The big payback

Before James Brown was famous, do you think he wished that maybe one day he’d be referred to as the Godfather of Soul – or that loved ones would fight over his money after he died?

My inner-stud hopes that chicks will fight over me someday. However, being 7/8 cynic – I don’t hope – I know for a fact that the best I’ll ever get will be some stress-inducing daughters clawing to get at my wallet for clothes, gas, movie tickets and the $30K they’ll need each year for spring break tuition (by then, actual college will be about as meaningful as free room and board at Phoenix On-line University) – and hopefully I’ll still be alive for it all.

I feel bad for James Brown. He was known as the hardest-working man in show business for decades, and it seems like all he’s got to show for it lately is a “grieving” widow who wants half his stuff. Does she miss him? Did she really love him? Were they ever even married? I don’t know those answers, nor do I care.

I do, however, care about my legacy. I worry about how I’ll be remembered, and what I’ll leave behind. These days it seems scary to even bequeath a dime, because it might wreck a lifetime’s worth of hard-fought, priceless effort.

Would it be pleasant to witness one or more of your kids being possessed by the devil? Imagine, you’re tossing holy water and yelling the “power of Christ compels you!” while they’re scurrying around in the crab-walk position on the ceiling above you – it’s not pretty. Neither are family disputes over last will and testaments.

Who knows if the dead watch us (let’s pretend they don’t, because my life is a series of embarrassing moments that only I usually witness). But if they do, it must be horrific for those who see their families get possessed and break apart over something as meaningless as money. I don’t know about you, but I think I’d rather go broke with a wonderful family than hold on to some extra coin and watch them tear into each other for it.

I truly believe we leave our best and our worst behind when we die. And if we lived it right, to the people that really matter, money and wealth shouldn’t register in either one of those categories.

When I go, I want to look back on a family that I helped build and be thankful it’s something that money won’t be able to define. Because money doesn’t struggle; people do. Money doesn’t have differences; brothers and sisters do. Money doesn’t say, “It’s because we only want the best for you,” parents do. Money doesn’t make you laugh; aunts and uncles do. Money doesn’t remember your birthday every year and send you a card to let you know how much they care about you (although it may hitch a ride); grandma and grandpa do. Money doesn’t always love you – and truly know you – for who you really are; mothers and fathers do.

Money doesn’t show up when you need it the most; that’s what families do.

I want a family like the one I’m blessed to already have – that seems like reward enough for living a good life.

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