“Well, I think such talk is foolish!” Henry said with a sharp tone in his voice. “Who wants to think such morbid thoughts,” he continued as he looked at his friend across the table at the diner.
Sam was more than a little embarrassed. Henry was hard of hearing, so everything Henry said came out loudly. Out of the corner of his eye Sam saw the folks at the next table turn and look at him. “They must be wondering what in the world I just said to Hank,” he thought to himself. “Maybe I shouldn’t press it,” he continued thinking as he set his cup of coffee down.
“Pipe down, Hank,” Sam said to his friend. “You don’t have to let the whole diner know what I was talking about, you old goat!” Sam said grinning. “You still don’t think you need hearing aids. And don’t you argue with me; you still think Harry Truman is the president!” Sam kidded his friend.
The two men were glad when their breakfast arrived. After thanking the Lord for the food, Henry looked up at his friend and said, “Hey. Back to the ‘getting your life in order’ and lists and stuff, you ok? You aren’t dying on me, are you?”
Wiping his mouth and placing the piece of toast on the plate, Sam fired back, “No, you old goat, I’m not dying. At least I don’t think I am. But that’s just the point. Remember when Harry died two months ago? Well, Karen visited Harry’s wife this week. In fact, come to think of it, his death was more than two months ago, wasn’t it?”
“Nearly four months,” Hank grunted as he plowed into the eggs.
“That’s the point. Like I said,” Sam looked at his friend, “Karen visited Harry’s wife, Barbara, this week. Karen comes home from the visit and tells me that Barbara and her two sons were trying to make sense of Harry’s papers.”
“Papers! What papers?” Hank asked. He continued working on those eggs.
“Important papers. Like– did he have a life insurance policy somewhere? Did he have mutual funds, and if so, where were they? Poor Barbara, she didn’t even know if they had funds in any savings account!” Sam said. “When Karen came home telling me that, I decided right then and there that I needed to write her a note and let her know the important stuff and where they’re located,” Sam continued. “You can call me a hopeless romantic, but I really do love my Karen, and I would never want her to go through what Barb is facing. You ought to do the same thing for Shirley, you old goat!” Sam said, kicking him under the table.
“You always kick me under the table when you are trying to make a point, you old coot!” Hank growled. People from four different tables now looked at them. “What are they looking at?” Hank asked. “So what are the things that I should put on my list of stuff?”
What a great talk the guys had that morning. It was disturbing to both men that poor Barbara didn’t even know the basic things about their finances.
It would be many years later that the time came for Hank to go Home to be with the Lord. His death was very sudden and came as a shock to his family. Shirley’s children rushed to the hospital and then went with their mom back to her home. As she hugged her children, the thought hit Shirley, “A note. Henry told me that if something happened to him that he had a note to me. Now where did he tell me it was located?” she wondered. “Bill and Nancy, several years ago your dad told me that if something happened that there would be a note from him of everything I needed to know. I’ve got to stop and think of where he told me that note would be,” Shirley said to her children.
“Mom, I know where the note is,” Nancy said. “One day when we were all going out to supper, you were finishing getting ready, and Dad said to me, ‘Nan, I don’t want to get all mushy about stuff, but I wrote a note to your mom and you guys this week. Sam got me to thinking about stuff. When I die, it has everything she and you guys need to know. It’s upstairs in the little drawer, inside the bigger dresser drawer.’ I was crying when you came into the room. You asked if I was all right, and I pretended that it was probably just my hormones. Mom, it was Daddy. He told me that he loved you and wanted you to have it as easy as possible if he died first.”
Later that afternoon, Shirley wanted the family to be with her when she opened Hank’s note. It was more of a letter than a note.
“Are you sure that you don’t want to read it alone?” Bill asked. By now the other two children, Hunter and Marlene, together with their families, were with Shirley in her home. “We would perfectly understand if this is private and you don’t want to share it with everyone,” Marlene insisted.
Shirley opened the letter, and immediately overwhelmed with emotion, she needed help reading it. “Mom, would you like me to read it?” Hunter asked.
“I surely would,” Shirley replied. Hunter took the letter, cleared his voice and read,
“Hello Shirley and the rest of my family. Now don’t cry, any of you guys. First, let me say that you know that I am saved. I asked Jesus Christ to be my Savior when I was only six. I didn’t live as good as I should of for a long time. I mean, I could’ve done better. Sorry I didn’t. But I later did better when I decided to live for the Lord.
I’m not too good at writing. I’m really not too good at saying things. But secondly, let me say that I love each and every one of you. I am so thankful for the wonderful years of being married to you, Shirley. You are the best wife I could have ever had. Oh man, I gotta stop crying. But it’s true Shirley. You are the best. I also love my children, and I couldn’t be happier with the spouses they married. The best part of it all is that you guys gave us grandchildren. That maybe didn’t sound good. But what I mean is that I surely love each of them.
Hunter, you probably are going to be the only one who can read this without crying. So I expect that unless your mother peeks at this ahead of time, you might be the one reading it.”
Hunter stopped reading in order to wipe his eyes as he said, “Why in the world did Dad have to say that to me. I was doing pretty well until then.” Within a moment or two he returned to Dad’s note.
“Nan and Marlene have young ones to care for, so Bill and Hunter, I want you to help Mom with the important papers. Here’s what I want you to know, my dear wife.
- I don’t know if Mom will remember the combination of the safe, so let me write it out. Turn two times to the right. Turn left and stop at 35. Turn right to 17. Turn left and stop at 3 on the second time around.
- Inside you will find our wills. Our attorney’s card with her address and phone number is paper-clipped on the outside. Not only did we update our wills, we have health care proxies and a living will. It’s in there.
- I have a life insurance policy with Security Mutual. You will find the agent’s name, address and telephone number on his business card right inside the packet.
- I have a portfolio of mutual funds with two different companies. Both of the companies and their financial guys and their information are in the yellow envelope that says PORTFOLIO on it.
- We have two different checking accounts. I know Mom uses the one checkbook all the time, but I am afraid that she will forget the second one. It is located inside my desk in my room upstairs. Look in the top right drawer. I keep it right behind the bank statements. Yes, Hunter, I still keep the written bank statements. Ha! Guess maybe you won’t think it is funny right now. Sorry about that.
- The house is paid for, so that will be good.
- The titles to the car and truck are in the safe in the plastic baggie. I still owe on the truck but should have it paid in a year.”
Hunter smiled, looked up from the letter he held and said, “Oh Dad, you are something. Dad apparently got the letter out at a later time and wrote, Nope. Forget the owing on the truck. Paid it off and will take Mom out to supper to celebrate.
- Our birth certificates, social security information, marriage certificate, and my military discharge papers, if you need them for anything, are in the blue packet on the little shelf in the safe.
- Mom and Nan know what I want for funeral arrangements, and they will talk to everybody about that. Be sure to have folks sing lots and talk about me little.
- I’ve been getting retirement pension payments since I turned 66. Those papers are in my desk upstairs. I didn’t keep them in the safe because I have to talk to those people too much. Now you boys will have to talk to those folks. Sorry for you!
- Our tax papers are in the filing cabinet in the garage. I have them filed under the G. Want to know why? It’s G for GRUMBLE, which is what I do every time I file our taxes.”
The emotions of Hank’s family were so ragged at this point that the immediate reaction of bursting into laughter soon turned back into tears. “Dad, you are such a hoot,” Marlene managed to say. Hunter returned the family to the letter as he read,
- “The passwords that are important are in the small white envelope inside the safe. I don’t like internet stuff, but there are some passwords that I wrote out.
- I have a credit card with our local bank in addition to the card credit Mom and I use. This card is for my little Ebay business. It’s in my wallet. So is my license and other stuff that I can’t remember right now.
I think this is all of our important papers. I’m glad that my Saturday morning breakfast friend Sam got me to thinking. I want to make this as easy for you, my dear Shirley and family, as I can. I love you all. To my grandchildren, I want you to know that your parents and grandma and I have all asked the Lord to be our Savior. I know that Liz, Tammy, Derek, Peter, Lanny, and Danny have all been saved. If there’s any to come after that, you need to be saved too. I will be waiting in Heaven for you.
Hank, Dad, and Grandpa
PS Now stop that crying ‘cause I’m having a great time!”
Hank would be missed by his family and many friends. How much it meant to Shirley and her family that Hank had written such a letter! It shared his love, his heart, and the important information that his family would need.
How about you? Your family truly will be greatly helped if you would write such a letter. At least make a list of where you have placed the important papers that your survivors will need to locate. Get your house in order and make out a list!