"I'll just scan over the details and make sure everything is there," I thought to myself.
After getting to the last page I realized the most important part was missing.
This was a formal listing of all the things of my life. It was indeed a legal document declaring who gets what and how much. But then it hit me. By the world's standards I haven't really been all that successful. Oh, there's a house, car, insurance, and a few personal collections that I've been proud to call my own.
There is and will be copyrights and royalties from my work to consider, too.
"But where am I in all of this?" I asked myself.
I wasn't there. So, I sat down and created what is called an "Ethical Will." It is not a legal document, but a listing of my own personal beliefs and ideals.
The will needed to be notarized before it could be accepted in the courts. So we headed to the courthouse.
Upon entering the office, my wife asked the first person we saw if there was a notary available.
"Yes, anyone in here but me!" the young man replied.
"I guess you missed that class?" I said, laughing.
"They didn't think it was necessary since everyone else was a notary already," he said.
"Well, how would you like to be a witness for our wills?"
"Wow! That's creepy!" he said. "But sure!"
Even though it wasn't legally a part of the will, I asked them if they wanted to read my "ethical will." None of them had ever heard of one before.
"If all of that represents all that I am and upon my death it is divided among my family, then how would they remember me?" I said to my new friends.
"By what you left behind," the young man said.
"Stuff! But what about me?" I said.
"Hey, if you left me enough stuff, I'd remember you!" he said, laughing.
"Please read this, if you would," I offered.
They gathered around and read the following:
To my children, family and friends:
When you come across a trinket of mine tucked away in a drawer what will you remember of me? Nothing.
When you stand there in my living room and see the pictures on the wall, what will they say about me? Nothing.
When the final check arrives from the insurance company and you are holding it in your hand, what will it say to you? Nothing. My will says nothing about who I am.
So this is what I want you to know. This is what I want you to remember about me when I'm gone.
Did you know...?
I was sentimental. Old songs, romantic movies, and happy endings made me cry. I leave for you a sense of caring.
I loved the sunshine but treasured rainy days too. I leave for you a desire to see the good in everything.
I stopped my car to look for rainbows whenever I thought there was even a slight possibility of seeing one. I leave for you a positive attitude and the desire to search for beauty when it's not so obvious.
I often stopped to help someone stranded on the roadside. I leave for you compassion.
I paid for the meals of perfect strangers just because I thought God wanted me to and I did it anonymously. I leave for you the sound of the still small voice within to guide you in things of the heart.
I wanted to be a famous singer more than anything else. Well, at first I wanted to be a deejay. I leave for you the soul of a dreamer and the ability to know when to change.
I loved all kinds of music. I leave for you the ability to take one single note and hear the symphony within it.
I was fired from jobs at least three times in my life, and each time it took me in a new direction. I leave a sense of adventure and a spirit of readiness.
I loved butter pecan ice cream, chocolate cake with vanilla icing, turkey dinner with all the trimmings and chocolate-covered cherries. I leave for you the vision of life as a feast and God at the head of the table.
Each time the phone rang I'd smile when I heard your voice. Be someone's reason to smile.
I would have done anything for you, if you asked me. Be ready to give all you have to all who need.
I had friends all over the world. I leave for you the desire to make friends of strangers and a world without borders.
It is a will that measures the things of one's life, but love that measures the man. I love you all!
"Thanks, I'm glad I was here for this," the young man said.
"I'm glad you were, too," I replied.