What does it mean when a doctor suggests you get your affairs in order? For my late wife, my children and me it meant trying to find a positive amid the horror of losing a wife and mother— some small way to hold on to her.
We had been blessed by remarkable care for her entire six-and-a half year battle with breast cancer— much of which had taken place at the North Shore Cancer Center in Peabody. What my late wife wanted was for me to come up with some mechanism for her to thank the special people of the Center in a meaningful way. What we eventually ended up with achieved a whole lot more. My first idea was some sort of family foundation. I called an estate attorney friend who quickly informed me that for a foundation to make sense on a tax and administrative basis, we would need a minimum of $250,000 in assets. That seemed a little ambitious. He then suggested that I find an existing foundation that accepted donor advised funds. That way we could have the funds do what we wanted them to without any of the headaches of accounting, administration or investment. We chose ECCF because it was focused locally and because of the ease in which the memorial fund could be set up. No attorneys were necessary and there was very little paperwork. ECCF did everything.
Over and above the direct thank you that the fund was intended to be, we have also accrued several other important benefits. First, the fund will give permanence to our wife/mother's memory. Second, it is a vehicle for people outside our family to also have an equity stake in her memory. It provides a productive way to say, "I miss her too" or "She was important to me also". Many people have written to thank me for allowing them to be a part of this. Third, my children will be advisors to the fund for as long as they choose. This will provide them with a hands on introduction to philanthropy. Fourth, and most importantly, the fund will attempt to directly ease the burden of those suffering from cancer here in Essex County.
I can't think of anything that we did that was more important than finding ECCF and creating this memorial fund when it came time to 'put your affairs in order'.