Your Last Will and Testament

On June 8, 1948, a Saskatchewan man named Cecil Harris was crushed underneath his tractor. Trapped for hours and in excruciating pain, he took out his pocket knife and carved a rudimentary will to his wife in the metal that was killing him. “In case I die in this mess I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo Harris,” the note on the fender read. As it happens, this last minute “will” would be accepted by a court upon his death the next day.

But that’s not the point of Cecil’s story, at least not today.

Imagine that you were similarly trapped, or perhaps you’ve been hit by a car by the side of the road, or you’ve just found out you’re to be summarily executed. You have just a few moments to jot down your final words to your spouse and children–there is no time for flowery speeches or complicated legal documents, there’s no backspace button or second draft. You have a pen knife…or just enough battery power and cell signal to record a voice memo and press send.

What would you say?

All the petty particulars of your estate would cease to matter, wouldn’t they? All the preferences you have–about what kind of career or friends or partners you want your kids to have, all the arguments you’ve had about that–they would all fall away.

You’d be like Brian Sweney calling from a hijacked plane on 9/11: “I just want you to know I absolutely love you,” he said to his wife. “I want you to do good, go have good times. Same to my parents and everybody, and I just totally love you, and I’ll see you when you get there.”

You’d be like Leonidas to his wife on the eve of his fatal stand at Thermopylae, “Marry a good man who will treat you well, bear him children, and live a good life.”

You’d be thinking of how to free your loved ones–from the pain of loss, from any sense of guilt for things left unsaid, from any burden of things left undone. You’d try to inspire them. You’d try to impart some passing bit of wisdom. You’d let them know how you feel in your heart of hearts. You’d be hoping you could get just one more message to them.

Well, thankfully, right now, in this moment, you’re not pinned under a tractor. You’re not on a plane that’s about to crash. You know that you have the power and capacity to speak your piece. So go. Do it. Now.

Do it while you still can, while you have even more space and time…while you still get to.

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