Will you be remembered for a good life? Or for a messy death?

I have a friend in San Francisco who, like me, is an estate planning attorney (because, you know, attorneys all hang out together).  Unlike me, her practice focuses on elder law, so whereas my clients are mostly young parents or parents who are, shall we say, in the happy middle years of their life, her clients are very elderly.  This means that she winds up attending more than the average number of funerals and memorials.  Aside from a funeral director or the Ruth Gordon character in “Harold and Maude,” my friend has probably observed as many funerals as anyone you’ll ever meet.

So when she called me yesterday to tell me about a memorial she had attended over the weekend, it got my attention.  Every life and every service she attends is important to her, but because she attends so many, it’s not the kind of thing she usually even mentions to people who are otherwise unconnected to the family. But this time, she couldn’t wait to tell me about the service.

She said she could not remember ever leaving a funeral before feeling inspired the way she did after this one.   The joy and honor that people seemed to feel at having been part of his life overshadowed the sadness at his passing.  There seemed to be no loose ends in his life.

Ripple of waterIt got me thinking.  Most people want to matter and to know that their death will make a ripple on the pond.  The irony is that the ripple most people leave is not that of a quiet breeze blowing across the water; it’s more like the tumultuous froth caused by a drowning frog.

Imagine you are attending your own funeral.  Do you hear people quietly noting how beautiful the service is or telling a cute story about something you did?  Or do you hear tense mutterings about what will happen to your family now? Wouldn’t you rather hear your friends admiringly relate how you left everything planned out and taken care of?  Wouldn’t you like to relieve your family’s stress at one of the most stressful times of life, and wouldn’t you like to relieve the periodic stress you yourself feel whenever you remember that you need to “get around to doing a will?”

Your life can be in an inspiration, and it probably already is.  Don’t let the good life you’ve been leading be forgotten in the stress of a messy death.  Make an estate plan, a trust, and a plan.  Be Fearless.


Photo by Madison Lambeth