Legacy of the Heart, Writing a “Spiritual Will”


Writing Your Own Spiritual Will

Recently, an acquaintance of mine had the misfortune of losing his Dad in an automobile accident. As the only child, it fell to Dan to go through the apartment where his Dad had lived alone since the death of his wife three years earlier.

As Dan cleaned out the apartment, he hoped to find some kind of personal message that his Dad might have left for him. “ I just wanted a note, an old letter, something to remind me of my Dad. I found nothing. It made me feel kind of empty, like I was missing something.”

You can provide that “something missing” by writing your own spiritual will. Contrasted with a legal will that deals with the “stuff” we want to leave our loved ones, a spiritual will is all about matters of the heart. A spiritual will is a way to share your values with your family , your memories, the things in life that mattered most to you, the cool and the quirky, the funny and the painful.

Some have described this written gift as a love letter to family and friends. A spiritual will gives you the opportunity to tell your spouse or kids what was important to you in life, your beliefs, hopes and dreams.

You can put on paper family stories that brought a tear to you eyes or joy to your soul… your daughter in her first prom dress, the time your three year-old son ran out of the house buck naked. Maybe you can put on paper things about yourself growing up. Write about the kid they never knew. Share with them the lessons you learned from life. Recall that special teacher who turned your life around, that first date with their Mom. Ask their forgiveness for the times you may have failed them.

Writing a spiritual will is your final gift to the people who have been most important to you. If you find that you haven’t said, “I love you” nearly enough in life, let all those inhibitions go when you write your farewell letter. This is a great opportunity, your last chance to tell your loved ones how you feel about them and the life you have shared together. This is your own personal “Legacy of the Heart.”

From time to time I have led workshops on “Writing Your Spiritual Will.” I have also written a small booklet on the subject which I would be happy to share with anyone for $5 including postage and handling.

Chasing an Elusive God Starts With Wonder

Chasing an Elusive God Starts With Wonder

“It is terrible to watch a man who has the incomprehensible in his grasp, does not know what to do with it, and who sits playing with a toy called God.”


Pardon my irreverence but haven’t you ever wondered, maybe after a couple of drinks, “Who in the heck is God anyway?” Forget for a moment all those pat answers you have heard from theologians or prophets or founders of religions. They don’t know any more than you do.

For me, when I do tune out all that I have heard from the mystics and religious experts I find myself face to face with what Tolstoy calls “the incomprehensible.” We define the Deity with words like Creator, Father, Mother, Higher Power, Spirit. We describe God as “within us” or “beyond us.” He/She is the “ Master of the Universe” or “Love” or “the ground of all being.” Perhaps inelegantly but in good faith, my own Dad referred to God as “the Man upstairs.”

Me? I know nothing. First I see God; then I don’t. If I stopped there and decided not to worry my head over it, I would have plenty of company. The world is full of people who don’t give a rap about whether a supreme being exists or not. God is irrelevant. Who cares? Let’s talk about sex or sports or politics.

But wait. The agnostics and the atheist are not the only ones who give up on an incomprehensible God. I went to Mass last Sunday with a woman who was troubled because, while she had no difficulty in seeing God in the people attending services, she was unable to connect with the liturgy or the words from the pulpit. “It all seemed so tired,” she told me, “almost as though the service was hiding God rather than revealing him.”

Religious practice can do that to people. It is so much easier, albeit boring, to say words that endless repetition have rendered meaningless, than to challenge ourselves to ask “Who is this spirit we call God?” What a paradox to find ourselves, in church, hiding from God or in Tolstoy’s words “playing with a toy called God.”

For me any real search for the meaning of God has to begin and end with WONDER. A baby giggles. The sweet scent of jasmine graces my nostrils. I lose myself in the silence of a redwood grove. Two people pledge their mutual love in marriage. An old woman kneels in prayer. A young boy comes of age. A man donates one of his kidneys to a stranger. A mom cuddles with her child. The sun rises heralding a new day. I’m in awe of creation and I can’t help searching for the Creator.

It really is all about WONDER, a wonder that erupts from my inner being and pleads for a response. There is no way I can suppress this wonder at the beauty and mystery of life and act as though it were no big deal. Surely I am not alone in finding it odd that most of us will spend mucho time and energy thinking about HOW things work but, only at funerals, will we pay attention to “why” things are the way they are. “What a terrible thing,” says Tolstoy “to have the incomprehensible within our grasp and then not know what to do with it,” or even worse not even to care.