Oct. 3, 2019
I was driving back to New York City from my childhood home in Washington, D.C. after having spent the weekend celebrating Rosh Hashanah with family. I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of family, culture, and tradition, and wanting to make sure it all gets passed down to my kids.
When planning for our families, practicality is usually the first thing that comes to mind. You want to make sure you have the proper estate documents (will, power of attorney, advance directive) and insurance policies in place, as well as your financial details in order. It’s easy for the reasons we plan to get lost in all that paperwork. I’m often reminded of those reasons after spending time with my family. Maybe I’m being sentimental this week, but there are so many traditions I don’t want to be lost!
I’m thinking about the recipe for the apple cake my late grandmother would make for the holidays, and how my 3 year old daughter and I made it together this year. I’m thinking about the dinner we have to celebrate the New Year, the way my mom’s beautiful holiday table looks, and the way everything is placed just right. These recipes have been in my family for generations, and to know that my great grandparents enjoyed the same things as my children is really pretty amazing.
Just like organizing and sharing other important information, we have to remember to share these family details, too. Sometimes it takes being proactive and having conversations. I had one on Sunday with my husband’s 98-year old grandmother. Her health has been failing but she’s still hanging in there. I spent time helping her try to remember how to make her incredible cabbage rolls.
Beyond family recipes, there are other cherished family heirlooms or special items that could easily end up lost or discarded if not saved and passed down properly. These are things that most likely wouldn’t make it into a will but have enormous legacy value. (My 8-year-old has already claimed my engagement ring and says my wedding band can go to her younger sister.)
One of my mother’s closest friends told me this weekend that when she first started thinking about estate planning she wasn’t thinking about financial accounts or legal documents; she wanted to make sure her long strand of pearls would go to her sister.
She then took my hand and led me into the other room. She told me they were packing up her mother’s apartment after she died and found all of these notes on the backs of her favorite things. She found a handwritten note taped on this miniature chest drink table she remembers her mom had found antiquing in Canada. The note read:
The miniature table is beautiful, but it’s the note that is priceless.