Dan Gisvold at Bear Creek

Monday, January 31, 2011


I had a very dear friend call me today. He greeted me with one question. "How do you do it?" He had just found out that his father had died the night before. He was devastated. Even though his father was elderly and had "lived a long, full life" he was crushed and he didn't know what to do.

So we talked. We talked about the yearly trips that he and his dad took. We talked about his dad's wife. We got snarky about family members and lovingly gentle about friends. We talked about what he was doing to keep going and about how it feels to be so very, very numb.

We didn't cry. We didn't need to just then. It was a workshop of continuing to live when a cornerstone of your existence takes a hike to the other side. It was a workshop in dealing with family and friends and avoiding the emotional riptides. Those unseen agendas that arise and try to drag you under before you even know what they are much less why they are.

With Dan, I haven't had much of that. I certainly did with Mel's dad and with my dad. But with Dan it has been different. Bill and I are on the same page in terms of how Dan would want things handled. And that was the point. It hasn't been how Bill wanted it or how I wanted it or how Pat or Kalisha wanted it. It has been how Dan wanted it.

Dan had made his wishes known for years. We use to talk about how he wanted his affairs handled after he was gone. When you are driving in Montana in the middle of winter and there is nothing but a huge sky full of stars, miles and miles of snow, and no one else on an endless road, you tell your sister lots of things. So I knew that he was a doner. I knew that Bill would handle his financial affairs and I would handle any legal issues (Duh? Bill is the accountant and I am the lawyer...that took a rocket scientist to figure out!) I knew what he wanted for Pat and I knew what he wanted for Kalisha.

I guess today's lesson is know what you want and tell everyone around you. Tell your spouse, your kids, your siblings, everyone. Wills are perfect for this but talking to your family is the best way to avoid those ugly rip currents that can tear families apart when death comes knocking. As a lawyer, I know the value of the will. I know even better the value of true communication. It is the great healer.

Talk to each other. And write that will.

1 comment:

  1. The Spouse Thingy and I were talking about this literally just a half an hour ago. The need for new wills, being specific that the kid gets everything. Making sure our son knows where everything is and how to get to it. How to get to our life insurance.

    None of this seemed all that urgent 25 years ago, but now? I no longer feel immortal...