You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.
Last week a friend and I went to hear author Erica Brown speak about her new book, Happier Endings: A Meditation on Life and Death. Briefly, the book is about making the end of life more meaningful for ourselves and our loved ones. With her trademark wit and wisdom Brown answered a series of questions about how we can make our deaths more inspiring to those we leave behind. One way is by leaving a legacy of words and values. When Erica asked how many in the audience had regular wills most people raised their hands but far fewer in the crowd had ethical wills.
The tradition of ethical wills goes as far back as Genesis 49:1-33 when a dying patriarch, Jacob gathered his twelve sons, offered each of them a unique blessing and told them where he wished to be buried. An ethical will is a written spiritual legacy, which imparts your values and wisdom to your children. It can be written at any point and updated as circumstances dictate. I really wish my father had written an ethical will and by sharing my ethical will, I hope to encourage my readers to write their own ethical wills. Don’t just transfer your valuables transmit your values as well.
My Dear Sons,
You know I gave birth to you but you should also know that you gave birth to me, as a mother. I hope to be here with you for a long time but if I’m not, you need to know that you are smart enough and strong enough to stand on your own two feet. Know also, that I have had a wonderful, fulfilled life full of unconditional love and joy. Mourn me, if you must, but make it snappy. You have work to do, life to live and happiness to experience.
Find a partner and build yourself a home filled with respect, love and laughter. Be content in it. Don’t look to your left and right and wonder what others have. Focus on what you have. Build a community for yourself. Being part of a community will require commitment and responsibility, but one day you will stumble, as we all do, and your community will catch you and when that day comes you will realize the value in what you have built. Build yourself a vocation that you are passionate about. Success is measured not by material wealth but by the number of people you touch and if you have passion for your work, you will inevitably touch others.
We like to say in our house, “Don’t curse the darkness. Light a candle.” Be a contributor, not a complainer. Be a giver. Sometimes, be a taker. Always, always, always, be kind. Take risks. Not bungee jumping. What kind of dummy climbs high, tethers himself to an elastic cord and jumps? But, risk your heart, risk looking foolish, risk being honest.
Three of your grandparents were survivors and we have provided you with a strong Jewish education. Think long and hard before you hand Hitler victory by walking away from your faith.
You’re fair skinned. Don’t be stingy with the sunscreen. Read a lot. Exercise more than your slug of a mother. And, don’t forget to call your brothers. Please!!
People die. Love remains. Always remember that you have given me tremendous happiness. My only sadness is in leaving you.
I’m gonna miss you when I’m gone.