Make a Will Month is the illusion of planning and the further commoditizing of our lives.
November is apparently “Make a Will Month” in Ontario. Death as a marketing gimmick bothers me. I was curious about who was behind the “awareness” campaign. I could not find the answer, but it seems like the online Will services are the ones that promote it the most, as well as many law firms and even the Ontario Bar Association. Brown Lawyers will not be promoting Make a Will Month. Instead, Brown Lawyers provides an alternative (and a criticism).
Brown Lawyers supports and encourages planning for death; honestly and truthfully confronting our relationship with death and considering the effect death has on our lived experience, and the experience our death will have on the living and the non-yet-living. Brown Lawyers supports engaging with death by an ongoing practice of making records and communication to address the experience. Make a Will Month is a mockery of truth and actual lived experience. Make a Will month is, ironically, anti-awareness of death; an illusion to make you believe you’ve engaged with something real.
I understand the message behind Make a Will Month to be the following:
You’re going to die. When you die there will be legal and family problems. Having a Will solves those legal and family problems.
The truth is, a Will is a piece of paper that has legal significance. Yes, your death is a legal event and people will have feelings, but a Will certainly is limited in its ability to deal with that.
Out of curiosity, I asked a group of non-lawyers what a Will represents and received these answers:
- Being a responsible person
- Taking care of my family
- A check box to adulthood
- A symbol that I am materially successful
- Taking control over uncomfortable relationships
- Sticking it to the government (“they get enough money, darn it!”)
“And YOU can be and do all of those things – just Make a Will!”
A Will is not a supernatural piece of paper. A Will does not mean you are responsible, nor does it take care of your family. It has nothing to do with ‘rights of passage’ or material success. A Will is an illusion of those things, not actually those things.
Make a Will Month is a further entrenchment of the commoditizing of life and death. “Just buy this thing and you will become all of the things that the thing espouses”. Make a Will Month is a marketing and social entrenchment to AVOID meaningful engagement with death and its role in our lives. It’s the legitimization of faking life. It’s permission to not undertake any of the hard, uncomfortable work of honest, authentic representations of our experiences, pains, joys, hopes and fears – it allows people to artificially engage with very real inevitable future events. It provides the illusion that you’re doing something good.
Log on to an online platform or contact any lawyer. Fill out a form, follow the instructions (more or less), complete the form, print and sign. Now you are ready for death. You have then successfully purchased the appearance of responsibility, the image of compassion, the presentation of success and the illusion of planning. For some people, that’s going to be enough. Life is an illusion; a representation of life that can be purchased. Get a Will, become responsible. Fill out a form and I’ve done right by my family.
(By the way, do you know who loves online Wills the most? Litigation lawyers. LOVE. THEM. Endless source of revenue. Sometimes I think these online Will services were created by litigation lawyers as a loss-leader.)
A Will changes nothing about who you are, what’s important to you, what guides your lived experience or what you want further generations to build upon. It does not usher you or your family through the complex social and spiritual experience of the end.
Our lives are not gimmicks, and you can’t download or purchase responsibility.
Planning and understanding are relational processes, not transactions. Understanding yourself and what matters to you, and communicating what you want is an ongoing practice of a lifetime commitment.
One of the greatest damages that results from Make a Will Month is the theft of experience. The greatest benefit of planning for your death is the process of bringing your core values to the surface of your life. Meaningful engagement with death provides us with focus and direction for our lives. It can point us in the direction of joy and help us be more resilient when experiencing inevitable grief. The concept and off-the-shelf nature of Make a Will Month precludes introspection and promotes illusion: just get the thing, ignore the truth, stay on the surface, buy the image.
Death is not a commodity; it is a lived experience. Death is a deadline for action and necessary for life. It is not an inconvenience.
We all have a choice to make today: move towards authentic, true, real experience of life or submit to images, illusion, and the appearance of life.
Brown Lawyers is providing an alternative to Make a Will Month. We are going to co-opt the marketing campaign with our own branding. November, like every other month, henceforth will be known as Explore your Relationship with Death Month. Through authentic reflection and revival of what our hearts already know, we can truly live and experience. You do not have to abide by the illusion. You have an alternative to choose reality and truth.
So please, we invite you to participate in the first ever Explore your Relationship with Death Month. Get your journals ready!