Spiritual Estate Planning – Part One

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By Elisa Novick

When I left my home for Asia in September, my partner and I prepared our wills. We’d talked of it for years, but now I was leaving and he was undergoing chemotherapy. It was an intense process, done so quickly that I signed my will at our local food coop two hours before I left for the airport.

Elisa in the Monkey Forest (by Karali Pitzele)

Elisa in the Monkey Forest (by Karali Pitzele)

I had none of the usual seemingly obligatory participants — by which I mean family — to draw upon for executorship, power of attorney, healthcare proxy, or for inheriting whatever I might leave behind when I transition from this life. Of my closest circle of people I could entrust with these roles, two had cancer, so there was the possibility I would survive them.

They might not be able to carry out their duties or inherit anything and one or both might not be there when I return from my travels, if indeed I do return. For my partner, the frank talk of all of the possibilities involved in who might outlive whom and whether we would be together physically again in this life was a difficult subject to discuss for any length of time. There were other complicating factors as well.

There were three things driving me to be honest and open in this process, while attempting to be gentle with the feelings of all involved. One is that I am generally comfortable with death, since I work with people in a framework that includes an incarnational succession from one existence to another.

Two, because my ministry sometimes entails meeting with or working with people after they have died. (Most people are available for about three weeks before going on to where I can’t reach them directly, but some are available longer for various reasons.) So I don’t see any finality of the consciousness or of the relationship.

The third reason was that I’d been in a difficult situation years ago that made a strong impression on me. My aunt, who was also a close friend, and whom I’d taken care of for many years, had told me she would leave half her estate to me, for my own use and to care for my sister who had schizophrenia. Yet when she died, there was a much lesser amount for me and none for my sister, the rest being given out in equal portion to all of the other members of the family, despite the fact that they had had little or nothing to do with her.

I never knew whether she had lied to me or whether my cousin, her executor, had used an earlier will or had cheated me. I could not question her about this now that she was gone. I couldn’t get an answer from Spirit as to what had happened. This unsolved mystery engendered some pain for me. It also caused me to decide that the taboos we have on sharing our plans honestly needed serious reconsideration.

The horror stories I’ve heard of what all too frequently happens when a family member or close friend is dying or has just died — power plays, manipulation, greed and blame and unresolved grief — have also caused me to see that how we hold our relationships and how we handle end-of-life issues is due for an overhaul.

I don’t take death as seriously as most. So many people have called me to announce the tragedy of a loved one’s death, tortured by feelings of abandonment or guilt, and are surprised when I asked how the one who had “died” was doing and if they were assisting them. Once we begin tuning in to the ongoing relationship, much of the pain disappears.

Even if one doesn’t believe that consciousness continues after death, as a result of my work as a healer and because my own immediate family all died quite young, I have learned that our relationships with people continue to transform and mature whether a person is in body or not.

I think I must have known something about this when I was a child, despite being brought up by an atheist mother. Whenever I heard that someone had died, a big grin would spontaneously arise on my face, which I would hide in embarrassment before anyone could see it. Somehow I understood even then that death was not what people thought it was.

As a generalization, in Western culture, there seems to be a silent agreement that we really ought to live forever and that death means those “left behind” should suffer. Though in recent years many of us have come to believe that death can be a beautiful occasion and to trust that we go on, I still often find an underlying belief that if we don’t suffer for some period of time, we didn’t care.

For people who believe in the immortality of the soul, a belief that mitigates much of the judgment that death is a tragedy, the guilt that seems so frequently to accompany death still takes its toll. This is usually a result of incomplete communications, and of looking back with regret at what we think could have or should have been done differently.

We have a vague discomfort about talking or even thinking of death, or about living and planning our lives in a way that includes an eventual departure. A few times in social situations, I’ve told a very funny story about a recently deceased friend who contacted me to write a letter to her spouse, and though my audience responds with laughter, I also sense an underlying squirming in the response.

Families who may speak freely about anything else often do not discuss their plans for how they will handle the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial needs of aging or ill members, preferring to pretend that all will go on as usual. Or, if these things are discussed, they are spoken of in hushed, pained voices, in secret, private meetings among the members of the family seemingly strong enough to handle disaster. Parents (or in my case, my aunt) prepare their wills without telling their children what is in them, so that last wishes are not known until it is too late for further discussion. And the profound need for understanding and resolution and completion for those who are dying is often shushed in a strange attempt to deny obvious reality.

Read Part Two of this article next week.

To listen to and read past conversations with Elisa Novick on Planet Waves, plus her articles, please use this link. You’re invited to visit her website and Facebook page to view more photos of Bali and leave comments.

Elisa Novick, MSS does profound work as a healer, teacher, counselor, coach, minister, and facilitator of workshops and trainings in personal, professional, and spiritual development. She can assist you to clear personal, karmic and genetic patterns that have limited you and teach you exquisite attunement skills so you can become the magnificent master of life and Light that all of us are destined to be. Elisa has been assisting people in their growth since 1982 through her counseling practice and in facilitating over 1,000 workshops in holistic health, human development, family constellation, systemic constellation, organizational dynamics, planetary healing and spiritual awareness. You may email her directly at elisanovick [at] thrivingplanet [dot] org.

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6 Responses to Spiritual Estate Planning – Part One

  1. Bette Loreen says:

    Elisa, thank-you so much for this. My late parents never, ever discussed plans or wishes, which left my estranged older sister & me to sort out a complicated estate. Needless to say, the lawyers profited!

    I learned a great deal, though, & although I have just one daughter/heir, & no sibling difficulties for her, I want to leave her with as little mess & confusion as possible.

    My father & I had a difficult relationship, & after his death I bore a terrible burden of guilt – for not having been a very good daughter, for all the pain & worry I’d caused with my various rebellions – yet I learned it all no longer mattered to him. I talked to him a lot in the time after his passing, & found I was utterly forgiven. It’s been 23 years now, & I still say,
    when in a difficult situation, “What should I do, Dad?” – & although he may no longer be nearby enough to communicate directly, I “feel” the response, perhaps a consequence of what I had integrated of his teaching & advice long ago.

    The old guilt feelings still emerge from time to time, but far less, I’m sure, than would have been the case without those conversations after his death. Some may not believe such things can happen. I know they can.

  2. Strawberrylaughter Strawberrylaughter says:

    Elisa, I can’t get over how courageous you are, and dedicated to this Tour. Bless you for sharing with all of us.

  3. Amanda Painter Amanda Painter says:

    btw — after contacting elisa with a question, i was able to sort out that the friend who contacted her to write a letter to her spouse was recently deceased — hence the uncomfortable squirming when people hear the humorous story.

    :)

  4. awordedgewise awordedgewise says:

    Thank you for your kindness, Lizzy. And the same to you.

  5. Lizzy Lizzy says:

    Thank you so much for this, dear Elisa. Could write reams, but have to get to work!
    aword, my father has very similar issues to yours – we (his children) end up having huge rows with him when we try to sort things out on this level. I wish you much love and light with your ongoing relationship with your father,

  6. awordedgewise awordedgewise says:

    Thank you, Elisa for discussing this topic. My father will be passing through soon enough (advanced prostrate cancer) and frankly, what keeps me most grounded (we have not had a pleasant relationship) is knowing that the tensions and misunderstandings of “this life” will be waived once he has crossed over and a different sense of relationship (loving and useful) will be formed.
    In the meantime, there is no discussion of his actual health, let alone something as “personal” (lol!) as a Will. He has recently taken all practical functions away from my mom who has always maintained their finances etc rather than to take steps to help her formulate a new process that could help her continue to manage her own life to some degree after he is no longer there to do it.
    I could go on and on as your article has sparked many realizations about what is not being dealt with ‘because Dad Doesn’t Communicate.’ (A family excuse being that’s the way his dad was etc. We know that drill.)
    Thank you for your empathetic and insightful words. I look forward to Pt. II next weekend.
    xo

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