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Spirituality & Life

What are You In Search Of …

Memories are not found in things

By Julie Hall, The Estate Lady – 

Everybody is in search of something.  We search for happiness, prosperity, vitality, etc.  We search for understanding, the meaning of life, the mysteries of the universe.  We look for people and special places and a million other things – all so that our lives will be meaningful.

In all my years of working in estates, I see clients searching for something too, but many of them haven’t quite figured out what it is they are looking for.  When it comes to clearing out the estate, many of them take way too much stuff only to clutter up their own homes.  You know they will never use those items, yet they continue taking, taking.  Why do they do this?  What void are these things feebly filling, that they didn’t get from the loved one in life?

Are they searching for absolution from a lost parent, or in need of validation of who they were to the parent?  Are they angry with the deceased loved one and never got a chance to make it right?  Are they guilt-ridden?  Did they not receive enough emotional love and support from the parent-child relationship, and now take things feeling “entitled” and holding a grudge?

Things are never a replacement for people.  At the end of our lives, we can’t take these things with us anyway and they will only serve to burden our children who really don’t want the stuff from the start.

When my mother died, here’s what I took from her estate and that very painful experience:

  • I took her beautiful smile and laughter, forever etched in my memory.
  • I took her solid advice and now practice it daily.
  • I took 50 years of memories … family gatherings and good times.
  • I took photographs so I would never forget how blue her eyes were.
  • I took her common sense, good manners, and lady-like disposition, and carry them with me, among many other things.

The point I’m trying to make is that memories are not found in things.  The things you take from an estate will gather dust and be forgotten eventually.  Special memories are already in your heart if you had a good relationship with the loved one.  And if you didn’t/don’t have a good relationship, now is a really good time to try to mend old, crumbling fences.


Read Julie Hall’s bio here and find other articles by Julie in the Estate Planning section of our library.

Time To Find Your God?

By Rabbi Richard Address –

Eric Weiner, a former National Public Radio reporter, has just published a fascinating book entitled “Man Seeks God.” I mention it to you because it raises some interesting questions about our relationship (or lack thereof) with God. Questions posed by young and old alike.

The genesis of his book was a discussion Weiner had with a health care professional in a hospital. He was there thinking he was extremely ill. This health care worker, thinking the tests were going to be bad news, asked Weiner, “Have found your God yet?”

That simple question set Mr. Weiner off on a whirlwind exploration of various religions. Eric was trying to understand what each religion’s God was, and if he could adopt it for himself.

The book is quite relevant to many of us who are, in some ways, dissatisfied with the God that we were raised with. So many people are searching for some sort of meaningful faith that Weiner’s journey, in many ways, symbolizes the journey for many of us. We may not have the means to travel the world and spend weeks in various communities; but we are searching. That is the point, I think, of the book. I like the phrase, “have you found your God?” Our generation of baby boomers has pioneered the ability to create personal religious responses and, in many ways, hybrid definitions of God. This spiritual dynamism marks a clear reality across the religious landscape. It represents some real creativity on the one hand, and sadly, for some, a way to just do “religion lite.”

The search for our own God is a serious undertaking. It asks us to confront our own sense of self, our relationship with life and death and our own view of what we see as our legacy. In the New Year now beginning, I suggest that it is a perfect time to consider undertaking your own search. Looking for your God, unencumbered by “oughts” and “shoulds” may be a liberating and energizing experience. An experience you can start today and not left until you are older.


Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min

Learn more about Rabbi Address on his bio page. Find more articles by Rabbi Address in Spirituality & Life section of our library.

Rabbi Address is author of the book “Seekers of Meaning: Judaism, Baby Boomers and the search for Healthy Aging”. You can learn more about Rabbi Address and his books at

Rita’s Holiday Eating Tips: with a smile and grain of salt

by Rita Files – 

Rita’s eating tips serve as a reminder to not take the holiday crush too seriously and not be overly hard on ourselves.

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they’re serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly! Like in single-malt scotch, it’s rare. In fact, it’s even rarer than single-malt scotch. You can’t find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It’s not as if you’re going to turn into an eggnog-aholic or something. It’s a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It’s later than you think. It’s Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That’s the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with skim milk or whole milk. If it’s skim, pass. Why bother? It’s like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas (or New Years) party is to eat other people’s food for free. ..lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you’ll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don’t budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you’re never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or, if you don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it’s loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards!!

10. One final tip: If you don’t feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven’t been paying attention. Reread tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner!


Learn more about Rita Files on her Author page.

Light the Lights

by Rabbi Richard F. Address, DMin – 

December is a difficult month. Amidst the crush and the hype of our culture’s addiction to “shop until we drop” is an all too often underlying discomfort. This discomfort can grow as we get older.

The “holidays” (as we now know them) are upon us. Kwanzaa, Christmas, Chanukah: all arrive to remind us, we hope, of something beyond the need to spend money for gifts. They also remind us of people no longer with us. I was reminded of this aspect as we were about to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner and I thought of my own mom who died this past July. I pulled out a photo from Thanksgiving 2010 which was the last time she was in my house. She was leaning over her soup bowl with her great granddaughter next to her. One year, so much had changed. For you as well, I would imagine. So now we enter that month when family gatherings are in the forefront of our minds and memories becomes so important.

So what of these lights? In each culture, lights become important. Remnants of pre-religious life, these lights have a variety of meaning. In many traditions, lights symbolize hope, life, faith as well as memory.  Light drives out the darkness and maybe that is why we love it so much. Perhaps it is the darkness of loss that these lights speak to. Each of us has the choice to retreat into our own self, especially at this time of year, and despair. Too many are alone; too many are living with a tension in life brought on by the economy. There is a real darkness of mood that could be possible—if we so choose!

Yet, at the darkest time of the year come these festivals that place so much importance on light. We light these lights not only to celebrate aspects of various religious movements, but also, let me suggest, to really symbolize the light of our own soul. Light is the potential that rests within us to do sacred acts. It is a symbol that we can best honor those we miss by dedicating our life to eliminating the darkness of despair and fear that inhabits so much of our contemporary world. To do this would be to give our self and our world a REAL gift.

May you enjoy the family of relationships that embrace you at this time of year and may you light the light of your own soul. Shalom,

Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.MIn

Discussing Spirituality Your Elders

by Marion Somers, PhD –

If you are a caregiver, an elder under your care may want to discuss spirituality with you. I have found that this is especially common when one is nearing the end of his or her life. By all means, encourage your elders to explore their spiritual thoughts and feelings. Many seniors (and people, in general) believe there are forces at work in the universe, and many of them have tapped into some form of spirituality. It’s just not possible to understand everything that happens, and spirituality can help explain things. Even if spirituality is not discussed, it does exist in most people’s conscious lives. The connectedness to a spiritual life helps people deal with hardships, face fears, and can ultimately give hope. Most of my clients get a great deal out of their religious activities. It helps them feel that their life has a meaning and a purpose.

Nearly every one of my clients experiences an inner awareness or a quiet peace before they pass on. Even if fishing is their “religion,” they know where they need to go to find that quiet space for reflection, to recharge, and gain perspective. This process helps our elders find a way to let go of emotions and worldly trappings, and become ready to travel free. Not everyone acknowledges or feels the need to have a spiritual life, and I respect that too. We all have a right to make the decision on our own.

But for those who embrace a spiritual life, it can provide a source of strength above and beyond a person’s own humanity. I’m not just talking about spirituality in terms of the regular routine and/or regimentation of going to a house of worship. It doesn’t need to be confined by four walls, icons, meeting times, and rituals. Spirituality is the path each of us takes to find the quiet within ourselves. Some people do like the routine though. Going to a house of worship often provides a sense of community and companionship. Spirituality can really be whatever a person wants it to be. The crucial part is to have a quiet knowing that there’s something beyond yourself that can help give meaning to the peaks and valleys of life. Religion and spirituality can be a way to center oneself and find internal and external comfort.

A version of this blog appeared on Dr. Marion’s Web Site.

Lessons from the Jewish High Holy Days

by Rabbi Richard F. Address, DMin – 

Those of us in the Jewish community are in the process of our annual High Holy Days. The new year celebration of Rosh HaShana and the solemn day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is quickly followed by a week long festival calledSukkot.

These festivals and observances are, to be brief, designed to focus the individual on one’s place in the world and give time for individual reflection on their past and future actions. It is a time of deep reflection, renewal, and re-focusing of the self. The Sukkotfestival connects the individual not only with the self, but with the idea of nature and the fragility of life, symbolized by the temporary dwelling called a sukkah which synagogues and many Jewish people construct.

There are so many messages that emerge from these holy days. For us, as boomers, however, I am struck by the constant refrain of change and renewal. This is a time in our life when so much seems to be changing, our families, our relationships, our bodies and our own hopes and dreams.

Often it is easy to get lost in these changes and loose sight of our own self.

Yet, there is this message: we have the power and freedom to continue to grow and evolve, that the future awaits us and we need the courage to follow our own hopes and dreams; perhaps to risk that new relationship or venture. We gradually become aware that life is moving faster than ever and to stand still courts a death of the spirit. Religion, if it is to have any meaning to us as individuals, must reinforce the idea that each of us has within us the capacity for continued change and evolution. Our festivals and rituals help focus on this idea that to be human we need to change and grow–no matter what our age of life stage.

That is a valuable message from these Holidays. Take the risk, assume the challenge, and do not fear to move forward in life.

Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min can be reached at Jewish Sacred Aging

Can Seniors “Be Grateful” in Today’s Economy?

The license plate on the car in front of me read, “B GR8FUL”

By Julie Hall

The license plate on the car in front of me during a long stretch of monotonous highway read, “Be grateful.” I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a personal message to me, just returning from a wonderful weekend with my parents in Florida, or if it was meant for all who read it, spreading a positive message during uncertain times.

My husband and daughter were snoozing in the car and I was pensive as usual behind the wheel, thinking about everything from the economy, to finances, to family to you name it. I, like many of you, am worried about the state of our economy and where it will leave our generation in the years to come. I worry about my daughter and her education; will she be okay during this craziness we are experiencing? Will she have work in the future? Will the economy bounce back or are we headed for a recession? So many people struggling. News images of drought, famine, earthquakes, shootings, a downed military helicopter.

The worries seemed endless and my mind began to wander while I was driving. Then I saw the simple license plate:


I know that I had an instant calm when I saw it. I know that was a message for me to take these worries and transfer them into appreciation for all that we do have. When you look at the grand scheme of things, we really do have so much to be grateful for. So the next time your mind races with an endless stream of worries, try to shift your thoughts to appreciation. You’ll feel much better!

These are the Good Old Days?

The launch of an end as a beginning.

By Rabbi Richard F. Address, DMin

I could not help but reflect on the passing of an era as the news handled the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the last space shuttle. There were broadcasts of memories featuring John Glenn and other Shuttle crew members.

I can still remember Sputnik and the thrill of watching Alan Shepherd on our small (by these days) black and white television. Most of us, if we are a little older, can remember as well the way the country came to a halt in those early days of space exploration, as compared to now. Today a launch is just another news item, unless, God forbid, it is tinged with disaster. Yes, an era has passed and we pause to remember “those days.”

Nostalgia is a popular form of escape, especially in difficult times. We romanticize the “good old days.” A lot of times it seems easier to go backward in our thinking rather than to face the challenges of the present. However, we are living now, in this moment; and despite the challenges and issues that we all face, we cannot return to what was. We can only live in the moment and try and craft a meaningful what will be.

I think this is a significant message for many of us “of a certain age.” Looking at the changing reflection in the mirror, dealing with increasingly achy knees and hearing, all to often, stories of illness; we can succumb to a fantasy wish of seeing in the past a better path.

Every once in a while, we receive a message about the need to bless the moment; to live in the now. Let me suggest that one such message is contained in a beautiful new film by Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris.”

“Midnight in Paris” has been reviewed by movie critics and examined at length by film experts. I am neither. I just like good films, ones from which I can get a message or that spark me to do some thinking. As this film unwound, I found myself understanding, for me, a very powerful message. The message is that despite our fantasy of the past, we are charged to make sense out of the present for this is where we live. There is no escape into a “what was.”

So, a simple message and hope, that we all can take time to savor the life we live, to bless the daily miracles that surround us and to celebrate the present. Or, as Carly Simon reminded us in one of her best songs: “these are the good old days.”

Have a sweet and healthy summer.


How to Behave as an Heir

More on Estate Etiquette

By Julie Hall

Recently, I did a podcast for Moving Forward Matters in Ottawa, Canada. (There’s the link below to my 10 minute discussion on Estate Etiquette.)

Here are several suggestions for how to behave as an heir in the estate of your parent or close loved one.


  1. Sit down and say what’s on your mind. Beating around the bush confuses everyone. Confrontation is not necessarily a bad thing. My father always said that the day after a thunderstorm is usually clean, bright, and beautiful. It clears the air and so does a confrontation that is more about sharing than finger pointing.
  2. It’s vital to do everything you can to keep the peace. To avoid heartache and resentment, do your best to take the “high road.” It feels good to do so, though it’s not always easy.
  3. Validate the other person’s feelings if they share them with you. At least, listen. Repeat what they said to you so they feel you heard them. Both should agree to simply do the best you can to smooth it over somehow. A photo of Mom and Dad sitting in front of you wouldn’t hurt. After all, this is about honoring them and not about the heirs.
  4. Encourage others to be a part of the healing process, if they would like to be. It is not about taking sides. It is about encouraging both parties to do what they can to heal the hurt. Always remain objective and try very hard to see the other side.

Dividing heirlooms can be one of the most contentious experiences of our adult lives. There is no way to completely eliminate family squabbles. But, you can learn to put them out when they are smoldering, instead of when they grow into a full-blown forest fire.


Link address:

Dementia Care Technologies – Another Look

Laurie Orlov Revisits Technology that Helps Elders with Dementia Age in Place

By Laurie Orlov

Technologies to keep those with dementia safe at home. How you ask the question changes the answer. A few weeks ago, I revised my thinking about dementia care technology. The catalyst: An interviewer with the Cincinnati Enquirer called me a few weeks ago for a story she was doing — and asked me about the technologies that could enable those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias to remain safely in their homes. When asked the question that way, I realized that there were quite a few and worth summarizing and referencing more of the vendors in this blog post — none were in the article to the degree that a previous blog posts on caregiving tech and Alzheimer’s tracking technologies (2009). So here is an expansion on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s published story including statements from the interview/article and expansion:

Memory aids. These include “talking clocks and talking pillboxes, which remind people to take their medications.” These are gadgets, of course, not systems (i.e. integrated with response centers and care processes). But for some caregivers and recipients — they may be just enough. At the low end of price and functionality, search and you will find a talking clock that can be set with 4 medication reminders per day and from the same reseller (MedCenter) integrate it with the pill dispensing unit to create a talking pill box. “As smart phones gain popularity, families can buy apps that remind loved ones when it’s time to take their medication or bathe.” Smart phone apps for reminders have been around for a while, going back to multi-mode OnTimeRx, RememberItNow and simple reminder apps. These days, there are far too many to count or mention.

Assistive devices that prevent wandering. The article included “sensors that can be placed on walls or on doors to alert caregivers if someone opens a door.” So these include simple door sensors, simple bed sensor pads that alert if a person gets out of bed, or Vuance Companion — an RFID tagged wearable device for home use or ‘WanderGuard’ style products (typically in facilities) that activate an alarm, shut a door that has been pushed open, and/or alert designated responders — aka ‘departure alert’ systems.

Assistive devices that help locate people who are lost. “These systems are small GPS units that can be carried or worn to help caregivers and emergency services personnel track people who may have wandered away from home.” Beyond sensors, it may be appropriate to set up a Geofence with something like TrueTracker, SecuraTrac, ActiveCare or AFrameDigital that alerts if a person has traveled outside of a customized zone. “The Alzheimer’s Association’s Comfort Zone system includes a special unit that can be placed in a vehicle to allow caregivers to track where people with dementia are driving.”

Monitoring systems. “Some include video monitoring and can track a person’s activity within the home and alert a caregiver or 911 if a person has fallen. Sensors can be placed in a bed to show whether a person is getting up at inappropriate times – a sign of wandering or restlessness.” Vendor options range from bed sensor pads that can be simple or they integrated into a full monitoring system, such as WellAWARE which promotes its ability to track sleep disturbances and therefore predict problems or Healthsense, which has similar capabilities.

Caution —            – this information is for reference and does not imply recommendation or endorsement. For any such product or technology solution, please:

  • a) ask for references of satisfied dealers and customers — especially important for the higher priced options
  • b) Search the Internet for negative mention or reported problems; c) ask about technical limitations
  • d) make sure the product can be returned if it does not work as stated
  • e) contact a local professional or even the Alzheimer’s Association, tell them what you are considering. They may just point you toward ComfortZone

And one more thing — after contacting, they tell me that there is no predicted date for availability of the so-called GPS shoe, so forget about that.