I am reading this book right now called A Year to Live, by Stephen Levine. It has raised a lot of questions and insights for me. Many of them are about estate planning. Many of them are about life in general.
One of the exercises the author has the reader do is simply make a list of what you'd do if you found out today that you have a year to live. The author seems to think that it can feel freeing for people because they finally feel entitled to live the life that they want to live. To imagine that you have a year to live is like metaphorically dying, and allows you to realize what you want and have a rebirth and live your life in a new way.
As a parent, I am getting something a little bit different from the book. I have a 10-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old daughter, so I wouldn't feel so free. I would feel devastated and sad for my family. I think my list would look a little different than a list would look for someone with grown kids or no kids at all. It wouldn't be so much about things I always wanted to do, but more about how I can make things easy on my kids and really be able to completely enjoy my family for my last year. Mentally and emotionally going through the act of dying, it is so clear what needs to be done! After going through my list and preparing for my death, I can be free to live the life I really want to live!
At the top of my list would be making sure the transition after my death would be as smooth as possible for my kids. It made me think about the type of estate planning I'd want to do. If I was a parent who hadn't done any estate planning, I doubt I would be using a DIY kit or calling a bunch of lawyers and going for the cheapest rate. I would be asking questions like, "What will happen to my kids if I collapse at the grocery store?" and "What if I'm incapacitated in the hospital for a long time before my death?" and "How will my loved ones have access to my assets?" and "Will you be there for my family when I can't be?" I would be communicating with my chosen guardians and getting everyone on the same page. I would be communicating my healthcare wishes. I would be writing letters to my kids and spouse and guardians that they could read after my death. I'd want everything to be as smooth as possible, and I'd want to make sure that I left behind my values and everything I wanted to say to my loved ones. I'd want to know that everyone would be cared for financially. (Hopefully I already have life insurance, since I wouldn't be able to get it with a one-year-to-live diagnosis.)
On a more personal note, I wouldn't waste one second with any fights or struggles with my spouse or kids. I would say yes a lot more. Yes, I'll take you to the park. Yes, you can stay up late and watch a movie with us. Yes, you can have ice cream. I'd laugh a lot more, smile a lot more, cuddle a lot more. I'd be outside a lot more. I'd take the kids to Disneyland. I'd try to experience life a lot more with my family. I'd want to have more picnics, more hikes, more sunsets and sunrises.
So what about you? What would you do if you found out you had a year to live?
To your family's health & prosperity,