Years ago one of my brothers was preoccupied with how we die and with reflections on his life’s final chapter. How did I know? The book on his coffee table: How We Die – Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter.
Recently my wife and I have been considering the end of our own lives. Not so much how we’ll leave this world as how to continue contributing to it after we’re gone.
For years we’ve been saying, “We really must write our wills,” as though earnestness were enough to get the deed done. But without children, we continually stumbled over how to distribute our “estate.” We are not affluent by any stretch. Whenever I refer to our “estate” my voice adds its own quotation marks. We both work for a living: Nancy does communications for University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and teaches a course at the University of the Arts, I run a communications consulting business and direct a small theater program. We don’t make a lot, but we save our money, and when we’re gone there should be something left over.
We also both constantly struggle to protect time for our lives as artists. Nancy photographs and writes photography criticism, I write fiction and creative nonfiction. Over the past decade I’ve been fortunate to scare up the time and money for three residencies at VCCA, and each has been invigorating and productive. In fact, it was a conversation about VCCA that helped us achieve a breakthrough on the whole will issue.
Nancy and I have decided to use our wills to help artists nurture their creative lives. So now, when we’re gone, everything we own will go to endow support for working artists, including an endowed fellowship at VCCA for writers and photographers.
All this grappling with mortality has not been easy, but it has helped Nancy and me affirm what’s important in our lives. We haven’t yet tackled How We Die but I do believe we’ve discerned something about how we live.
– David Sanders, Philadelphia, PA