t agree with you? Will they have a letter, note, gift or even email from you that “captures” the way you were, that they will be inclined to save as a memento, or will there be nothing you leave behind in the lives of those you claimed to love that they can treasure in the way many humans do, even though it is never necessary to have more than one’s heart can hold?
We cannot leave behind what we ourselves never had. If we choose to leave good or happy memories, we must create them in the days or hours we have left to us, knowing there is no guarantee that we’ll have enough time to create the kind of legacy we would prefer if we don’t start right now, or keep up our “good work” till Mr. “D” comes to claim us.
As in the world of Fame, it isn’t what you achieved last year, or possibly even last week, it’s what can the media print about you TODAY. What will “sell papers”? So you gave your grandmother money for
her down payment on her little house years ago and felt that would put you in her will, but you never once called to see how she was after she had that stroke, and never once stopped by to see if she needed anything, and then wondered why — at the reading of her will — in addition to the relatives she did remember, she left you only one book, along with her explanation as to why, and left $20,000 to a “stranger” who had merely stopped by every day after her stroke to see how she was doing.
Death is one little instant in time, taking place at one little spot on this huge and rambling planet; it takes us from this “side of the fence” to the other. Life, on the other hand, is everything that comes before it, whether a few short years, or a whole century, and it includes the whole yard, the whole playground (or planet, if you will), and it will either be a happy and loving playground — where all those you played with along the way will wish you could stay…or will at least remember you fondly — or it will be a dark and gloomy field riddled with pits and problems and protrusions over which you and all your associates along the way could trip and fall, requiring one to constantly step gingerly in fear, or dart this way and that to avoid the self-created mess and mire of misery or deceit that you may have unknowingly or inadvertently created.
In other words, if one doesn’t consciously work at creating the kind of life one wants to leave behind as their legacy, one will get the kind of legacy one has created by not preparing for Life.
One’s will can be created with words; one’s living legacy can only be created by one’s life.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.