Barbara Passarelli, a housewife in Oregon is leaving children more than just a will; she is creating a life guide for each of them, and is giving it to them now.
When Alzheimer’s disease struck her mother, Barbara Passarelli suddenly found herself dealing with her mother’s financial matters, insurance, legal documents, etc. that she was completely unfamiliar with. Being unprepared for this experience made her think about her own children, and how they would be in the same position she now faced if anything happened to her. She decided not to let that happen and began working on creating a kit she called, “The Mom Box.”
Barbara’s boxes contained important information for each of her children, and they were such a hit with her own family, that she now runs a successful business making similar kits to sell by mail, email, and on the internet.
When I heard about Barbara’s project, it stirred me to create my own life manual for our three daughters. As with everything else in my life, it seems to be taking me forever, but I am making progress. If you don’t believe me, just ask my husband who will tell you that I have 3 steadily growing piles of papers spread out on the bed in our spare bedroom, and have already designed covers for the project. By next week, I should be able to drag out my old binding machine to put the pages together. Then the problem will be when to deliver the manuals to my daughters. Do I wait and have my husband do it after I am gone, or give it to them now so they can ask questions while I am still around to answer them? I’ll have to play it by ear.
If you are interested in tackling such a project on your own, here are a few suggestions for what things you might want to include in your own “Mom Box.” I’m calling mine, Mom’ Manual for _________. The blank is to fill in each daughter’s name.
Try to include a section for everything you can imagine that your children might need or want to know about you. In my case, I’m including the following sections. You may want to add additional ones of your own.
The most recent copy of your will.
Anytime you update your will, replace the copy in your manual with a copy of the latest update, and be sure to destroy the old one to avoid possible confusion later.
Be sure that your will makes clear who is t o be in charge of arrangements.
Along with your will, an advance directive with instructions about your end of life preferences such as your feelings about resuscitation efforts, feeding tubes, etc.
Unless you don’t care, you might also want to include any information they should know about funeral or memorial service arrangements. Do you have a prepaid funeral policy? Where is it? Do you prefer cremation or regular burial? Do you already have a burial plot? If not, do you have a preference of where you would like to be buried? What kind of memorial service would you like?
You can go into as little or as much detail as you like in this section, perhaps giving the name of a person you would like to speak at the service, the titles of songs or a poem you would like performed, and whether or not members of the audience should be given the opportunity to say a few words about their memories of you.
Important Financial Information
Your heirs will most likely be bombarded with all kinds of expenses in case of your death. Be sure that you put copies of things like your medical insurance, ambulance insurance, life insurance, bank account numbers, safe deposit box, any investments you may have, where you keep any cash on hand, etc. into your manual.
Don’t forget to list valuable assets you may own such as your house, car, stocks, expensive pieces of furniture, a motor home, boat, etc. A rough estimate of the worth of these assets would also be useful, but be sure to update it if you dispose of any of them or if the values change dramatically.
A lot of emphasis has been placed on family medical history recently so include anything you can remember about medical problems in your family. Diabetes and some types of cancer seem to run in some families, and children need to be aware of this.
List your current doctor, along with phone numbers, and any medical conditions you are undergoing treatment for. True, your children may already know this, but sometimes children move long distances away and we fail to keep them informed of what is going on in our lives. Write down what hospital you prefer, should an emergency arise.
It may not seem important, but even a list of non-prescription health remedies you are taking should be available in case a doctor should need the information, and you are unable to communicate at the time.
“Of course my kids know all about my personal information,” most of us would say. But do they, really? Where were your born? When were you born? How many sisters and brothers did you have? Where did you go to school? Did you graduate from high school? From college? What kind of jobs have you held? How did you meet their father? How about the date you got married? Was there more than one marriage? Where did you get married? Did you ever have a miscarriage or a child that died young before your present living children were born?
You could probably write a book on this section, but do try to include at least the major highlights of your life. Who took you to the Senior Prom? What did you do for fun when you were young? Who was your best friend? Etc. Etc.
Take time here to tell your kids what you believe about spiritual things. If you think that there are certain things a person needs to believe to obtain eternal life, now is a perfect time to remind them of that, no matter how many times you have told them before.
Tell them why you believe (or don’t believe) there is or isn’t a God. If you are a Christian, tell them what made you decide to become one, when you made that decision, and when you were baptized, (if you were.)
If you have a favorite poem, song, or Bible verse that has helped you face difficult times through the years, share it with them here.
Personal Letter to Each Recipient of the Manual
This is my favorite part of the whole project, and the part that I think will make it most valuable to the recipient.
End each copy of your family manual with a personal letter to the child who will be receiving that particular copy.
My brother-in-law invited each of his 4 sons come to visit him separately during the month before he died, and spent about an hour reminiscing about different things they had done over the years together, and reminding them to be sure to honor and look after their mother after he was gone. Each of my nephews have told me how much this special time with their dad meant to them.
We may not all have the opportunity to call our children in and have a special time with them like my brother-in-law did. That’s why I think it is so important to include a personal letter to each of our children in the Mom Box, or Manual, or whatever we decide to call it.
In the letter, we can tell each child how we felt when we first held them; share some of the things they did when they were small; tell them how proud we were of some of their accomplishments; and remind them that even though we might no longer be around to remind them, they live good and upright lives because they know you would expect it of them.
Anyway, those are the things I am including in the individual family manuals I am creating for my children. The original documents will stay in the keeping of my husband, but my life can be found in the manuals where my kids can go back for another visit with me anytime they like.