Jennifer Hundley Batts Thomas sat down with me in the late spring to talk about ethical wills. She helped me to share with my students in the Death, Dying, and Bereavement course at Union Theological Seminary about the significance of our legacies. Jennifer was just the person to help us learn more about ethical wills.
She begins our conversation telling us a little about her calling, which is a “ministry of presence.” Jennifer is a relational person and she deeply appreciates being with people in their lives, through crises, and even at the point of death and grief.
Listen to our conversation to learn about her experience of how the protocols for chaplains have changed after the global pandemic shifted everything in March of 2020. Jennifer is also a public school teacher and recent seminary graduate. She is on track to be ordained as a Unitarian Universalist minister.
What is an “ethical will”?
Jennifer says it an ethical will is “a document or recording, some way to pass on what you most want to leave behind for family and friends that doesn’t have just monetary value.”
An ethical wills, says Jennifer, can share a special kind of legacy that includes, “values, family stories, history, recipes, guiding beliefs”
When we think about legacies, we usually think about bank accounts and assets. While these are important, the “stories that make us who we are” and which we do not often record formally, are a legacy that families and friends deeply appreciate.
Even objects can carry meaning and stories with them that need to be told. These objects that embody stories and values can be much more meaningful when the stories are captured and shared.
You can leave more than money or material goods to your family and friends when you die. #EthicalWill #dyingwell #practiceofministry #chaplaincy pic.twitter.com/qhCcV0gOpx
— Three Minute Ministry Mentor (@3MinuteMin) September 7, 2020
How to Begin
We compiled many resources to help you begin your own journey of recording the legacy you want to leave with family and friends. We also offer some questions as you think about end-of-life issues.
As Jennifer says so eloquently, “The living of our lives holds the most richness. It’s not the bank account… It is what makes life, life. It’s what made it rich and beautiful.”
Ethical Wills | Living Legacies
Resources recommended by Jennifer
Ethical Wills – Download (1)
End of Life Checklist
End of Life Checklist – compiled by Campbell-Reed & Gush
Special thanks to Union Theological Seminary for their support.