While thinking about end-of-life can be difficult, I have the opportunity to think about death every day. It has helped me to live a more meaningful life, and given me a greater sense of purpose, gratitude, and perspective.
I come to the work in the end-of-life space in a number of ways - in my professional role in the charitable sector in legacy giving and in my community role as a death doula providing non-medical support to dying people and those experiencing grief. I listen, meet people where they are at, and help people honour what is most meaningful to them. This is a privilege, because while we are talking about death, people share with me what is most important to them in life, and what they want their legacy to be.
What’s Your Legacy?
May is Leave a Legacy Month, and only 5% of people in Canada have left a gift in their Will to a charity. These are challenging times for many. However, in every challenge, there is opportunity. This can be yours to build a meaningful legacy, and to build a brighter, healthier future for yourself, loved ones, and for coming generations.
Our legacy is who we are, every day, through all kinds of contributions and expressions of our values, as well as relationships and connections. Administratively, legacy is advance care plans that can help ensure our values are realized. This includes Wills, medical directives, substitute decision makers, personal care, end-of-life and post death preferences. By thinking about legacy holistically, we can develop daily perspective and focus on priorities that make ourselves whole.
Legacy can be a number of things, and it’s never too early to start thinking about it. To me, legacy is a person’s story –things big and small, and sometimes simple or complex. We are not only one memory, act or possession. We are beings to be remembered in all of our humanity. Whether it’s a special recipe, a family ritual, love of dogs or trees, or passion for restoring old motorcycles, each story is unique.
What is a common among most people is that each of us want to be remembered, to know our lives mattered, and to ensure the things we love most will be cared for after we are gone from this world.
One way people can express their legacy is to leave a charitable gift in their Will to a cause or issue close to their heart. By leaving a gift in your Will, you will leave a legacy that can last for generations. People sometimes feel they must choose between ensuring loved ones are taken care of and charitable giving. Both are possible, and in understanding your many options, and in careful planning, you can ensure your values are realized in all the ways most meaningful to you. Without planning, your decision-makers may not know what causes you feel most passionate about, or which organizations you want to show gratitude for. A gift in your Will is one more opportunity to put action to your values, while leaving another lasting mark on the world. This type of gift to charities is an incredible gesture, is greatly appreciated, and can inspire others to consider and plan for their own legacies. Your legacy gift can help tell your own unique story, but also, become part of the fabric of the stories of many others.
“Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.” ― The Nightvale Podcast