In life, we have two certainties: death and chocolate. Rich and creamy chocolate. I bet you thought I was going to say taxes, right? We can’t escape taxes (well, most of us) but death?
Death is coming for us all! Mwahahaha (this post is starting off great)!
On a serious note, I attended a funeral this week, which is always a clarity-giving occasion. The funeral was my first in-person service post-COVID (which has normalized the Zoom funeral). At this particular funeral, the pastor mentioned that losing a loved one is never easy, whether you had a bad relationship with the decedent or a wonderful one. When I lost my beloved dad, one of my biggest regrets was not spending enough time with him and making more memories.
I am grateful for funerals, not because I relish death and loss, but because funerals are stark reminders that none of us will live forever. Knowing this often-overlooked fact, gives me the opportunity to decide what I want to do in the finite time I have left.
I find myself asking probing questions like:
- How am I prioritizing my loved ones and spending time with them rather than letting work run my decisions?
- Am I living the life I want to live?
- Are there any places I’d like to visit?
- Am I showing up as my whole self every day?
When running a law firm, it is imperative to remember that we get the opportunity to live now. Today. This second. Putting off a good quality of life or ignoring mental health in favor of hustle and grind is not the answer. Many of us are familiar with lawyers who have encountered terrible outcomes due to their choices.
We will all experience death. God willing, no time soon! Even though I frequently speak about planning and death as an estate planning lawyer, I know it’s not fun to talk about such things in a blog post. In one of my presentations, I mentioned Bronnie Ware, a former palliative nurse in Australia. Bronnie wrote an article called “Regrets of the Dying” about her time as a palliative nurse. Bronnie worked with dying patients, developed close relationships with them during their last weeks of life, and came up with five of their most common regrets:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish I had let myself be happier.
(That fifth wish always gets me!)
When your end comes, what do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be eulogized? Do you want to be remembered as a workaholic who missed out on life experiences and loved ones because of running a firm? Or as an avid gardener who spent free time with their hands in the dirt? Maybe you want to be remembered as an active parent who prioritized their child at the expense of making more money. There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions. You get to decide and work through the discomfort (if any).
I hope I left you food for thought. If you’d like to share, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I always love to hear from you!
Iffy Ibekwe is an estate planning attorney and evangelist for intergenerational wealth transfer with effective wills and trusts. Iffy is a prolific speaker and she is writing her first book on culturally competent estate planning, available in 2024 (prayers up!). She graduated from The University of Texas School of Law and has practiced law for over 16 years. Iffy can be reached by email at email@example.com, on her website, and on Instagram at @iffyibekweesq.