This post was originally one of my bi-weekly e-newsletters that I send to my clients, friends, family and those who have asked to receive it. It received an unprecedented response from those who read it and I am grateful for the kind words that were shared with me. I thought twice before reproducing it here for 2 reasons: (1) I don’t like to reproduce things – I like to be original each time (or as near to original as I can be), and (2) it brought up all the same emotions it did when I first wrote it. I decided to go ahead and share it because the topic is too important to not share. Please share your comments and thoughts – and if you would like to receive the e-newsletter, let us know via our contact us page. Without further ado, we’ll pick up in the e-newsletter as I get into the topic . . .
. . . Even with all the fun and enjoyment of the July 4th holiday, I did receive some very sad news since the last e-newsletter. My grandpa (“papaw”) passed away after a long bout with cancer. By God’s grace he made it much longer than the doctors expected, but it still wasn’t enough time for us. And in the hustle and bustle of family life and running the law practice, I have one big regret. This is by far the most emotionally challenging e-newsletter I have written, but I’m hoping that you won’t make the same mistake I did. Which leads to this week’s strategy note . . .
“Straight Talk” Personal Strategy
Stories of our Forefathers
Sure, given the recent 4th of July holiday the title could refer to stories of Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and many of the founders of our great country. In this case, it is a reference to happy and sad, joy and regret, memories and forgotten memories.
This past Christmas, all of my mom’s family gathered together to celebrate (we try to do that every 3 years). This year was particularly important, as Papaw was not doing so well health wise. He still seemed to have a lot of strength, but you could never be sure with him because he was such a strong man . . . he wouldn’t show pain because he didn’t want folks to worry about him. I still remember a few years back when we visited him in Florida and he said, “well, I hope you didn’t come down here to see some sick guy . . . I’m doing just fine . . . and it’s great to have you all down here.”
Little did I know that this past Christmas was the last time I would see or talk to him. Yes, that was as hard to write as you might expect. I’m so thankful that we had that time and that he got to spend some time with Matthew and Elizabeth (they loved their Papaw and rode on his knee just like I did when I was growing up). But OH the things I would have done different had I known it would be the last time.
You probably know about the priceless conversations that I have with all of my clients. The recorded conversation about any number of topics, from children to legacies, wisdom and values. I call it planning for your Whole Family Wealth, because your values, insights, stories and experiences or your most valuable asset. Here comes the hardest part of the email . . . I never did a priceless conversation with my Papaw and it tears my heart out every time I think about it. He had so many great stories and pearls of wisdom and to have it recorded in his own voice would truly be priceless.
Sure, we talked about doing it at Christmas. Many of us felt we couldn’t do it because we were too close to the conversation emotionally. Papaw felt he couldn’t do it because he didn’t think he had anything valuable to share. Long story short, time moved forward, he went “down hill” quickly, passed away and the conversation was never done. I’m beyond disappointed in myself for not pushing myself harder to do it.
Sure, maybe I’m being to hard on myself and maybe writing this was a way to grieve and move on, but in my mind the point of sharing the story with you is twofold: (1) did you feel the emotion and the power in the story? That’s why they need to be shared, and (2) please, please don’t make the same mistake I did.
I expect all my clients to live long, health, joy-filled lives. But I know that at some point we all will pass from this life. If I’m alive when it happens to my clients I can assure you that the most valuable thing I will be able to provide their loved ones with is not guidance through a difficult situation, it’s not being a sounding board for grief and frustration, no . . . it will be handing them each a copy of the priceless conversation CDs their parents (or sibling or child) recorded as part of the estate plan we helped them put in place.
I know this was long and probably more personal than you would expect in my e-newsletters, but I wanted to make sure I shared the story and what I learned from it. I wish you the very best and I hope you have a fantastic week!
Warmly (and until next time!),
Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and business planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™. This goes beyond merely planning for finances – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you. He focuses on estate and asset protection planning for the “experienced” generation, the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses and pet planning. He takes the “counselor” part of attorney and counselor at law very seriously, and enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients – many of which have become great friends.