What is important? In the busy lives that we live we are flooded with things we need to do. Often we are overwhelmed by all these claims on our time and energy. I am discovering that there is nothing like facing end of life that inspires us to sort out these claims and prioritize them as to which are important. I have found by experience that many different criteria may be used to sort out what is important. Let me share a few of the criteria that I have found to be helpful as guidelines, not just at end of life, but throughout life. I try to place ” Relationshipw with loved ones” in top priority. The following questions may stimulate your thinking about this priority.
If you should die tomorrow do those closest to you know how much you love them? Have you told them daily and shown by your actions that you love them? Those of us who have been married a long time may have began taking our spouses for granted and are not saying “I love you” or showing our love for them. Our spouses may be feeling unloved and unappreciated. Tell them every day something that you appreciate about them and and be sure to tell them they are loved. Make sure your actions match your words. The same is true of our children. I have a son and daughter that are middle aged now. I never hang up the phone from talking to them that I do not close the conversation “Love you much!!” There are a large number of kids in this world who feel unloved and unappreciated. I have spent my life trying to insure that my children always feel loved and appreciated. I’m sure I haven’t always been successful but I try!
A second area of priority involves communicating things that only we know about to our loved ones. We wh0 have lost loved ones know that there are many times when we have questions that only those who have passed could answer and the answer went to the grave with them.
Although we can’t anticipate all of their questions, we can take some steps that may be helpful. Here are several ideas that might be helpful.
1, Write your autobiography. I have worked on mine several years and had to speed it up as I’m not sure how much time I have left. Since I have trouble typing, my son helped me finish it by recording it on his cellphone and then transcribing it on the computer. Not only is this a present you can give your children and grandchildren, it is a gift you can give yourself as you look at the fulness of the life you have led.
2. Journal. Since I retired from teaching in 1994 I have kept a journal and have added an entry almost every day. I have filled almost 47 spiral notebooks with my journal. Not only will it tell much about my life for those who I leave behind, but it has been a way to get down my feelings and understanding of myself. I typically write in it every morning right after I arise and am having my first cup of coffee.
3. Financial and Business records. As much as possible, we need to make sure our loved ones understand our finances and are able to take them over after we are gone. It’s best we do it wherever we are in our lives as we have no guarantees we will have time to do so.
Family Stories. Pass on family stories to your children and grandchildren whenever you get a chance. All families have stories about their past. My son is staying with us since I went on hospice, and I am passing family stories on to him and also to my wife as they pop into my head. Make sure they are stories about your early life and about their grandparents and aunts and uncles.
A third area in setting priorities is to ask yourself the question: If I choose to do this how will my doing this affect others for good or evil? In other words—How will my actions make a difference in the lives that will be impacted by them? And will the impact be positive or negative? Here the choice will be easy—if the action taken will have a positive impact on others it should have higher priority, if negative it shouldn’t be done, if it is neutral in its impact it is low priority.
Ask also what difference the action will have on your own life. For example, “Will I regret it later if I don’t do this?” Will I feel guilty? Will I feel good if I do it?
Acting according to our priorities is very important. If we have not set priorities then we tend to react to “grease the wheel that squeaks the loudest” and that is not a good guide. The demands on our time and energy that are the most vocal may not be the most important, but too often those are the demands we succumb to if we have not thought about what is important and have no priorities for choosing. When this happens we often have guilt and regrets for the rest of our lives. What our your priorities?