June 26, 2004

Leaving Loved Ones Vulnerable

About 58% of adult Americans don't have a basic will. 69% don't have any sort of advance medical directives.

Why don't people make wills?

Myth and superstition

    They think they're not old enough - 15%
    They think they don't have enough assets - 25%
    They don't want to think about death and incapacity - 8%

So what makes people draw up a will?
    The arrival of a new child - 25%
    Marriage - 7%

And I think life experience. When you experience how bad it can be, you don't want anyone else ever to go through that. Almost one in five Americans (18%) have personally experienced problems after the death or incapacitation of a loved one due to a lack of or improperly prepared an estate plan, including conflicts over asset distribution.

What's been your experience? Do you have any horror stories or good stories to encourage others to do the responsible thing?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:17 PM | Permalink

June 22, 2004

Why Legacy Matters

A short time ago, a large European investment bank advised its clients to “have sex, ideally with someone they love, reflect on the good things in life, give their bodies enough sleep and exercise regularly.” Major news coming from a bank, so the author explained he “thought it was time that I reminded people there was more to life than watching screens every day." I think MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign does it better. “There are some things money can’t buy.”

Some things ARE priceless. The sound of a loved one’s voice, the smile of your first dog, your grandfather’s stories, your daughter’s graduation, your mother’s peanut brittle, your greatest triumphs, your biggest regret, what you love, who you love, who you are. If you fail to capture them in a way that they can be given away or passed on, they lose their value. Worse, you’ll probably forget them and no one will ever know. One of the most haunting quotes I’ve ever read is by Joan Didion, “We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget; we forget what we whispered and what we dreamed; we forget who we were”

That’s why I think it’s so important to make a legacy plan. Yes, it’s for your family, your children and grandchildren yet unborn; but, it’s also for yourself. It’s how you keep in touch with your former selves - who you were at 20 and who you were when your first child was born, and after you lost your father, what you learned and what you thought was most important. So the sooner you can start on your legacy plan, the better and richer it will be. It’s how you’ll see how far you’ve come.

I’m assuming that you all as responsible adults have both a financial plan and an estate plan. You’ll be glad to know that making a legacy plan is a lot more fun to put together and far more meaningful. It will keep you more organized during life. It will save your survivors a lot of trouble and grief. Most importantly, it will give your family something priceless.

So what is a legacy plan? While it can be whatever you want, I think it should include:

1. The Gift of Good Records: a master list of what and where everything is and who to contact. Your master list should include a list of your all your assets and debts, a list of your fiduciaries and a list of your advisors.

2. The Gift of Good Directions. Too little used is the “Letter to Your Executor”. Unlike a will, it is not legally binding so you don’t need a lawyer or witnesses; however, it carries great moral weight and it’s something you can revise and update easily by yourself. This letter is where you can include last wishes concerning organ donations and funeral celebrations, how you want smaller personal articles distributed and to whom and the stories behind them, your emergency numbers, the passwords to your computer files and what you want done with them and any other directions you think important.

3. The Gift of Family. Everyone loves stories. Stories are how we make sense of our lives. Stories connect one generation to another. Memorialize your family stories so they are not lost. Think about capturing the stories of children when they’re young and then giving them copies when they graduate or get married. Include your own stories when you pass on treasured family recipes, traditions and your family tree. Blogs are wonderful new online tools families can use to exchange and preserve stories, post photos, and collaborate on family history. You don’t have to understand any code at all to use the new blog tools like typepad (www.typepad.com). Photos. We all have boxes and boxes of them. Take the time or use a service to get your photos scanned into digital form. There are wonderful new tools you can learn and use to make digital stories, easily shared and accessible far into the future. Some tips: Tell a story. Edit, edit, edit. 15 well-chosen photos or clips that carry your narrative line are better than 500 photos in a box. Keep it short, no more than 3 minutes. Narrate it yourself. We forget how important the voice is; yet, it often is what you miss most when someone passes on. We all have enough stuff; we don’t need more; but we never have enough stories. Ellen Goodman once wrote, This packrat has learned that what the next generation will value most is not what we owned, but the evidence of who we were and the tales of how we loved. In the end, it's the family stories that are worth the storage.

4. The Gift of Yourself. These are the treasures of your heart. Sometimes called an ethical will or a personal legacy statement, it’s the vehicle wherein you lay out what was most important in your life. It’s what you loved and who you loved and why. It can include your life story- the high points, the turning points, the regrets, the lessons learned. You can make clear why you did the things you did. Why you choose that career or moved to California or started that company. Why you supported the charities you did and how you were inspired to set up a foundation. It’s also your hopes for the future, your wishes for your children, the dreams for what you’ve begun. Now, an ethical will takes time and can be hard work but it’s tremendously rewarding. You can do it over a period of time or in a workshop. Or you can hire a professional to interview you and ask you questions and then give you a first draft you can edit. Once you’re pleased with what you have, it can be printed or you can read it on videotape. Ask anyone, young or old, who’s lost a parent what it would be worth to see that parent on a DVD talking about their love and their hopes and you’ll understand what a priceless gift you can leave. In the end, it’s love that connects, it’s love that counts, it’s love that binds us together even after death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:39 PM | Permalink

June 21, 2004

Growing Older is Mandatory, Growing Up is Optional

I can't remember who sent this to me, and I've tried unsuccessfully to find the original author. Could it be Julie Hubert if so thanks and for the rest of you, the irresistible story of Rose below

The first day of school our professor
introduced himself and challenged us to
get to know someone we didn`t already know. I
stood up to look around when a gentle hand
touched my shoulder. I turned around to find a
wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me
with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, "Hi handsome. My name is Rose.
I`m eighty - seven years old. Can I give you a hug?"

I laughed and enthusiastically responded,
"Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze.

"Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.

She jokingly replied, "I`m here to meet a rich husband, get married,
have a couple of children, and then retire and travel."

"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated
her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

"I always dreamed of having a college education
and now I`m getting one!" she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared
a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends.

Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and
talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine"
as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and
she easily made friends wherever she went.

She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed
upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football
banquet. I`ll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced
and stepped up to the podium.

As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three
by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she
leaned into the microphone and simply said "I`m sorry I`m so jittery.
I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I`ll never get
my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began: "We do not stop
playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.
There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy,
and achieving success.

"You have to laugh and find humor every day."

"You`ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.
We have so many people walking around who are dead
and don`t even know it!"

"There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.
If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and
don`t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I
am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do
anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That
doesn`t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by
always finding the opportunity in change."

"Have no regrets. The elderly usually don`t have regrets for what
we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who
fear death are those with regrets."

She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose."

She challenged each of us to study the lyrics
and live them out in our daily lives.

At the years end Rose finished the college degree
she had begun all those years ago.

One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.

Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute
to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it`s never
too late to be all you can possibly be.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:39 PM | Permalink

June 18, 2004

Utah Phillips

Before today, I never heard of Utah Phillips which I think is one of the all time great names I've ever heard. I was reading Chris Corrigan in Stories as Expressions of Our Truth who told a story about Utah Phillips

Years ago I heard Utah Philips tell a story. He told of a time when he was a young man and he had an opportunity to visit a cowboy who knew dozens of songs from the great cattle drives of the 19th century. The cowboy lived in a small house in New Mexico and was dying. It was a tremendous opportunity to get these songs from the mouth of a man who had been on these cattle drives so Phillips arranged a visit.

When he arrived at the cowboy’s house he was met at the door by a nurse who said that although the cowboy was in poor health, he was looking forward to the visit. It would take a few minutes to get him ready so Phillips was invited to make himself at home in the living room.

Phillips began perusing the bookshelves and was immediately struck by the huge number of books from the ultra conservative John Birch Society. His initial reaction was to ask himself what he was doing there, about to have a conversation with a man who was bound to feed him political babble that Phillips would find deeply offensive.

And then he caught himself and he realized that he wasn’t there to talk politics with the cowboy, he was there to get songs. He realized that talking politics with the cowboy would only result in a conversation full of canned ideas recited from a book. Phillips was after the truth, and in concluding the story he said, “if you ask people about what they truly know. They will always tell you the truth.” And what they truly know is not contained in the books they read, it is contained in the stories about who they are and what they do and what is close to their heart.

That story has informed my approach to learning about what is important to people ever since. Whether I am working in a consultation process or helping a team find their way through a project, I’ll always go to the stories of the people in the room, and invite that level of truth to come forward.

Chris Corrigan, a Celtic Indian, is a consultant using stories to facilitate organizational and community change particularly with the aboriginal or First Nation communities in Canada with a blog called Parking Lot.

Who could resist finding out more about Utah Phillips, a folk musician who describes himself as the "Golden Voice of the Great Southwest" and by others as a true eclectic, archivist, historian, activist, philosopher, hobo, tramp, member of the IWW, and just about everything in between. Visit Utah and listen to moose turd pie

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:31 PM | Permalink

June 17, 2004

King of the Alps

He died in his sleep at age 103 and only stopped climbing the Matterhorn when he turned 95.

He lived in Zermatt, Switzerland and saw it change from a poor farming community to an international resort. He didn't start racing until he was 80, got new skis for his 90th birthday and put them to good use. He never had a telephone, but could be found every evening in the church square. His regret: his family's veto of his plans to climb Mt Kilimanjaro at 92. Ulrich Inderbinen, Guide in the Alps for Seven Decades

This obit reminded of that old joke, "Doctor, will I be able to play the violin after the operation? Of course replies the Doctor. Good, I never could before."

Hat tip Anita Sharpe on Worthwhile

June 14, 2004

Living Treasures - Japan and New Mexico

In Japan, certain people who have preserved and perpetuated centuries-old traditions in craft and performance are referred to as "Living National Treasures."

Some 70 people - potters, sword makers, puppeteers, doll makers - all revered artists have been awarded the highest award that can be achieved in Japanese art. In return for the honor and a small stipend, they are charged with passing on the country's artistic heritage to future generations by continuing their work and teaching apprentices. National Geographic produced a video in 1980 of some of these Living Treasures. video

No doubt it inspired the Network for the Common Good. In 1984, it began its work in Santa Fe honoring remarkable elders for their values, spirit and contribution to the Legacy of New Mexico. Born between 1900 and 1920, survivors of the Great Depression and World War II, they were the Civic Generation who " gave us the environmental movement, the peace movement, good schools, the beginnings of alternative health care"
A book was published Living Treasures containing the first ten years of Living Treasures histories with photographs by Joanne Rijimes. A website honors them all.
Now, they have published a

Legacies building on legacies all the way down

June 12, 2004

Who Didn't Love Ray Charles?

There are some people who are forever part of your life. Ray Charles is one.

I Got a Woman, What'd I say, I Can't Stop Loving You, Hit the Road Jack and Georgia on My Mind were the songs played at the parties where you stayed all night, part of the soundtrack of our lives. When he sang America the Beautiful, it was, as Frank Sinatra would say, it was SUNG - the yearning of what we want as well as what we have.

President Bush called him a "national treasure" and he was. Because of the person he was. Not just the great artist of soul, blues and country, but the man.
Blind and black, he was determined, confident and independent, his own man. And the country's

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:58 PM | Permalink

June 10, 2004

The Eulogies Reagan Gave

"I honestly believe eulogies have significance. I believe they are some of the most important speeches I've ever given. I don't mean because they changed the face of the nation in any way, but because it's a very great responsibility to capture the spirit of an individual and what he or she meant to the world...
You can give comfort. You can give perspective. To be asked to give a eulogy is a great honor because you have the power to sum up a human life. I've always taken this power quite seriously."
Ronald Reagan in his book, Speaking My Mind.

I was so inspired by Fred Barnes piece The Gipper’s Eulogies, that I went to the Lexington library to pick up a copy of Speaking My Mind. Reagan chose to include eleven eulogies or remarks on the fallen. We can all learn how to write a eulogy from his. Here are some excerpts

1969. On Robert Taylor “Millions who only knew him by way of the silver screen …remember with gratitude that in the darkened theater he never embarrassed them in front of the children”

1981. On Anwar Sadat, “There are times, there are moments of history, when the martyrdom of a single life can symbolize all that’s wrong with an age and all that is right about humanity. The noble remnants of such lives – the spoken words of an Illinois lawyer who lived in this house, the diary of a young Dutch schoolgirl, the final moments of a soldier-statesman from Mit Abu el-Qum – can gain the force and power that endures and inspires and wins the ultimate triumph over the forces of violence, madness and hatred.”

1983. On Arland Williams, Jr. (In 1982, in a blinding snow storm, a plane crashed into the Fourteenth Street bridge and plunged into the icy Potomac river. We watched on TV as one unknown man repeatedly handed the line from the helicopter saving five lives in all. When the helicopter went back for him, he was no longer there). “All of us had to stand a little taller witnessing this heroic deed and knowing now the man who gets the credit…To his son and daughter, let me just say you can live with tremendous pride in your father.”

1987. On Edith Luckett Davis, his mother-in-law. “To paraphrase Winston Churchill, meeting her was ‘like opening a bottle of champagne’.”

1987. On Malcolm Baldridge. “The day I call Mac Baldridge to ask him to join the cabinet, I was told by Midge I would have to call back later. He was out on his horse roping and couldn’t come to the phone. Right then I knew he was the kind of man I wanted.”

1984. At Pointe du Hoc “The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest... [L]et us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for …Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.”

1984. At Omaha Beach. “Through the words of his loving daughter, who is here with us today, a D day veteran has shown us the meaning of this day far better than any president can. It is enough for us to say about Private Zanatta and all the men of honor and courage who fought beside him four decades ago: We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so that we may always be free”.

1985. For Members of the 101st Airborne Division. (In 1985, a plane full of soldiers returning home for the holidays crashed after refueling in Newfoundland) “Tragedy is nothing new to mankind, but somehow it’s always a surprise, never loses its power to astonish… [L]ove is never wasted; love is never lost. Love lives on and sees us through sorrow. From the moment love is born, it is always with us, keeping us aloft in the time of flooding, and strong in the time of trial….In life they were our heroes, in death our loved ones…They were happy and singing, and they were right: They were going home.... [T]he men and women of the great and fabled Screaming Eagles. They must be singing now, in their joy, flying higher that mere man can fly and as flights of angels take them to their rest.”

1987. For Crew Members of the USS Stark (in 1985, the USS Stark was mistakenly attacked by an Iraqi fighter jet while patrolling the Persian Gulf). “Today we know such great heartache. So, we come to this place to seek the simple assurance of each other and the hope of finding a higher meaning, a greater purpose….Would we not rather have them back, ordinary men again perhaps, but still ours to hold and keep? The answers are hard….The men of the USS Stark stood guard in the night…. The men of the USS Stark have protected us; they have done their duty. Now let us do ours”….

1983. On the Marines killed in a terrorist attack in Lebanon in 1983. “I received a message from the father of a marine in Lebanon. He told me, “In a world where we speak of human rights, there is a sad lack of acceptance of responsibility. My son has chosen the acceptance of responsibility for the privilege of living in this country” I will not ask you to pray for the dead, because they’re safe in God’s loving arms and beyond need of our prayers. I would like to ask you all ---wherever you may be in this blessed land – to pray for these wounded young men and to pray for the bereaved families of those who gave their lives for our freedom.”

1986. On the Challenger disaster. “The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:36 PM | Permalink

Reagan's Dead and he'll be deader

Some of best obituary writers in the world were gathered in New Mexico last weekend for the Sixth Annual Great Obituary Writers International Conference. Here's a first hand account of what happened when they heard the news that President Reagan had died.

via Buzzmachine's "Six column inches under"
(This links to the original article in the UK's Media Guardia but a cumbersome registration process is required).

    In the closing minutes of the 6th Great Obituary Writers' International Conference (their title), one of the events that obituarists hate the most burst in on them. Just as Tim Bullamore, a Bath city councillor who writes for Fleet Street newspapers and the British Medical Journal, began an elaborate slide show on the glories of his city, where the conference takes place next year, someone rushed in and shouted: "Reagan's died!"

    Gasps of astonishment, cries of surprise, uproar and confusion. Several delegates sprinted to the hotel lobby's public call boxes or grabbed cellphones. The bringer of the news was surrounded and peppered with questions. Bullamore's presentation was ruined. Finally, he grabbed the microphone and bellowed: "Reagan's dead and he'll be deader. Let's go on with the show."

    He resumed his slides, but it wasn't the same. The 40th president of the United States, Ronald Wilson Reagan, had died inconveniently and thrust obituarists into disarray. But really, they loved it. One delegate, her eyes sparkling, gushed: "Isn't this just wild?"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

June 9, 2004

Riderless Horse

The slow beat of drums and the clip-clop of horses in harness were the only sounds to break the massive silence of the tens of thousands witnessing the solemn procession of the cassion bearing the casket of President Ronald Reagan down Constitution Ave to the Capitol. A handsome black horse named Sgt. York bearing a polished empty saddle and shiny stirrups with Reagan's high brown riding boots, faced backward, followed the President's caisson. These rituals were so stately and solemn, I wondered where did these customs - riderless horse, flag-draped coffin, cannon salutes - begin?

This is what I learned about these military customs

Riderless horse. The practice of having a riderless or “caparisoned” horse at a military funeral is the survival of an ancient custom. When a Roman soldier died, his horse was led behind his coffin in the funeral procession. Once the marchers reached the cemetery, the soldier would be buried and his horse would be killed and buried with him not only as a tribute but also as a way of equipping him to ride into the battle in the afterlife.

Abraham Lincoln was the first President of the United States to be honored by the inclusion of a caparisoned horse in his funeral cortege. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Presidents are entitled a caparisoned horse; otherwise, the person honored must have been at one time an Army or Marine Corps colonel or above.

Reversed Order. Again from the Greeks is the custom of reversing the order of things from what they are normally. When a body is taken to the place of burial, firearms are reversed, the precedence of those who follow the coffin is reversed, and the boots in the stirrups on the riderless horse are reversed.

Flags. The practice of draping the casket with the national flag began during the Napoleonic Wars (1706-1815) where the dead carried from the field of battle on a caisson were covered with flags.
When the U.S. flag covers the casket, it is placed so the union blue field is at the head and over the left shoulder. It is not placed in the grave and is not allowed to touch the ground.
Flags are provided for all burial services of service members and veterans. The flag for one who dies on active duty is provided by one's branch of service. Flags for other veterans are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The flag is presented to the next of kin at the end of the funeral.

Three volleys over the grave. The ancient military custom of firing three volleys signaled that one side wanted to stop fighting and remove the dead from the battlefield. When the troops were ready to resume fighting, three volleys would again be fired. Today, the volleys symbolize that the battle of life is over for the person we are burying, but that the battle of life must continue for the living when they leave the gates of the cemetery.

Cannon Salutes. The custom of firing cannon salutes originated in the British Navy. When a cannon was fired, it partially disarmed the ship. So, firing a cannon in salute symbolizes respect and trust. A 21 gun salute is the highest national honor.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink

June 7, 2004

Ronald Reagan - Simple Truths

Ronald Reagan, a man of great love, character and accomplishments, will be front and center in all our minds as the country mourns his death for the rest of this week culminating in the first state funeral in 30 years in Washington, D.C and then with a sunset burial in California on Friday.

We remember and recall him all the better because we can listen to his voice, hear the stories and see the videos and pictures again, and many younger people will connect to him for the first time. Sound and images can revivify in an extraordinary way. Will your family, your grandchildren and great grandchildren be able to see and hear you?

What I most admired about President Reagan was his ability to speak clearly, confidently and without embarassment about simple truths, giving hope to many millions of people, here and abroad. These are my favorite three stories culled from the media torrent

Natan Sharansky, the Soviet dissident turned Israeli official, tells a story of Reagan in today's Jerusalem Post.

    In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth--a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.

Michael Novak wrote in the Wall Street Journal in 2002. via Vodkapundit

    Some years [after the revolutions of 1989], in fact, U.S. arms negotiators, reminiscing over the bad old days with their now-no-longer Soviet counterparts at a happy dinner, were interrupted by a fist slamming down upon the table. "You know what caused the downfall of the Soviet Union? You know what did it?" demanded a senior general, a little flush with vodka.

    Some racked their brains with thoughts of missile defense, perpetual shortages of everything from soap to vodka, the U.S. military buildup. The general banged his fist again.
    "That damn speech about the evil empire! That's what did it!" The general was standing now, and to the questioning eyes of one American he added: "It was an evil empire. It was."

Will Collier, writing for Vodkapundit recalls a long train ride he shared as a college student with a Yugoslavian.

    One thing I did understand, and remember vividly today, was his visceral reaction to the name "Reagan." His eyes lit up at its mention, and he spoke in great animation of the portrait of a former American President that hung in a place of honor in his home. "People say, ‘he was just actor,'" he said, "but I know—WE know. Reagan..." his English failed for a moment, and finally he pounded a fist into his other hand in pantomime.

    "Beat?" I offered.

    "Beat! Yes, beat!" He cried. "Reagan BEAT Communism! We know! And we will never forget!"”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:10 PM | Permalink

June 5, 2004

Library of Congress - Calling for VET Stories

I've never been to the beaches of Omaha or Normandy. Even though I've read a lot about D-Day, I am most moved at just seeing pictures of the thousands of graves of brave young Americans who died so we and Europe could be free.

Now I can listen tol first person accounts of what it was like to prepare for and then storm the beach. Thanks to the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress, the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary times are preserved.

If you know of a vet who served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf,
encourage them to contribute their stories.

With WW2 veterans dying every day, the Library of Congress
has embarked on an ambitious project to collect the wartime memories of ordinary people. Aging Veterans tell their stories for posterity Gregg Zoroya of USA TODAY writes

    Under the gentle prodding of an adult son, Bill Pendergast's wartime memories spilled out like faded snapshots a half-century old. Settled into a dining room chair, comforted by the eagerness of his listener, Pendergast, 71, began sharing Korean War recollections: the ice-cold Coca-Cola someone handed him when the Army first lobbied him to join its Counterintelligence Corps; the battle-scarred South Korea cityscape with not ''two panes of glass still in one piece'' in the city of Seoul; and the prisoners he was required to interrogate. ''Most of the interrogations were of young Chinese or North Korean men just as scared as I was,'' Pendergast said. Hostilities ended the year he was there, 1953.

    His recorded words have been shipped to the Library of Congress), making the Pendergasts participants in one of the broadest national efforts to preserve eyewitness accounts of Americans serving in war. It seeks the stories of those who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.

    And unlike many academic efforts, in which historians or trained researchers conduct the interviews, the Library of Congress enlists sons, daughters, friends and students to do the work......

    ''People don't think about history until it's about to be gone,'' says Sarah Rouse, a senior program officer with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

    And time is running out. Jim Parkel, president of the 35 million-member AARP, says that although an estimated 19 million men and women who are veterans of American wars are alive today, they are dying at the rate of 1,600 a day. With their passing, he says, ''you are losing a history that is very important.''....

    The Library of Congress program, barely two years old, may be the most ambitious effort both in scope -- covering every major American war of the 20th century -- and in method, appealing to the public for broad participation. It also carries the imprimatur of a government project within the nation's largest and most prestigious library.

    Partially financed by a $3 million AARP grant and supported and promoted by chapters in that organization and service groups like Veterans of Foreign Wars, the program focuses on gathering oral histories as well as photographs, letters and war diaries.

    A Web site (www.loc.gov/folklife/vets/) offers start-up kits with sample questions and guidelines: ''Find a quiet, well-lit room to use for the interview. Avoid rooms with fluorescent lights, chiming clocks, or heating and cooling systems that are noisy. . . . Try to keep your questions short. Avoid complicated, multipart questions.''

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:31 PM | Permalink

Boomer Orphans

About 4900 parents of boomers die every day. The generation that always thought of itself as young are becoming inescapably adult as they deal with the deaths of their parents and administer their estates. Some 76 million boomers, ages 39-58, will have to deal with the inevitable matters of life and legacy. This has huge implications for the financial services industry that so far has done little to meet these growing needs of boomers to put their affairs in order and maintain family legacies.

Jeffrey Zaslow at the Wall Street Journal writes Baby Boomers Confront Another Rite of Passage: Burying Their Parents,

“Losing their parents has led them to rethink their life and career choices, and to reinterpret their relationships with their own children. Some have found solace by creating new ways to keep their late parents in their lives,” writes Zaslow.

I will quote extensively because I believe the article is important and it's behind a subscription wall.

Zaslow highlights 41 year old Andrew Doctoroff, a psychologist and judge, who lost his mom in 1999 and his dad in 2002.

    "They were exceptional people -- warm, empathetic, vibrant and good," Doctoroff says. As his mother was losing her struggle with cancer, he dreaded that his young children would grow up without a sense of her.

    So he began videotaping his mother, asking her about her regrets and triumphs, her values and her sickness. He taped her at the family dinner table as she cradled his baby daughter. After she died, and his father was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, he taped him, too…. Mr. Doctoroff says that since losing his parents, he feels disoriented. …those 28 hours on videotape are "magical elixirs that animate my parents, bringing them back to life," he says.”

    While they're alive, boomers' parents can take steps to soften the mourning process their children will endure, says Phyllis Davies, author of "Grief: Climb Toward Understanding." Her parents died in 1997 and 1999, and years earlier, her mother wrote a letter to the family and left it with her will. Her mom wrote: "I hope that the initial shock of my departure has begun to wear off, and that the kind carpet of pleasant memories has started to unroll."

    She asked her children to recall the happiest family memories, and she listed many: "Christmases...the nights we slept under the stars...the pets we loved..."

    She also wrote that someday, her children would be standing at the Pacific and feel a sudden, soft breeze, or they'd be in the mountains, noticing the stirring of trees. "Feel that I'm sharing the moment with you," she wrote.

    The letter was "an incredible gift" and continues to resonate, says Ms. Davies. "I have a real sense that my mother is walking with me."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

Some life lessons from Julia Child

I've always felt a special kinship to Julia Child because we both went to Smith College, lived in Cambridge at the same time and shopped at the Broadway supermarket and we both love Pepperidge Farm's goldfish crackers. If you haven't had a chance to see Julia Child's kitchen that she donated to the Smithsonian, you can hear Julia and take a tour here.

Julia hates health food, believes that the only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook and that life itself is the proper binge.

Interviewed by Esquire Magazine in 2000, she revealed more of the lessons she learned in life.

    I'm awfully sorry for people who are taken in by all of today's dietary mumbo jumbo. They are not getting any enjoyment out of their food.

    Fat gives things flavor.

    Moderation. Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health.

    If you're in a good profession, it's hard to get bored, because you're never finished--there will always be work you haven't yet done.

    People are uncertain because they don't have the self-confidence to make decisions. The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It's doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it.

    Always remember: If you're alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who's going to know?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

June 4, 2004

Medical Privacy bars Mother from medical records of 18 year old son

Last week, I visited with Deborah Pechet Quinan, one of my favorite lawyers. An estate planner, Deborah believes in making it as easy as possible for her clients to understand complex documents by giving them easy to understand flow charts and fiduciary listings. I’ve great respect for many lawyers - I should being one myself – but I’ve never liked the priestly nature of the profession and the “I know more than you do” attitude of too many lawyers. Of course, lawyers know more about the law, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t make their documents easier for their clients to understand and access essential information.

After telling me a story about a mother who couldn’t see the medical records of her gravely injured 18 year old son because of “medical privacy”, Deborah now recommends a HIPAA Authorization as one of the standard documents for her clients.

Turns out that the federal privacy rules have put a shield around health-related information that can prevent advisors and family members from getting necessary facts, they used to be able to get quite easily. Overview Privacy

Since violators of medical privacy can be punished with civil and criminal penalities and even jail if the offenses are committed under false pretenses or with the intent to use the information for commercial or personal gain, doctors and “covered entities” have become quite wary about disclosing health information without clear authorization

“Bound and Determined” by Deborah Jacobs in the June issue of Bloomberg Wealth Manager lays out areas where the HIPAA shield can pose problems to existing estate planning documents. Without a HIPAA authorization, it may be difficult to establish incapacity. While durable powers of attorney are not affected, ‘springing’ powers of attorney may be. So may be successor trustees for revocable living trusts.

While the person to whom you have given a health care proxy or health care power of attorney becomes a “personal representative” under HIPAA and entitled to the same rights to medical information as you, the patient, there are others whom you may want to have some access to your medical records even for a limited purpose such as proving incapacity. Charles Sabatino, a lawyer with the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging in Washington, DC. is quoted as recommending that clients sign a HIPAA release that authorizes disclosure of specific health information to identified parties who may include family members, friends, lawyers, accountants and financial advisors.

A sample release form is available at the website of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
So along with your toothbrush, when you go to the hospital remember to bring your signed release and your health care proxy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:01 PM | Permalink

June 3, 2004

Is the Living Will Dead?

At first controversial, then conventional, now promoted policy, living wills are something just about everyone believes in. Patients should be autonomous and no one wants to live like a vegetable. But they haven’t worked. Why?

The Hastings Center, an independent, nonpartisan bioethics research institute has published
Enough: The Failure of the Living Will in which Angela Fagerlin and Carl Schneider explore why.

1. Most people don’t really know what they want, apart from the general statement– I don’t want to live like a vegetable – “Even patients making contemporary decisions about contemporary illnesses are regularly daunted by the decisions’ difficulty. How much harder, then, is it to conjure up preferences for an unspecifiable future confronted with unidentifiable maladies with unpredictable treatments.”
2. People can’t articulate what they will want, apart from the general statement– I don’t want to live like a vegetable. Most living wills are terribly drafted. Unlike property wills where lawyers have experimented with testamentary language for centuries in a process that have produced standard formulas with predictable meanings and default rules, living wills have only been around for a couple of decades and the swirl of approaches has been bewildering. “Were living wills too general? Make them specific. Were they one size fits all” Make them elaborate questionnaires. Were they uncritically signed? “Require probing discussions between doctor and patient”
3. They often can’t be found. It’s a long way from execting a living will to getting it onto hospital charts when the time comes. Where are they? Lost? Forgotten? In safety deposit boxes? With the lawyers? 62% of patients do not give their living wills to their physicians. Of those hospitalized with living wills, only 26% of their medical charts accurately recorded that information and only 16% of the charts contained the form.

The authors conclude "Our survey of the evidence suggests that living wills fail not for want of effort, or education or intelligence, or good will, but because of stubborn traits of human psychology and persistent features of social organization….We should repeal the PSDA( the federal Patient Self Determination Act ), which was passed with arrant and arrogant indifference to its effectiveness and its costs and which today imposed accumulating paperworok and administrative expense for paltry rewards”

So What Should People Do?

Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care or Health Care Proxies are the way to go for those who do want to control future medical decisions. They have “many advantages over living wills. As these things go, they are simple, straightfoward, and thrifty”. They differ little from current practice where family members act informally for incompetent patients and they probably improve decisions for patients since the surrogates know more at the time of decision than patients can know in advance.

Trust the people who love you to make decisions on your behalf. But empower them to do so m effectively. That means an executed health care proxy or durable power of attorney for health care and a HIPAA authorization so your loved ones can see your health care records if necessary, about which more later

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink