“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
As we head into Thanksgiving, what a perfect time to reflect again on Erik Erikson’s last stage of psychological work, the struggle between Integrity or Despair, with the goal that wisdom and hope prevail in our second half of life as adults (NL #3). This work involves reframing life’s disappointments, and finding meaning that leads to nuance, not dogmatism; appreciation, not bitterness; hopefulness, not despair. What better way to reframe life than asking ourselves, what am I thankful for? And not just on Thanksgiving Day, but all throughout the year?
My family has a Thanksgiving tradition—each year over breakfast we go around and say what we are each thankful for and write it down, taking turns until we fill up the page. I’m looking through the file right now, seeing a snapshot of our life together as a family. In 2004 my son said, “for Mom and Dad—they make me do my homework, they feed me and they buy me clothes.” He’s now a freshman in college, and we still have to feed him and buy him clothes, but we don’t have to make him do his homework anymore! He does that on his own (or so we shall see after this first semester of grades.)
What are you grateful for? At your family gatherings this year how can you invite others into thinking about the meaning of this day we’ve set aside for eating turkey and pausing to celebrate life.
Expressing Gratitude and Not Bitterness through your Will/Trust
I’ve been working as a fiduciary now since July 2013, and as I read these documents a person’s sense of gratitude or bitterness comes through. As we make (or update) our end of life documents, it’s a good time to ask, what and who am I thankful for? What people, what organizations? What message am I sending, and if it’s not positive, what changes could I make in my life and relationships to bring healing or closure to this situation?
As pastor of one church, I was given a deceased member’s will, because he left a gift to the church. I always knew he was a great guy—loving, giving, and positive. But reading through his will, I saw for the first time all the organizations he gave to, finding out later that he gave not just his money in his will, but his time volunteering during his life.
Consider how you express your gratitude through your end of life docs!