My father died suddenly and unexpectedly on March 6, 2008. (We kids believe he had a heavenly hand in the Jayhawks winning the national championship the next month. His KU fandom knew no earthly bounds.)
Dad had suffered a massive stroke the night before. As we all gathered at the hospital, life support systems had already been put in place to keep his body alive so organs could be harvested when the inevitable time came. As my sisters and I comforted our mother in the ICU waiting room, my brother ran home to get “the folder.”
A little background:
Thus, “the folder.”
Inside were Dad’s advance directives, every document my mother and hospital authorities needed to ensure this dreadful moment was unencumbered by legal red tape: living will, medical power of attorney, organ donation instructions (selected organs going to Harvard for research) and a non-legal (at the time) completed questionnaire describing in detail his last wishes in terms of his comfort and care.
My mother and father had talked about this day many times. It was undoubtedly a difficult conversation yet they were on the same page with each other’s plans and desires. But, that folder – all signed, notarized and legal – saved our family a lot of extra, unnecessary grief.
That was Dad’s final gift to us: peace of mind.
- Cathy Hamilton
In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day, April 16th, the Lawrence Public Library’s Before You Check Out program will host a talk by Kansas City attorney William Colby at 7 pm in the auditorium. Bill will speak about his experience arguing the first ever “Right to Die” case before the Supreme Court. Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health was a landmark case decided in 1990 that underscored the importance of advance directives. The program will be held in partnership with LMH Health and the Senior Resource Center. LMH will have advance directives and notaries available at the program.
Lights, Camera... Stories!
A fantastic time was had by all last Saturday when we recorded the first batch of short videos from our "Who Will Tell Your Story?" class. Themes included death-defying rose bush rescues, wife-swapping weekends, small town class reunion hijinks, growing up with bootleggers, and a miraculous musical encounter on a train ride to a funeral. (We couldn't make this stuff up if we had to!)
Each of our storytellers will soon receive their own 20-minute video for sharing with family and friends in whatever way they choose, as part of their legacy. Every one of them found the process rewarding, less nerve-racking than anticipated... and fun! A few of them even stuck around to share their thoughts about LPL. Here are Patricia Lechtenberg's lovely comments:
Thank you, Pat. We loved hearing your stories!
One of the ways to tell your life story, as discussed in our classes last week, is to leave a legacy letter, also known as an ethical will.
A legacy letter is a heartfelt expression of what matters most in your life, shared with people you care about with the intention of connecting future generations to the past.
It can be written to an individual or a group (your children, siblings, friends, colleagues, community) and can contain:
Sitting down to write a legacy letter allows you to take stock of your life in a non-material way and reflect on what really matters. It isn’t easy, but most people find the process tremendously illuminating and rewarding.
You can write your legacy letter and share it with recipients now or leave it to be found after your passing. It’s up to you.
Or, consider reading your legacy letter on camera or as an audio recording, allowing recipients to see or hear you express your sentiments in your own voice. You can do that at home with a smartphone and the right app or with our help in the library’s Sound + Vision Studio. To schedule an appointment, call 785-843-3833 x151.
Now, start writing!
If you've lived to any ole' ripe age, you have a veritable library of stories to tell and leave behind as your legacy.
For many of us, however, the idea of recording our entire life saga feels more than a little daunting. Very few people have the time, attention span, or interest in writing a full-blown memoir.
So, what if you broke your story down into the most interesting parts? Think of those mini-stories as books of different genres in your "library." Do you have a world-class love story to tell? (Romance) Perhaps you marched on Washington in the 60s? (American History) Is there a fascinating unsolved Mystery in your past? Or, a fall-down funny incident (Humor) that must be preserved in family lore?
By honing in on your most significant and compelling stories, the idea of sharing your "library" with others becomes more palatable and, ultimately, doable.
That's the goal of my upcoming class on Tuesday, Jan. 15 (two sessions to choose from: 10 am and 7 pm). Register today to learn lots of tips on how to tell your story in entertaining and efficient ways. Attendees will also have the opportunity to be interviewed by me in the Sound + Vision studio at a later date. (That part's optional.)
Hope to see you there!
Edit: This class has passed and registration has expired. Subscribe to our email list to be the first to hear about upcoming classes!
Cathy Hamilton is an award-winning journalist who specializes in finding meaning in retirement. Follow her work here for tips, tricks, and info about upcoming programs at Lawrence Public Library.