Jeanette Sekan
Jeanette Sekan
By Jeanette Sekan
The Cody (Wyo.) Enterprise
HCP columnist


In one of my perusals of various news stories, I ran across a story written by a daughter about her father leaving an ethical will for his family.

I have heard of these off and on over the years. In today’s world ethics, morals, civility and common courtesy seem in shorter supply. I found her account of her father and what he wanted to leave his family that surpassed material possessions awe-inspiring.

An ethical will is prepared as a document to pass along one’s values and beliefs to the heirs. It doesn’t hold material value. It holds something more dear. It is a legacy of what one believes, how one hopes to be remembered, what lessons and values one wishes to pass to their progeny and friends.

In the case of the story I read, her father called his document his “Legacy Letter.” She shared with her readers that discussions about death, values and how to live a good life were constant dinner topics. These dinner discussions were a living part of their family experience.

Her father kept a tape recorder and updated his legacy letter throughout his life as situations changed and his children grew up. He would share his thoughts, wishes, regrets, and lessons learned. Her father constantly reminded his family that “a legacy is a circle – a chain reaction that never ends – of what you pass along to your family members and community.”

He encouraged his children to keep a legacy letter, or ethical will, and keep it current. His most important object was to ensure everyone knew how loved and valued they were to him.

Her father, an attorney, has Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Her ability to see and visit with her father during the COVID-19 crisis has been curtailed, as it has been for so many families. The normalcy of legacy letters-ethical wills in her family has given them peace and a clearer understanding of what her father was teaching them throughout their life, and is something she is passing to her children.

The love and the certainty of their place in their father’s life and what his life stood for is something they can feel, touch and appreciate during this time.

I haven’t prepared a legacy letter or ethical will as yet, but I am thinking about what truly matters in this life. Perhaps that is a normal function of realizing there are fewer days ahead than behind. Perhaps it is also a function of what is happening in our world today.

With so much in disarray, it is somewhat grounding to know that we would want our children, friends and community to know about us what we believe and what matters. We are seeing lies, corruption, abuse of power, prejudice, violence, fear and hatred being normalized and weaponized.

We are treating what holds a country together as if it were a reality television game show, rather than a sacred trust and responsibility. This affects how we view and interact with the world and our fellow humans. Are we proud of what we are and what we leave behind?

What do we want our legacy circle to be?