The first time I heard Larry Parman, an attorney specializing in estate planning speak at a conference, I knew I would use him. Even though he asked questions that made me squirm. “If something were to happen to you, could your children afford to bury you?”
“Ummm…well…the truth is that they couldn’t even afford to send flowers.”
“Right,” he said, “mine too. It’s a tough world out there for kids out of college, finding jobs, marrying and having children. Their month lasts a lot longer than their paychecks. My kids are scattered around the country. My wife and I knew that if were to die, we had to take that into consideration. In addition to taking care of our funeral expenses and burial costs, they would need airfare here. The grandchildren would need clothes for the funeral. Obviously, in 10 or 15 years, those needs wouldn’t be the same.”
I got my will up to date, signed an advance directive and end of life checklist. I showed my kids where they would find the files they needed if anything happened to me. Step by step, I began the process.
I enjoy reading the updates Larry sends. Recently, he sent a video. Larry sat in a room overcrowded with the debris of a long live well lived. Books, bank statements, dozens of cards and photos were crammed into every space. Instead of his usual suit and tie, he wore a green Nike t-shirt.
His mother had just moved into a nursing home and they were cleaning out her house. He found a 43 year old index card in his father’s handwriting. Written in 1977, it was his father’s list of things to do. The second thing on the list was: TRUST. His children had been urging him to set up a family trust to deal with the land on the family farm and their finances.
The card was written in 1977. In 1978, he died in a tractor accident.
He’d never gotten around to setting up a trust.
As I watched the video, I couldn’t help but think how that related to writing as well. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who’ve said, “I have a book in me.” Or, “I can’t tell you how many prophesies I’ve had about writing a book.”
Their life ended before they got around to it.
I talked to a man in Tulsa whose eyes sparkled as he told me about a book he wanted to write. When I told him about our upcoming writing conference, the light went out. “I couldn’t possibly,” he said describing the hours he worked each week. “It will have to wait until I retire.”
I hoped his life lasted long enough for his dreams.
For some reason, the universe doesn’t always make it easy to fulfill our hopes and dreams. I suspect that it’s like a butterfly who must struggle against its cocoon to strengthen its wings. We too have to strengthen our resolve as we struggle against those things that resist our efforts.
David Baldacci practiced law in Washington DC and made a great living. But he had this dream of writing a novel. Instead of putting his life in overdrive and speeding over it, each night when his family went to bed, he wrote from 10pm to 2am. Only to get up at 6am and start his day. He kept that schedule seven days a week for years as he got one rejection after another.
“I couldn’t stop writing,” David admitted.
The day the president of a publishing company called his office and said he wanted to buy his novel, David hung up on him. He thought it was one of his friends was pranking him. When he told his wife someone was going to publish his book she said, “Honey, how much money will that cost us?”
Absolute Power holds the record for the most money paid for a first novel. It went to the bookshelves and became a hit movie starring Clint Eastwood. Certain that his success was a fluke, David kept his day job and continued writing from 10pm to 2am until his next success.
Carve out time for your dreams. Whether you want to write a novel, a nonfiction book, short stories, magazine articles or poems, just start and keep going.
It’s all about TRUST. Trust that doing what you feel passionate about makes life rich with something money can’t buy.