The most important letter you’ve never written will cause your family the most grief and confusion when you die.
A powerful and overwhelming sense of loss always accompanies a loved one’s death.
Growing up, one of my best friends, one of my main men (we didn’t refer to each other as ‘son’ or with the ‘n’ word. You see, we knew you gave birth to sons, and if anyone called you the ‘n’ word, well, somebody was going to die), was a great dude named Pookie Jones. What’s his real name? I forget. Back in those days, everyone went by their nickname.
I ran into Pookie a few years back and inquired about his family. His jubilant mood turned sad when he looked at me and said, “Mom is great. But Dad, he’s, well not so good. He’s got the Big P.”
All I could say was, “Damn.”
“Mom is really worried man. You know how it is when people have those over-50-years marriages. Guys like Dad took care of everything, while Mom was taking care of us. She really doesn’t know too much about the mortgage, or the different bills.
“We don’t even know if Dad has a will. You know how those old men are. Either they think you’re asking because you’re waiting for them to die, or they think they’re going to live forever”
Man, don’t I know it.
“Yo, G, Dad always liked you, well except when he caught you and my sister kissing in the basement that time. Could you talk to him? Not for me, dude, for Mom?”
I told Pookie if his Mom would make me one of her special, blessed by the angels sweet potato pies, I’d force the old Marine into submission. For two pies, I’d make him scream uncle. Twice.
When I went to see his folks, the jubilation was soon tempered by Mr. Jones’ question, “So, after all of these years, my son must have brought you here for a good reason. You here for my wifes’ sweet potato pie or are you here to learn all about my business?”
I looked him straight in the eye (just as I did when he caught us kissing in the basement. I’d read in National Geographic that to stop a tiger from charging and eating you, well, you did just that. You look them straight in the eye) and said, “Yes sir. No sir.”
“What?”, he asked.
“Yes sir, I am here to collect my sweet potato pie. Two of them, in fact. And no sir, I don’t want to know all about your business. I’d just like you to write your family one last letter, the most important letter you’ll ever leave for them.”
“I don’t intend to die anytime soon, youngster. I am going to whip this damn cancer. It’s messing with my love life.”
“And sir, if I was your cancer, I’d of already left town. If I was Saint Peter, I’d ask for vacation when I saw you coming toward the pearly gates. And I know your family doesn’t want you to die, sir.
“Thank you for sharing that, sir. I’d just like you to leave them a letter, sir, a true love letter.”
He fixed me with the same steely glare which made so many young men have embarrassing accidents back in the day. (It never worked on me, though. I was too naïve to be scared.)
“All right youngster. What kind of letter would you have me write?”
I reached into my bag and handed him a copy of “Letter to My Loved Ones.”
“This is the letter, sir.”
“Looks like a lot of work, youngster.”
“Not as much as you family would have to do without you, sir. Just in case you only live another 20 instead of 50, years, sir.”
He flipped through the eight pages. Then, he smiled at me. Which, if you’ve ever been in the woods, staring at a Bengal tiger, is the most frightening thing in the world. No, more frightening. The tiger would’ve run home to its momma.
“I should’ve made you marry my daughter.”
“Sir, we were only kissing.”
“That was enough for me. And don’t get too happy, you’re only leaving with one pie.”
One Year Later…
The cancer won.
Pookies’ tears streamed down my shoulder as we hugged at his father’s graveside. His Mom rose from her chair, came over and hugged me, saying, “Thank you for getting my man to write us that letter. I knew we had paid-up cemetery plots, but I didn’t know where. He never told me he had so much life insurance, and all of those investments.
“We’d have so much confusion now but for that letter.”
And then she really blew me away as she handed me a copy of the letter and said, “He put a special note to you in the letter.”
Shocked, I accepted my copy, and a huge smile appeared as I read the words:
“Just one pie at a time, youngster. Just one pie at a time.”
Unfortunately, chaos often ensues after the death of a loved one. Why?
They failed to leave instructions about their estate. Leaving their loved ones, at such a critical time to try to learn the answer to questions like;
- What did they own?
- Where are their last three income tax returns?
- What military service benefits are they entitled to?
- Where are the life, home, and auto policies?
- Who are their accountant, financial representative, insurance agent, funeral director, and attorney?
- Were there any safe deposit boxes? If there are, where are they?
- What hymns should be sung, what verses of scripture read at their funeral?
- Do they own a cemetery plot?
The wrong time to answer these and many other questions is when someone dies.
To help you start your personal “Final Roadmap”, click here to access a copy of “My Letter to My Loved Ones.” This eight-page document assists you in generating the answers to the types of questions many families can’t answer when a loved one dies.
And please, feel free to share this “My Letter to My Loved Ones” with your family and friends.
The less confusion, the better.