We can make a will to decide what happens to our belongings; we can also share our guidance and wisdom.
I was faced with a dilemma a little while ago.
We were taking the holiday of a lifetime to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday. The whole family, 15 of us in total, were going to Thailand. The fact we were all on the same flight raised the question of having a will and who my estate would go to, if the plane crashed and every single one of us died.
My children were five and seven at the time, and we had put off making a will although it was on our to do list, admittedly pretty near the bottom. You don’t ever think anything is going to happen to you!
We had our initial meeting with a solicitor to talk everything through.
On my drive to work the next day I happened to listen to Pause for Thought on the radio.
Father Brian D’Arcy was talking about a book, Dear Sebastian. It had been created by a 35 year old man, Jordan Ferguson, who knew he was dying of cancer and would not see his son grow up. After Jordan was diagnosed, a friend advised him to write a goodbye letter to guide his son on how to live a happy and successful life.
While he was deciding what to put in his letter, he wrote to a number of notable Irish people – including sportsmen and women, priests, entrepreneurs, politicians, theatre, television and radio personalities – asking them to write letters of their own, sharing their thoughts on how to live a good life. He was planning to compile them into a book for his son.
Sadly, Jordan died suddenly in the very early stages of the book, and without writing his own letter. He never got to see the inspirational legacy he left his son, but the book was completed and published.
I hold a firm belief that things happen for a reason, and what I heard on the radio made a real difference to me.I immediately went out, bought the book and read it from cover to cover. It touched me to the core and left me in tears. I decided that I would place a copy for each of my children with my will for there were some profound and moving letters which I hoped would help and guide my children in the event of anything happening to me. Job done.
Or so I thought.
I woke up a few nights later and in an “aha” moment. I knew in my heart that I had to write my own letter to my children.
After a couple of days of mulling things around in my head, I started to put pen to paper (well, fingertips to keyboard to be more precise) and wrote down all the things I wanted to say that I thought might make a difference, trying to relate things that I was saying to experiences they had already had in their short lives.
For my son, who verges on the ‘goody, goody’ end of the spectrum, the advice was to see how he feels in his heart. He was on the fringe of a group responsible for a derogatory comment at school, but had felt bad about it. I told him he can trust his own judgement to know the difference between right and wrong.
My daughter was only five when I wrote the letters, so there were not as many incidences to choose from. When we’d lost her at an agricultural show I made light of the situation as I didn’t want her to be traumatised by what had happened. I know that she will always remember this happened so my message to her was that no matter where she goes, or what she does, we will always be in her heart.
The letters were not the easiest thing to write, for it forced me to think about the possibility of me not being there for them which was pretty scary, even abhorrent, and I was often in tears as I wrote. However, complete them I did, and they too are now lodged with my will and the books.
I felt an incredible sense of relief that I had said all that I needed to (and provided a little extra help too thanks to the book!) and should anything happen to me, my spirit can rest easy as I watch them grow from another world.
I guess what I learnt from this is that being true to yourself, and saying what you want to say – no matter how difficult it may be – will always reap its reward.