The Aloha Spirit is frequently experienced through the words we read as well as the words we write. Legacy planning is transformed by incorporating both; after reading a book that offers a special insight, feeling or memory, write a personal inscription and then send it to a friend. Your words will be forever embossed on their heart, soul, and spirit, further enhancing an evolutionary legacy. You will notice that the Aloha Spirit fills you and your friends with gratitude and a common core that manifests itself in connectedness, kindness, love, compassion and joy. Your estate planning will certainly take care of your stuff when you die, but a living legacy is created in and for the present – and books create a powerful and enduring medium.
For me, the literary legacy experience was intensely highlighted subsequent to the turn of the 2014 calendar. First, I received a copy of A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit by Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. Prior to receiving this surprising gift from Ceseli (a friend of almost 50 years), “mindfulness” was not on my radar or my reading list, and yet she intuitively knew that I would enjoy it. Suddenly, articles about mindfulness seemed to appear every day: Time magazine highlighted mindfulness on the cover of its February 3, 2014 issue; and the Huffington Post featured a pre-Super Bowl article on the Seattle Seahawks' use of mindfulness. I started thinking, "If mindfulness made their defense the best in the NFL, then I am all in," and started meditating daily. Thank you, Ceseli.
Ceseli could have simply read the book then placed it gently on the shelf or table in her home where her books go to rest – end of story. Or, she could have composed a short e-mail, “Hey Will, you might like this book," and pressed “send” thereby discharging all further responsibility for my enlightenment, with only the hope that I would follow her tendered proposal. But, with mindful intention, she purchased the book with the added inscription, “Will, Help us build AMN! –Tim Ryan”. That was pretty cool. But Ceseli was not yet finished enhancing our mutual legacies. She too penned the following: “Will, you are already one of the most mindful people I know……..Aloha and Blessings, Ceseli.” Even cooler. But to gain the superlative, the coolest discovery was that Ceseli had already read the same copy of the book before entrusting it to the US Postal Service for the journey to Texas. With this foundation well in place, all I had to do was light the fireplace on a Sunday morning and turn the pages. And to take coolest to a new level, my wife and best friend, Lisa, is now reading the book by the fireplace, our dog Izzy sitting at her feet, and a cup of Kona coffee at her side. I am having a great day watching her enjoy and extend the legacy.
Already in the glow of that literary triumph, the UPS man arrived a few days later with a package from Blake, one of my oldest and dearest friends, with whom I share a loving bond with baseball. Enclosed was another book, The Kid – The Immortal Life of Ted Williams, the latest and most complete biography of one of the greatest hitters of all time. If anything defines my soul, it is baseball, and no living person knows that better than Blake.
I already knew a lot about Ted Williams, whose legendary career ended when I was eight years old. Although the book adds stories and perspectives on a very complex man, the literary content of the book may not, in and of itself, be life-changing , but the soulful spirit that inspired Blake to share it with me has added a legacy-enhancing moment to our friendship. We can look forward to new conversations to follow about baseball, our dads, and our friend Carey, all of whom now live only through our stories.
Blake chose not to inscribe the book itself, perhaps out of respect for its virgin purity or possibly freeing me to forward to someone else (a very green and sustainable thought). But it did include a personal note attached to the inside cover, the last paragraph of which I have read over and over again. Blake explained that there was one other person to whom he thought of sending the book, with the following caveat, “He came in a distant second…but mostly because in terms of love and friendship, I treasure you more." WOW, that expresses ALOHA and LEGACY in capital letters. Thank you, Blake.
Amid this literary stimulus, Lisa and I attended a book signing for Jane Pauley’s new book, Your Life Calling – Reimagining the Rest of Your Life, a Baby Boomer Bible, if you will. With the synchronicity of the calendar, this book was a perfect gift for Ceseli, whose birthday was just a few days away. We purchased two copies of the book. Jane inscribed one copy to “Will and Lisa” and a second copy to “Ceseli”. Possessed of two copies, Lisa and I sat in front of our fireplace and read the book in total communion with each other before inscribing the second copy with a note to Ceseli, further annotated throughout with blue sticky notes.
These are not the first books I have received from friends or family nor the first I have dispatched to special people in similar fashion. However, these are the first books I have held with a clear understanding that I was reading more than just the text. By endorsement, I was sharing a piece of who I am with others who are equally willing to share a piece of who they are with me. LEGACY and ALOHA – ALOHA and LEGACY.
Literary Legacy Planning Tip Going forward, as you read a book, become aware of a friend to whom you might ultimately promote the text with a mindful intention and personal inscription. In doing so, notice how your reading evolves into a shared experience of Aloha. You will feel as though you are reading the book with them knowing that they will soon be reading it with you. I believe it is much more soulful when you send them the same book you read so that they will turn the very pages that you enjoyed. If you wish to retain a copy on your desk or night stand, buy a second copy. Even if you envision sharing your experience with more than one friend, always add a personal inscription and maybe a note at a special chapter. I laced my book to Ceseli with blue sticky notes that highlighted my favorite quotes and references.
Some of my dearest friends are writers and I cherish the books they have written and forwarded to me with their handwritten message. I loved their books upon first reading, but today’s mindful reflection is with an even broader soulfulness and awareness of our shared living legacy. Mahalo and Aloha to Bob, Tom, Mark and Mindy – I will continue to share your literary talents and insights with people you may never meet, but your words will be a part of my legacy, as well as yours.
The Aloha Book™ The Aloha Book™ is a collaborative project that I am writing that seeks to redefine and blend the traditional concept of estate planning (your stuff) with legacy planning (your relationships). I want people to enjoy “living” a legacy not just “leaving” a legacy.
© Will Morris, JD, LLM 2014