When a person dies…it’s as though a library burned down.
Each November, the hospice community works to raise awareness about hospice and palliative care during National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.
One service hospice offers is helping patients and families develop and create legacy work. Sometimes called life closure or an ethical will, legacy work is a collection of personal values and family history that can be passed on to loved ones. Some see it as a way to learn about oneself, reflect on life and to affirm the importance of others in their life.
When I mention the term ethical will, people automatically think of legal documents like a living will or a last will and testament. An ethical will is not a legal document. It is when we bequeath our values, not our valuables. It is a way to pass on or share our beliefs, histories, blessings and advice to future generations. Ethical wills are a way to bequeath values, blessings, life lessons, hopes and dreams for the future, and forgiveness with family.
We don’t need to have a lot of money or property or to have done something truly extraordinary to create an ethical will. Each of us is unique with our own family history and tradition, life experiences, lessons learned and obstacles overcome. An ethical will is a way to pass on our personal legacies and can reflect how we want to be remembered. Ethical wills can be written – in the form of letters, poems, recipes, and journals. They can be digital recordings or song compositions. They can be in the form of art – such as a quilt, jewelry, paintings. They can be almost anything.
Some people think that an ethical will can only be created prior to death. However, many people create legacies to honor the deceased. I remember a funeral of a close friend of my parents. As part of the service, the adult children read excerpts of their father’s letters to his parents while he was in the WWII. He used the word “swell” often and talked about meeting and courting the woman he married. These excerpts gave you a feeling for what the man was really like and how much he valued family. While sad, it was very moving and very honoring. It also provided a legacy – an ethical will.
One of the groups offered at the bereavement center is Fabric and Feelings where the grieving create works of art from the cloth of their deceased loved. Quilts, pillows, teddy bears and other items created with love provide meaning to those in mourning. (Add photo)
If you are grieving, this may be the time to consider the legacy left by your loved ones and the legacy you will one day leave.
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