loss

Transitions Mean Change

© Can Stock Photo / Bialasiewicz

One of the hardest things about major life transitions is that many habits, customs, traditions, and ways of doing things become obsolete or counter-productive at once. It takes time to deal with these cascading effects, big and small, on our lives.

One friend who lost a spouse to a fast-progressing illness had to quickly deal with decades of deferred home maintenance, previously a mutually agreeable way of life. Who had time to fix stuff when leisure pursuits or travel beckoned? It was a difficult situation.

Another had to confront a set of retirement intentions that had everything to do with the couple, but zero to do with the survivor. It was like waking up a few years before retirement, with plans that made no sense at all, and no prior thoughts about alternatives.

And many are forced to learn how to deal with things a spouse formerly handled: everything from oil changes to investment decisions. If the spouse had been a do-it-yourselfer in a particular role, the survivor sometimes has trouble envisioning the need to pay for services. Their life experience taught them that paying for that service is not worth it.

That lesson is incomplete, of course. Paying for the service is not worth it if you have the interest, knowledge and experience to do it yourself. But when the experience and knowledge is taken out of the equation, then the DIY course may be vexing and expensive.

Changing circumstances sometimes require a change in ways of doing things. What was done before made sense for the conditions that prevailed then. It can be hard to recognize the things that have changed. Our affection for those who are gone sometimes leaks into a positive view of their way of doing things, even when those ways may no longer be appropriate.

My own life experience has taught me patience and empathy for survivors who are grappling with these things. Each of us is on our own journey. We each make decisions in our own time, when they make sense to us. All we can do here at 228 Main is listen, provide a framework for thinking about things, and support people going through transitions.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

The Pain Up Close and the Big Picture

© Can Stock Photo / PongMoji

This is personal.

I was visiting with a client the other day about the inevitable rebound to come in our economy, and the opportunities that are developing now. The conversation turned to concern for those we know who might not survive a COVID-19 episode, and the grim scenes and stories from tragically overburdened hospitals.

It was a reminder, again, of the duality of our existence.

On the big scale, it is almost mundane. Demographers estimate that 108 billion humans have been born in all of history, and 100 billion of us have already died. Death comes to us all. It happens to everyone.

Yet when you get down to cases, what could be more unique or personal than our experience of the loss of a friend, lover, parent, brother, sister?

It may seem impersonal or cold to compare a projected death toll from our current troubles to some past pandemic, to talk about economic recovery and market rebounds. But we have to think about the big picture in order to make plans for living. We need to avoid emotional reactions to issues which would benefit from reasoned consideration.

I am only going to say this once. I feel the pain up close, intensely. Less than a year ago I learned first hand what happens when the ventilator loses the battle to keep a person alive.

I’ll not be apologizing for trying to figure out how to make the most of what we have to work with. Cathy wrote me a note in her last hours. It said “You have a lot of wonderful life left.” That’s the big picture. 330 million of us will survive the virus in this country. We have a lot of wonderful life left.

We need to feel our feelings about the pain up close. But we owe it to each other to think our thinking in the big picture.

If you would like to talk about the big picture or anything else, please email us or call.

Where Did the Decade Go?

© Can Stock Photo / Konstanttin

We experience life as a series of moments. The future approaches, then becomes the present for a moment, and passes into history.

The dawn of the third decade of the 21st century is upon us; the current decade is nearly history. The moments we had!

In the first days of 2010, my wife Cathy flew to Florida to furnish and outfit a newly purchased condo; I joined her after a couple weeks. We began our life as snowbirds, skipping some cold weather weeks in Nebraska. (Planning to work to age 92, we had to figure out how to have some fun along the way.)

Our Office Manager Greg Leibman agreed to help in the office here at 228 Main during my absence, January 2010. It did not take long for me to get a glimmer of the potential of that association for the business.

Our planning, disruptions, and adaptations led to surprising growth and development. We focused more tightly on investment advisory business, performed under the auspices of LPL Financial’s RIA (registered investment advisor). That side of the business now accounts for over 70% of assets, $70 million now. That structure elevates our desire to serve your best interests to a binding obligation upon us, the way we like it.

The family health challenges we worked with for most of the decade brought us to a revolution in communications, forced me to learn how to delegate effectively and figure out how to build a team to serve you. The lesson I learned from my life with Cathy, make the most of what you have, enabled us to keep things running so we had the health insurance and resources she needed in her illness.

We had more than full measures of pain and joy in the decade. That is what life is made of.

And now a new decade looms. We hope to be able to make an interesting report to you about it, ten years hence.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Richard R. Berner, In Memoriam

berner

My old friend Dick Berner passed away recently, at the age of 89. Although afflicted with chronic and serious conditions, he was making plans to get out of bed and start taking care of business again, all the way to the end. When not totally lucid from the effects of pain medication, he spoke about working on imaginary deals.

Dick was an early mentor. He hired me to come to Louisville when I was just 22 and living near where I grew up in the middle of Omaha. He taught me more about working with people in a few days than I had learned in 18 months as a life insurance agent.

He would have been about 48 when we met, and was operating an insurance agency, a savings company, a bulk oil distributor, an auto parts store, and a fledgling new vehicle dealership. Just a few years prior, he got out of a more established dealership. (It operates on a much larger scale today in the hands of his son-in-law and daughter, forty years later.)

Within a few years of meeting, he started developing acreages and homesites, and got his real estate license. For most of the last thirty years, real estate was his primary business.

Dick was tireless in business, endlessly working on new ideas, always thinking. And he nearly lived out my long-held ambition of working to age 92.

Perhaps because he had always figured things out and was not afraid of new ideas, he challenged me with new things all the time. I got a business education right on Main Street in Louisville that was priceless. It has served me well ever since.

Life is filled with joy and pain. The mortality rate, being 100%, is a source of some of that pain. But the lives we lead tell a story. It fills me with joy that I got to be a small part of Dick’s story, and have him be such an important part of my story.

Rest in peace, old friend.

One of a Kind

cathy

I wasn’t picturing this day back in the 8th grade when, playing the role of Charlie Brown to her as the little red-haired girl, she didn’t know my name. Nor on the first day of freshman year in high school, when the divine miracle of alphabetical order put Cathy Livingston’s locker next to mine. Nor on the 4th of July the following summer, when our long romance began.

Not when we married, and certainly not when the babies came, four in all.
But seven years ago I learned this day was coming–and here we are. Football players strive for ‘yards after contact.’ Cathy battled to get ‘years after diagnosis,’ and she got them. She saw kids get married and she met her grandbabies in those hard-won years.

She’s gone, but not. She lives on in the intelligence of her children, the determination (stubbornness?) of her grandchildren, the formative influence she had on me, our children, the kids she cared for, and in a thousand other ways. This lover, child enthusiast, Disney fan, dolphin watcher, mother, and grandmother endures in our hearts and memories.

At the end of our life together, I am filled with an abundant gratitude, not regrets. Sad, and hopeful. Who wouldn’t be? On a ventilator, unable to speak, nearly paralysed, in her last hours she communicated by writing. One of her messages to me: “You have a lot of wonderful life left.” One chapter ends, another begins.

My work for you is not done. I don’t have the option of curling up into a ball, there is too much to do. I’ll need a little time and space—but I’ll be back. After all, making the most of it is one of the things I learned from Cathy.
Thank you all, again, for everything.