Then came the call earlier this year that shattered me. Cle called me while I was in my car driving between appointments. I remember exactly where I was (on the 101 freeway), as one often does when confronted with a major event. He seemed relaxed, probably for my benefit, but his words required me to exit the freeway and park my car at the side of the road as we continued the conversation. He informed me he was terminally ill. As his insurance agent—and the trustee for his life insurance trusts—he asked if I would attend an all-hands meeting in San Diego along with his wealth advisor, estate planning attorney, banker and minister. He wanted to make sure his planning accurately reflected each and every important detail necessary for the care, support and education of his two boys, now 19 and 17. He asked us all to come to San Diego over a two-day period, which (in natural Cle fashion) would include two exceptional wine-paired dinners at his favorite restaurants.

He asked if I would come down on the first afternoon a little earlier than the others and meet him at his wine locker, as he wanted me to help pick out the wines for the dinners he had planned. I arrived as requested and began going through his remaining collection of still several hundred phenomenal wines. I was like a kid in a candy store, salivating over some of the labels and vintages. When I began to suggest to him some of my recommendations to pair with the food we were to eat over the next two evenings, he told me his request to assist him was a ruse. The reason he asked to meet me at the cellar was for me to see the collection of wine he was leaving me in his will. As I was the “cause of all of this,” according to Cle, it was only fitting that I ended up with a substantial portion of it. For once in my life, I was totally speechless. To say I got emotional is a ridiculous understatement. I needed to sit down, and thank goodness the cellar was big enough that it required a stepladder to reach some of the higher placed wines, as that is where I sat and recovered for the next 10 minutes.

But this piece is not just about Cle’s extreme generosity to me. It is about the love and care he took in preparing for his end of life so that his boys (and his ex-wife, for whom he still cared deeply) would not have a single financial or administrative issue to deal with after his death. While he could not remove the emotional considerations, Cle was able to mitigate those too, by painstakingly preparing love letters, memorabilia and even a video to his boys. We spent an entire day reviewing and amending the details of his trusts, checking off all of his post-life administrative items and generally engaging in perhaps the most surreal day of my life. Cle taught us all so much that day. How to face the harsh realities of life and death with dignity, care and compassion for the ones we leave behind. And he would not let any of us become maudlin or feel sorry for him. These two days were to be the first of several celebrations of his life. Of course, we don’t all have the “luxury” of such detailed end of life planning, but so many of us are hopelessly underprepared in the event something happens to us prematurely.

If nothing else, I implore you to take some time out of your busy schedules to reflect on what you would do if you were Cle … and then do it!

Cle visited with Terri and me two weeks later (accompanied by four bottles of 95+ point wines to pair with a dinner I prepared in his honor). After dinner, while we enjoyed a port and cigar, Cle asked if I would come down to San Diego shortly thereafter and collect the wine he was leaving to me. He wanted me to take possession while he was still alive. The following weekend I rented a van and drove down to San Diego. It was the most bittersweet experience of my life. Cle joyfully helping me pull the wines off the racks and case them, all the while chattily reminding me about when we’d drunk some of them together, or how he’d come to acquire them. When they were all packed in the van and we hugged and said goodbye, I knew in my heart it would be the last time I would see him. How do you say thank you and goodbye under those circumstances?

Cle passed two weeks later. I toast to his memory on a regular basis.

Richard Myerson, CPA, CLU, ChFC, is the president and CEO of Myerson Wealth in Los Angeles, Calif., which offers wealth, legacy, and insurance solutions. Myerson Wealth engineers specially designed life insurance products, primarily aimed at tax reduction, wealth preservation and wealth accumulation objectives for ultra-affluent, high income, closely held business owner, and wealthy international citizen clients.   

First « 1 2 » Next