for release Friday October 17, 2003
by Melodie Davis
Loving Legacy: Draft 2
In August I introduced a concept here I called "A Loving Legacy"-a paper addressing issues and questions that frequently arise between adult children and their parents regarding how to handle the volatile issues of aging, such as giving up a driver's license. It is an instrument or tool that parents might fill out when they are still of able body and mind, about their wishes for the future: a sort of "loving will" if you please. I invited reader reaction and ideas, and promised to issue a second draft.
Reader response has been fascinating, with mostly overwhelmingly positive reaction to the whole idea. One woman, however, wrote: "If you have good, loving, healthy communication with your children, I don't think [such a tool] is necessary." She is right about that. If you can naturally talk about issues-such as if they really need to use a hearing aid-then there is no need for a tool like this to help you think through and spell out the responses.
However, I know by the number of people responding "This is a great idea" that too many of us don't have the kind of open communication we'd like, or we have a tendency to get more stubborn or be in denial when it comes to dealing with difficult, sensitive issues like "Does my dad have Alzheimer's?" In any case, the "Loving Legacy” is more of a communication tool or aide than something to slavishly fill out.
One reader describes the ideal setting for such discussions: both sides give their pros and cons in a peaceful, non-judgmental way, putting issues on the table; all parties should be well rested, unhurried, no preset minds or attitudes, just a loving, caring conversation. And remember, this "legacy" is not designed to discuss other needed documents during the aging years such as a real will, executor, a living will, medical power of attorney (MPOA) and general durable power of attorney (GPOA).
Here are some of the additional reader-suggested ideas of things to decide ahead of time and discuss with your kids: (see end of article about how to get the complete list).
___ If I became hopeless or depressed, ask my doctor to refer me to a psychiatrist.
___ Ask me if I have enough money to keep up my life insurance (or burial policy).
___ Tell me if I need a haircut and then perhaps you could take me to a hairdresser or maybe even do my nails.
___ Tell me, delicately of course, if I talk too much, or perhaps I don't communicate enough.
___ Tell me if I need to focus on the needs and hurts of others instead of my own everyday aches and pains.
___ Tell me, gently, if I have said or done anything that has hurt or may hurt a grandchild or one of the children.
___ Encourage me to make funeral plans ahead of time and my desires regarding cremation, memorial, graveside or church funeral.
___ Encourage me to indicate on paper what personal items go to what family members, and to write down the stories about the item.
___ Tell me when I can't do chores anymore like mowing the lawn, cleaning the house and general maintenance and that it is okay to except help from others.
___ Tell me when it is time to sort and toss some of my junk.
___ Tell me if you'd like to talk about your feelings for me, or my feelings for you.
___ Tell me if you want to talk about our family, or our history, the successes and the failures, and God's faithfulness to our family through the years.
One reader wanted to add more pledges for the children, such as promising to visit more often when parents can no longer drive, taking Mom or Dad to church, discussing decisions to be made rather than making decisions for parents, and not keeping one's grandchildren away because Grandma or Grandpa "can be irritable." Another added, "Tell me what precious memories you have in regard to our special relationship" and "Remember me with little notes of kind thoughts or little gifts that I can share with my friends, such as cupcakes or some other specialty of yours."
Finally, this window into "aging" from another part of the world: a reader from Zambia who read the article via e-mail wrote: "Here in Zambia we don't have living wills. The last four days of my mom's life, I bathed her and spent the last two nights by her bedside. I was there when she died in the wee hours of the morning of August 7. I just feel blessed that I was there and did what I am sure she would have wanted me to do even if she could not verbalize the requests."
What better loving legacy could anyone ask for?
If you would like a complete Draft 2, write or e-mail me and I can send it by the method you prefer. Send your name and mailing address or e-mail address to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text =843 words; end material = 105 words
We would appreciate it if you would include the "Globe Syndicate" bug at the end of the column
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