6 weeks to live...an exercise about dying
Updated: Jul 31
There's wisdom to be gained in practicing dying.
It might just be one of the most important things you’ll ever do.
When the pandemic hit the US and we hardly knew anything about Covid-19, I’ll admit…I was scared.
At the time we knew very little about the virus, how dangerous it might be or what to expect. And although the outlook is very different one year later, it was an unsettling time for us all. In my typical over-analytical fashion,
I started preparing for what seemed inevitable at the time–getting a serious case of the virus…. How could I avoid it? I grew concerned about the potential for losing my health…again.
See, at one point in my early 30’s for a year and a half straight, I was constantly sick and I had no idea why it was happening or what was causing it.
For 18 months, I battled with cycle after cycle of illness. I experimented with everything I could think of to try and find a balance with my body and stay healthy, but nothing seemed to work.
If you’ve ever been severely sick, with a long-lasting illness before, you know how scary and emotional it can be.
In that time period, it took 3 specialists, strict diets, endless rounds of antibiotics and a lot of uncomfortable testing to eventually move past it.
To this day I still don’t know why it happened.
I’m grateful that what I experienced was minor in comparison to other diseases that I could’ve contracted. However, the experience made me realize how fragile the balance of our health is.
So when Covid hit last spring, a lot of fear resurfaced.
As the virus spread and the death count kept rising, I thought...
“What if that happens to me? It’s not just ME anymore. I’m 37 and I have a lot more to lose and leave behind.”
I’ll admit, my mind drifted to a dark place. But instead of running from these feelings, I let myself experience them.
And when I feel overwhelmed, the only way I can make sense of anything is to write about it.
So I did an experiment…a “just in case” kind of thing.
I gave myself a (theoretical) terminal diagnosis. I had 6 weeks to live.
And I wrote...I wrote letters to my kids and my wife as if I had one last chance to tell them everything on my heart.
I told my boys how much I loved them and how proud I was of them. I reminisced about how I felt when they were born and how much it meant to watch them grow and develop.There were so many sweet memories with each of them and I let it pour out on the page.
I advised them on how to love each other and their mother in my absence. I tried to bestow on them all the life lessons I’ve learned and all my hopes for their futures.
I told them what beautiful characteristics we see in them as well as the things that they should watch out for as they get older.
I told my wife how much I loved her and everything she means to me. I wrote about all the memories of when we first met and how we fell in love. I told her my hopes for our family and legacy––the torch was now hers to carry.
I reflected on things I wanted to accomplish and all the places I wanted to see but wouldn’t get the chance to.
I grieved and cried over the thought of missing milestones in my sons’ lives and missing out on all the travel and adventures I have planned with my wife and family.
It’s really crazy, life is so different when there is no more “forward” to look forward to. It’s an overwhelming feeling if you let yourself experience it deeply.
Writing those letters to my family was one of the most powerful and emotional experiences I have ever had, and I get tears in my eyes every time I think about it.
Many cultures have rituals and customs in which they practice dying in some way, even if it’s just symbolic or hypothetical.
Because it connects you deeply to yourself and those around you in a more meaningful and authentic way.
I’m sure you’ve been asking yourself, “Why is Jon writing this in the context of financial planning emails?” (And that’s valid… I promise to bring it in for a landing here.)
I feel strongly that my purpose in this life is to share knowledge and facilitate experiences with others, in hopes that they adopt something of value to apply to their lives.
It’s also congruent with my career. What we do goes far beyond numbers––it’s about taking care of people and their loved ones and helping provide the tools do so.
Tomorrow isn’t promised but we can do something today that might outlast us and positively impact the ones we love.
The conversations we have in financial planning are full of meaning, and sometimes those conversations are hard. But hard conversations refine us.
And it seems that life only gets harder, not easier. So, what can we do about it?
Get better...or get eaten alive by the chaos.
The past year has taught us more than we wanted to learn about planning for uncertainty and coping with the unknown.
And while we’ll never account for everything that can happen to someone, we can make sure that if you’re gone, there’s financial support and something meaningful (like the notes I wrote to my family) for your loved ones to hold to.
So what are you leaving behind for your family? How does it look?
Is it a mess?
Or is it a well thought out plan? A plan they can implement in what will be certainly be an emotional time for them?
Our aim with Trailblazer Financial Planning is to unburden you from the financial weight and complexity that can befall any household or business.
Maybe this exercise can be as powerful for you as it was for me. And if you decide to try it, please let me know.
If you do, the perfect place to leave the note is in the pocket of your life insurance policy.
The world can be a scary and unpredictable place. But it’s a little easier if you have someone on your side.
Let’s talk soon.