​How writing your obituary today could benefit you – and your loved ones

The benefits of writing your obituary today. Yes, today.

Write my obituary now, as in, today? YES! Here’s why…

A friend of mine recently told me how her mother made her sit down and write her obituary when she was twenty. Twenty! I love this! My friend wasn’t sure of her mother’s motives but I would guess her mom wanted to help set her daughter’s path. Maybe to help her see where she wants to focus her life? What she would want to be known for, life for?

What if I told you that writing your obituary today would help you solidify your values, craft your legacy and live now?

What do you value? Crafting your obituary, ‘the story of you’ in one column I believe, will help you solidify your values. To do this, let’s start by figuring out what is important to you. What your top 5 values? Examples of values are family, education, community, spirituality, health, etc.

What causes are important to you? A great exercise to determine causes that resonate with you is to take a newspaper and circle the headlines that speak to you. Notice if you feel outraged, compassion or indifferent. Circle the headlines that ignite a feeling inside of you. Then, identify what causes they relate to. This is an excellent way to find out what you care about.

If your “legacy” were summed up in one column, what would it say?

To me, by telling your story, you are crafting your legacy. How? Start my making a list of your accomplishments. Then, make a list of what you would like to accomplish in the years ahead. Finally, spend time writing your goals for next 5 years, 10 years,15 years. You get the idea. You now have a list of all you’ve accomplished, as well as, a list of what you intend to accomplish. You are crafting your legacy – what you want to be known for. By writing it down, you’ll have a roadmap to live your best life.

Speaking of your best life, reflect on the lists you’ve just made. Relish in your successes and accomplishments. And, I believe that by naming your future goals, you’ll likely accomplish those, too. Having a purpose, knowing what you stand for, and what excites and invigorates you, will guide you to live a fuller life NOW.

So, what if I asked you to write your obituary today? What would you say? What would you include? What do you want people to remember most about you? What did you live for? And most importantly, are you doing those things now?

Your obituary is your imprint on this world, your community, your family and friends.

Let’s make sure it reflects your values, is representative of the legacy you want to leave and encourages you to live your best life now.

Sending love,


Carrie’s story

Read Carrie’s story below:

In July 2003, my beloved grandmother was diagnosed with an aggressive, inoperable form of brain cancer, and it would ultimately claim her life less than 6 months later. She was only 72.

In the weeks and months leading up to her death, I noticed that those closest to her (her husband, her son, and her daughter – my own mother) held fast in their conviction that she would be healed. They encouraged her to never give up (she didn’t), to keep fighting (she did), and to just trust in God (she did this the most).

At the time, I was only 28 years old. Grandma Dolly and I were incredibly close. Since her husband often had to work until 9:00 in the evening, I would join her once or twice a week for dinner and girl time. I had not yet become a nurse, but had always been fascinated by medicine, so she and I would speak openly and honestly about her cancer and what was happening to her body…..usually over pizza and beers. She was the coolest. 🙂

One evening towards the end of October, she confided in me that, while she so appreciated her family’s love and support, she was frustrated that no one would let her talk about the end of her life and her last wishes. She knew that my faith was strong, but that I was also a realist and that talking about death didn’t intimidate me.

So, that night, we sat and talked for over an hour and planned her funeral, right down to the clothes she wanted to be buried in, to what hymns she wanted the congregation to sing. We talked about how she wasn’t afraid to die, but that she was worried about how her children and grandchildren would handle her death, as most seemed to think it wouldn’t happen. Most importantly, she thanked me for being willing to just listen to her and let her get it off her chest.

I happened to be eating dinner at my parents’ house when we got the call in early January. She had stopped breathing, and the Hospice nurse was on her way. We were at her house in less than 10 minutes. After the nurse officially declared her, my mom and my grandmother’s husband were in a state of shock and disbelief, not quite knowing where to begin. I pulled the list of my grandmother’s last wishes from my purse and shared it with them. They were stunned at first, and then overwhelmingly grateful.


They knew Dolly’s wishes. Thanks to Carrie.

If you need help knowing what to ask, the Missing Pieces Plan provides an entire worksheet on how to preplan your celebration.

Carrie, thank you for sharing your story.

Sending love,


Casey’s story

Today’s story is an excerpt from the Missing Pieces Plan. My friend Casey reflects on her father’s creation of a family foundation.


It was the week of Thanksgiving. My husband, daughters and I were in Cleveland visiting my Mom, Dad, my brother and his family. Before the office closed for the holiday, my Dad asked me to meet him at work so we could talk. My Dad told me he wanted to start a foundation or some sort of charitable vehicle. He wasn’t sure what the options were; he just knew he wanted to formalize his giving. With 15 years of experience working in the philanthropic sector, I was eager to hear my Dad’s thoughts.

In that meeting, we talked about whether a donor-advised fund at a local community foundation made sense—lower overhead and less administration—or if he wanted a foundation for autonomy and reach. Knowing that we would need a mission, a clear idea from my Dad about what he wanted to support, I asked Dad what he had historically supported. I asked about what he cared about and who he wanted to help.

Based on what he shared, I researched the costs associated with donor advised funds and foundations. Then I went to work crafting a few different mission statements. I came back to my Dad with the results of my research, and we settled on a mission and structure.

We would create a foundation, which would receive an investment from my Dad as well as an annual contribution from our family business. We contacted a local lawyer with experience applying for non-profit status and began the paperwork. My Dad would be the chair of the Foundation. My brother, sister, and I would serve on the board. Fast forward a few months and my Dad suddenly died of a heart attack.

I sometimes wonder if Dad had a sneaking suspicion that he was not well. He had set the wheels in motion to create a foundation, and he put the finishing touches on his estate plan just months before he passed away.

Regardless of his possible premonition, I will be forever grateful for our Thanksgiving chat where my Dad shared his motivations for giving. Thanks to that, my brother, sister and I now direct the foundation’s resources to “support the efforts of young people who strive to improve themselves and the communities in which they live.”

My favorite part of Casey’s story is the fact that she and her dad had a conversation. Our legacies may not involve creating a family foundation. But the one thing we all can do is communicate our wishes for our legacy.

Our legacies don’t have to wait until we are gone.

They can be lived today.

By embracing this truth, we can step up the life we want to live and leave.

Today, I encourage to have a conversation with a loved one, a family member. What is important to you? In this life? And, when you’re gone.

I believe by just taking these small steps, we are moving forward – towards a more fulfilled life.

Sending love,



Do you have questions?

I would love to connect with you!

My email is jody@missingpiecesplan.com or cell is 310-927-5345

What I wish I knew…

Gone too soon…what I wish I knew

Recently I asked a few dear friends to write down questions they wish they could ask their dads. Unfortunately, these dear friends lost their fathers way too soon. 

A lot of questions remain for all of them regardless of the amount of earthly time with their beloved fathers.

Here are some of the questions they wish they could ask:

  • What did you have the most fun doing?
  • What made you laugh the hardest?
  • What would you spend more time doing/less time doing?
  • What would you do differently?
  • What do you love most about yourself? And me?
  • When did you feel fearless?
  • What would we do together if we only if one day left?
  • What would you want me to know about your life and how it made you who you are?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What’s the hardest thing you’ve done?
  • What’s your hope for your kids?
  • How do you want to be remembered?
  • What was it like the first time you met my mom? What did you think of her at first?
  • How did you feel when I was born? Where you scared and sort of like “oh shit what now?!” like I was?
  • What was your happiest memory of my childhood?
  • Do you think I should have another kid?
  • Is there anything you would do differently knowing where you ultimately ended up?
  • What advice do you have for your grandson and what would you want to be sure we passed on to him?

If you are a dad – or grandfather, grandmother, father or mother – share your answers to these questions with your loved ones today. I am certain after you’re gone there will be more questions your loved ones will want answered, but at least they’ll know these.

Taking the time to share your story and your answers with loved ones is a priceless gift. It is your legacy. 

One that your loved ones will forever cherish.

In the Missing Pieces Plan we have a Legacy Questionnaire designed to help you write or craft your legacy. You can include as much or as little as you choose. The information provided will be a gift to your loved ones. To learn more visit www.missingpiecesplan.com.

To order your copy of Missing Pieces Plan, click here: http://missingpiecesplan.com/amazon

Sending love!


Why I think the word “legacy” is such a turn off

Often when people think of their “legacy” they think Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs. Yes, they have incredible legacies, but you don’t have to be a genius or millionaire or any other qualifying factor to build a legacy or to be remembered.

When I think of “legacy,” I think it’s building upon your values, identifying how you would like to be remembered and then living into those values and dreams for your life.

I also think one of the greatest legacies is just sharing your story with your loved ones.

Sharing your story with loved ones is your legacy.

What I would give to have recorded my grandfather’s stories from the war, his love notes to my grandmother, hearing what it was like to grow up in the depression, how he built a homebuilding business, what it was like losing his mother at 18. There is so much I wish I knew about my grandfather.

I think like most, I always thought there would be more time to ask these questions and learn their answers.

But then he passed.

We did our best to write his obituary after his passing. He had many accomplishments. But what would he have wanted us to say? Maybe if we had asked, I would have gotten the answers to the questions above.

I’ve been told, “but I don’t want to think about it or write anything down, that will mean it will happen. I will die.” I get it, the thought of writing your obituary or jotting ideas down on how you would like to be remembered, is scary. It means the inevitable will happen. I hate to break it to you, but it the inevitable will happen – whether you write something or not.

So, go there with me. Think of your loved ones and how they would love to know more about you. Today, I encourage you to think of how you’d like to be remembered. What you would want your obituary to say? And before you think you are too young or healthy … anyone can do this – regardless of age! Even if you are 20!

To get started, simply write five things you would like to remembered for and then next to each how your are living into each today. At the very least you are crafting how you’d like to live today and letting your legacy be known.

In the Missing Pieces Plan we have a Legacy Questionnaire designed to help you write or craft your legacy. You can include as much or as little as you choose. The information provided will be a gift to your loved ones. To learn more visit www.missingpiecesplan.com.

To order your copy of Missing Pieces Plan, click here:


Sending love!


I have a small heart attack every time I…

A good (and honest) friend shared with me that she gets a “small heart attack” every time she sees one of my posts.

I love that she shared this with me! And, I so get it! I am certain I’d feel that way too (if I weren’t the one doing the bombarding;-).

I imagine she is not alone.

As I have recently started speaking about my book, there is a message I want to share with everyone.

Yes, all the documents needed for end-of-life planning are important. When completed (and kept up to date;-), you are creating a great gift to you and your family.

But, the real message is this…

By jumping into it – you’re creating how you want to LIVE and LEAVE.

“It’s up to you.”

How cool is that? You get to steer the ship, drive the boat, be in charge.

It’s your life.

With the Missing Pieces Plan I hope to inspire. Not induce dread. But, I get it. It’s a hard topic we don’t want to face a lot of the times. Let’s be fearless. I will help you.

If you’re not ready, I get it. Just be sure to “like” my post. 😉

Sending love,



If you ARE ready (and you’re in the Jacksonville area), join me on Tuesday, May 9th at 5:30. I will be giving a brief presentation on the Missing Pieces Plan at…wait for it…a cemetery! YES! Join me at the Hardage-Giddens Oaklawn Chapel.

We will have copies of the Missing Pieces Plan for sale.

Reply to this email to RSVP. See you there!

My story…I watched my beloved grandfather take his last breath

Watching my grandfather take his last breath was heart wrenching.  Yet somehow, there was far less grief knowing we were honoring his wishes.

We were lucky that we knew his wishes.

My granddad, BD, had had a stroke and thankfully by the time he was discovered by a neighbor, he was still lucid (despite having been on the floor for at least 48 hours). He was aware enough to communicate his wishes to my mother. He told her that he did not want to live in his current state. He had become paralyzed and was left immobile.

My grandfather served in “the war,” lied about his age at 17 to board ship and travel the world as a sailor, and was a health fanatic. He did 100 pushups, sit-ups, and other floor exercises every day. He held the Dallas Turkey Trot record for his age group (60-70 year olds) for over 2 decades.  He rode a stationary bike or walked 3 miles every day. Every. Day.

So, it was more than clear to us, his family, that being immobile was devastating to him. That was not how he would want to live life.

I cannot fathom the agony families endure when they don’t know what their loved ones want. And maybe, their loved one doesn’t even know themselves? It is not part of our makeup to sit and think about how we want our death to be. 

That is why I want to gently (or not so gently), nudge you to have the conversation. And dare I repeat it, regardless of your age! This is a gift beyond measure that we can give to our loved ones – the peace of knowing they’re following our wishes.

For 2017, National Healthcare Decisions Day is an entire week. It’s that important. The “day” is designed to help people understand the value of advance healthcare planning.

Those are big words and the task can seem even bigger. In simple terms, “advance healthcare planning” means documenting what you want should you become unable to make health decisions for yourself, selecting the person to make those decisions for you and then, telling that person.

I have devoted an entire chapter to Advance Healthcare Planning in Missing Pieces Plan. The book also includes a worksheet to walk you through the decisions you’ll need to make.

So, with a loving nudge, I encourage you to visit the National Healthcare Decisions Day website at http://www.nhdd.org. They’ve also created an inspiring video: https://vimeo.com/36052824. Then, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what your wishes might be.

If you’d like the Missing Pieces Plan worksheet as guide, order yours here: http://missingpiecesplan.com/amazon

Sending Love,


Introducing…Missing Pieces Plan stories

Each of the chapters in Missing Pieces Plan includes a story or two to help bring the material to ‘life’ for readers. Of the many stories I tell, I know many of us think that can’t/won’t/couldn’t happen to me.

We think;

  • I’ll know what to do at the bedside of my father, mother (fill in the blank)
  • My husband will know what I want for my service
  • My children get along – they’ll know what to do after I’m gone.
  • My stories don’t matter.
  • My siblings and I will be in agreement.
  • My friends will put together a beautiful service for me.
  • Dad’s organized. I’ll be able to find all his important papers.

All or part of the above may be true for you.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t become true until it happens to us.

I believe stories are vital to helping us relate to and understand different situations we may find ourselves in one day.

Many brave souls have shared their stories with me along the way. I’ve asked if they will allow me to share them so others many learn from their experiences.

Stories make it real, because it is real.

This is why I am starting a series called… Missing Pieces Plan Stories (real creative, huh?!)

I hope that by sharing real stories from real people, it may help us all to act, to learn from what they went through, and hopefully lessen the suffering our families might face one day.

From these stories I hope we will also experience a sense of community. That we are all one. Because I believe, we are.

Sending love,


Leaving “future gifts”…one grandmother’s idea

I have said it many times before that my mother-in-law, Debbie, has been one of the biggest inspirations for my book and work.

She acknowledges she is not here forever and not only is she aware and accepting of this fact; she likes to talk about it! You know I love that! She is taking control of her legacy, too.

Debbie is an anomaly. That is, most people do not want to recognize their immortality much less talk about it. And, many don’t want to think about their ‘imprint’ after their gone or, what I call ‘legacy.’ I hope to help change that.

One of coolest ideas my mother-in-law recently came up with during one of our “death” talks was to start writing letters to her grandchildren for when she is not here.

She wants to leave letters for them to be opened on future special occasions – like a sweet sixteen birthday, high school graduation, college graduation, or marriage – occasions where she may not be with us. Yet, she can still celebrate these occasions with us through her letters and gifts.

Debbie enjoys dreaming up what to write and what gift or trinket to leave them on these occasions and milestones. She has turned what could be depressing into a life-giving and joy-filled project for her. It may be her God given optimism, but I truly believe if more of us saw life’s ending in this way, we could enjoy more of life today.

I encourage you to embrace what is to come. Think about how you would like to celebrate with loved ones – in person or after you’re gone. And, make any arrangements for those occasions that are meaningful to you. Nothing has to be extravagant or excessive. Simply writing letters to loved ones to be opened at future dates is a priceless expression of love. You are allowing your legacy of love to continue after you’re gone.

Sending love,


6 things I did to prepare our heirlooms for natural disasters

We will all face a disaster of some kind – it may not be a tornado, hurricane or earthquake but regardless of whether or not we are in the path of Mother Nature’s destruction, we all need to prepare for life’s upheaval, which includes preparing our heirlooms.

As Hurricane Matthew advanced toward our city in 2016, it was a category 4 with a frightening forecast. I realized I was not prepared for an evacuation nor what the predicted storm could do to our home and in turn, our family’s memories.

After I finished writing the Missing Pieces Plan, I completed my own set of Missing Pieces Plan worksheets. While walking through the exercise, I took inventory of our family’s heirlooms by assembling my letter of instruction to accompany my Will. (This would assist my executor in knowing how I want my personal affects distributed.) However, the terror of having a hurricane barreling towards our home made me realize there were still missing pieces.

As I waited for the storm to strike, I prepared our home and heirlooms in the event we came face to face with Mother Nature’s wrath. Here are the 6 things I did to prepare our heirlooms for disaster:

1. Tell a Story

I realized that when I am not here, it will be far more helpful and meaningful for my children to see beyond a list I left them and instead, know a story about each heirloom. I spent an hour or so writing a story about each heirloom so our daughters would know some history and the sentimental value to us. I wrote explicit details about my few pieces of jewelry, the art we have, their grandfather’s National Championship football and jersey, my grandmother’s needlepointed stockings and ornaments.

I recommend taking as much time as you can to write descriptions and stories about each of your heirlooms and the treasures you are passing down. And as I have suggested before, it is never too early to share these stories.

2. Take pictures

I took pictures of each item so they could be easily be matched with the written description of each. This is also a great idea for insurance purposes should any items be destroyed.

3. Share

I uploaded the pictures I took to the “Cloud” and invited my sister-in-law to the file containing our heirloom photos. You can also save them on your phone or computer. Or, make hard copies to keep in a secure place – which I mention next.

4. Make a grab bag

Living in earthquake prone California for over 11 years I always had a “grab bag.” This bag was filled with important documents and memories – our passports, birth certificates, our wedding video (still in VHS;-), our children’s journals and baby books. Now, after writing the Missing Pieces Plan, this grab bag also contains our Wills and Missing Pieces Plan worksheets. I have always kept this “grab bag” accessible in a hall closet.

5. Decide what you will take

Before Matthew, I had not thought about what other items I would want to “grab” on the way out. The looming storm forced me to prioritize what I would take and what I would leave behind. In doing so, I consolidated the small heirlooms into one place in a closet next to the “grab bag” in the event we needed to evacuate. I made sure I took pictures of each item we couldn’t take with us.

6. Last wishes

Lastly, I wrote an email to my daughters’ named guardian updating her on my current wishes. This is why I recommend visiting your Missing Pieces Plan worksheets annually to make sure they are up to date!

You may not be in the face of a weather disaster, but one day your loved ones will face losing you. By preparing now, you give them a gift of peace. And I’ll argue, it also gives YOU peace of mind.

Thanks to Matthew, I now know exactly what we consider heirlooms, what is truly important to us. And we have an inventory with pictures, should they become necessary for insurance or my inevitable passing.