Sometimes when I make a presentation to a small group, I’ll pass out plain white index cards. The cards, I explain, are to help people communicate with a loved one. I set up the following scenario:
Imagine that you are not going to make it home today, that you will be struck down and killed by a bus, physical ailment or some other means. What would be your final message to the one person most important to you? Take a few minutes and write it down.
After giving the audience a few minute to compose their final message, I alter the scenario:
OK. Now imagine that you’re not killed today. I want you to take the message you’ve written and present it to your loved one today. Pay close attention to the reaction you get. That should convince you of the value of your stories to your loved ones.
It’s sort of a mini-mini-course in writing a legacy letter, which many others call an ethical will. Besides showing the value and power of stories, it also makes the point that you don’t have to wait until you die to share them with your loved ones. I fact, I make the opposite point: that it’s better to share while living. Doing so helps eliminate that nagging feeling of regret that many people feel after the loss of a loved one.
Comedian Bob Saget makes a similar point in this essay on The Huffington Post in which he details what he would do if he knew he were in the last 24 hours of his life. What about you? Would you spend most of that time jetting to an exotic destination or would you prefer taking your final breath in more familiar surroundings?