Tiptoeing over hot, sun-drenched pebbles on the rocky beach of the Russian River in 1987, my 4-year-old, Jenni, darted toward me. Freckles intensified in the brilliant afternoon rays, her moon-shaped face beamed with childish excitement.
“Mommy,” she began, breathlessly, “when you die, can I have that bathing suit?”
Stunned, I studied my second child while tanning my body in a lime-green bikini.
“How could she be thinking of such things?” I wondered. “At 34, do I look like I’m close to death?”
But peering into her innocent, pleading eyes, I giggled, “Yes, sweetie. I’ll save this for you.”
Twenty-six years later, I think back to that day as I prepare my parents’ estate for distribution. How simple her request – and one that surely won’t be contested by her three siblings.
Dividing family assets is a complicated process, especially when there are several recipients to consider. My parents wanted each of their four children to be treated equally, and their will reflects their last desire.
But as I pore over bank statements, property values and stock portfolios, I’m saddened to wish their little estate wasn’t spent on making their own lives easier while they were alive.
As children of the Great Depression, they felt it important to leave behind a financial legacy. What they didn’t know was that no dollar amount could ever buy the true value in our inheritance.
Along with their constant tutelage in high moral standards, love of family and friends, and toes firmly rooted in the rich, fertilized soil of profound faith, they also taught that sometimes it’s better to step aside and stop fighting when a struggle becomes too tough to handle.
We’ve all heard the adage “God helps those who help themselves.” That’s how things get set in motion and productivity begins. But when you’re pushing a 10-ton piece of granite up a mountain and it keeps slipping back and smacking you in the face, perhaps it means you were meant to do something different.
Too often I’ve found myself covered in sweat and dirt as I embed my acrylic fingernails into a rock going nowhere. With my nose pressed against the boulder, hair wilting and makeup dripping, I become overwhelmed and defeated. It’s only when I calm my mind that I hear my parents gently whisper, “Let it go.”
Allowing the weight to roll down the mountain, I then become free to walk unencumbered in a new direction. By letting go of my self-importance and listening to my inner voice instead, my true path is revealed.
Now that we’re entering a new year, one that’s predicted to be an age of enlightenment where the heart will be stronger than the ego, I plan to revise my will.
Kids, don’t expect any money after I’m gone. I’m spending it all while I’m here. I want to enjoy watching the added pleasure it may bring to us as a family.
Instead, along with an overstuffed album of precious memories, I’ll devise a blueprint for tackling life’s challenges as you travel the road in becoming who you were born to be. Know that it’s OK to segue when a hardened piece of lava blocks your path. Sometimes we make life harder than it was ever meant to be.
We all have a specific journey to travel. It was written in the stars long before we got here. Where you’ll find it is in following your dreams, despite what others might say or think.
So dream – and dream big! And as for that bathing suit, Jenni, it’s yours, if I can still find it.