Dispatches: The Mortality Effect (part 2)

Time is on our side, at least for now. But here’s a fact that life – and especially parenthood – tends to drive home: someday we’re all going to die. We start to calculate how many days we’ve already used and estimate how many we may have left. We feel a sudden need to get our affairs in order, clear our consciences, and generally lay the groundwork for posterity. In short, if our mortality is staring us in the face, we stare right back. And so we write a letter to our kids.

Ralphie May, a comedian, wrote goodbye letters to his two children after serious health issues threatened his life. Last November, he came down with walking pneumonia, only for a pulmonologist to discover, fortuitously, a clot in his leg. Within six hours of a procedure to locate and filter the clots, the doctors would know if the effort would succeed. “My life changed in that six hours,” Ralphie says. “I wrote a letter to my children.” http://www.sj-r.com/features/x1780478502/After-health-scare-comedian-Ralphie-May-comes-roaring-back

A mom who is also a Marine and a lawyer, yet declines to identify herself, started writing letters to her two young children, all to be made available only in the event of her death. “As much as I plan to be the great-grandma with the best stories and the huge garden when I’m really old,” she writes, “I have to face the fact that I could just as easily be taken in a car accident on the way home.” She posted a blog piece about her plans, asking her audience, “What would you say in this kind of letter?” Now, thanks to the advice and encouragement she received, she plans to keep a journal for each of her kids. http://cheapwineandcookies.blogspot.com/2012/03/if-i-die-letters-to-my-kids.html

Donna Pagano of Los Angeles started writing letters to her three children more than 10 years ago. She intends for her kids to read the letters only after she’s gone. Her motivation for writing the letters: proximity to death. A close friend of hers, the father of two young children, suffered a fatal heart attack. Eventually the certified financial planner co-authored a booklet, “The Family Love Letter,” about what parents should leave behind. It has a section strictly about family history and remembrances. “It’s not only what’s in your bank account,” Donna writes, “but also what’s in your heart.” http://www.familyloveletter.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8&Itemid=3

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