For a long time I avoided writing a will. I found the whole topic too scary to think about. Then one day I remembered that I'm an adult. (How I managed to forget this while having three children remains a mystery.) I began to think about how to divide my considerable assets: Who would get my Bill Bradley rookie card? Which of my children would be lucky enough to inherit my vintage Dr Pepper "I'm a Pepper" T-shirt? And yet, important as these questions were, when I finally began to think seriously about what I wanted to leave behind, I realized that a traditional will wasn't enough. If a large tree falls on my head tomorrow (for some reason, this is always the first image that comes to mind when I envision my own death), I want my children to have more than a list of memorabilia and dollar amounts. I want them to have the great wisdom I've obtained in the course of my 37 years. So I sat down at my computer to write, waiting for the gravitas to pour out of my fingertips. Then I waited some more. Eventually, I tired of waiting for the wisdom and got up to make myself a tuna sandwich. A month later, a branch fell on our car and crushed the roof, and the idea that I might die at any moment seemed all too plausible. I sat down again to write.
Here are the things I'd like my 6-year-old son and 4-year-old twin daughters to know in the unfortunate event that I'm not around to annoy them with these thoughts in person.
On Falling in Love
Love is mysterious. You might one day have very different feelings about the same boy or girl you call "stinky poopface" today. You may even want to kiss that stinky poopface. And that's okay. I hope more than anything to be at your weddings, but if I don't make it, please know that my greatest wish is that you'll each find someone loyal and kind, someone who will stand by you and love you even when you're so bad you deserve a time-out. I especially hope that it's someone who will understand better than anyone else how to make you laugh—though if the person is making you laugh only by executing loud farting noises in public, this might not be such a good thing.
On Embracing Religion
I hope you will find joy and comfort in the Jewish traditions that have been passed on to you. In particular, I hope you'll one day realize that Judaism is about more than Hanukkah gifts and whipping each other with ritual prayer shawls. I know that religion can sometimes seem boring, but many of these traditions have been passed on for thousands of years. And I think there's a reason they've stuck around. You're always asking me about God and how He can do so many cool things or let bad things happen. I try to pretend that I have the answers. But the truth is, the questions never go away. Your papa is as confused as you are. But if religion can't explain everything, it can make the questions feel less scary and overwhelming. As the great Hasidic Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav put it, the entire world can sometimes feel like walking across a very narrow bridge. The main thing to remember is not to let your fears stand in the way of the journey.