Many of us are quite clear about making sure we have a “last will and testament” or a “living will” letting others know our desires if we are unable to make choices for ourselves when faced with medical decisions. Few of us, though, are just as clear about the footprint in the sand that we want to leave. This is a gift for our families, friends and community. We can do this by writing an ethical will.
Over time, whether our families live near or far from us, we may or may not take the time or create the situation to engage with them in the way we would like. With focus, clarity and intention, we can share your thoughts, feelings, and values with those we love. We can do this in writing, on film, video, DVD, audio tape, or any way that suits us. And we can choose to reveal the contents of this during your lifetime or leave it for after our death.
The point is that we give those who are dear to us a look at what was and is important to us; how we viewed and view life. Composing an ethical will can help us healthfully confront and come to terms with death. The process can help us focus on what had meaning in our life and helps to provide closure. Our relatives and friends may or may not know our life story, why we made the choices we did, and what we learned along the way. It can be helpful to us and to them if we share specific life lessons that we learned that changed or reinforced our values. We may wish to consider where and how forgiveness factors in, and what were some of the dreams we had and did not share.
We can ask ourselves questions to begin the thought process and take notes or record our responses. This is not a “one shot experience.” We can keep a notebook and write in it as we feel inspired and then edit it (or not) with information that is uniquely ours about our personal values; what they are and how they have evolved and changed over time.
Ethical wills are not legal documents, but they may be the most important gift we leave to the people in our life.