From the Glenview Herald, "Estates Made Easy," column with Corinne Cantwell Heggie
Professor Mathy at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana was the last of my great French teachers. The first was Madame Wenzlow who taught at Springman.
In hindsight, I have a deep appreciation for their abilities to plan and teach a lesson in French. Mathy’s lessons with grad students were most memorable. It was a grad student who shared with my French literature class that Marcel Proust’s letters and unfinished works were on campus in the Rare Book Library. This discovery led me to a job at the Rare Books Library and an unforgettable place I frequented when I was fortunate to study in Paris.
My Parisienne host family lived in the shadows of Roland-Gar- ros, home to the French Open. This put me 45 minutes away from Cimetière du Pere-Lachaise, the largest cemetery in Paris and final resting place for many notable artists, including Proust.
While in Paris, I visited Pere- Lachaise several times, the first time to see Proust’s tomb. But I returned frequently because of the scene there.
At Pere-Lachaise, locals and tourists alike walked the grounds. Tourists were easy to spot. They moved in groups of all sizes between the tombs of Chopin, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison while reading aloud from travel books. But the tourists didn’t catch my eye, the locals did.
Sitters and parents walked with children. Friends and co-workers walked the cemetery taking a break from the day’s routine. Then there were people whose gliding paths seemed to include a walk in or through the cemetery. What did these locals all have in common? There was a serenity about them as if they were walking among the faithfully departed in harmony.
Naturally I took my observation to the experts, my host family. Their reactions were that of confusion. Of course Pere-Lachaise was not a place of despair. Rather, their observation was that Parisiennes were able to look eternity, or its absence, in the face without fear. To be sure, death is feared and inevitable. It is not funny or a punch line. Because end of life is inevitable, do not lose sight of the need to get a plan in place for family, friends, and business partners now.
The plan does not have to be complicated. The plan should match your goals. To make the plan, though, you will have to make some decisions. Who will be in charge of your property when you do not want it or cannot use it? Who will get the property?
May this column be an invitation to you to name a trusted adult to help you make decisions about your property and your medical care if you cannot make decisions for yourself. For the parents of minor children, name a guardian in a will. Friends, a plan starts with you. I am hopeful that I am able to return to Pere-Lachaise. For it seems to me the French acknowledge the marvels of life and understand that no one can arrange it to avoid death.
Corinne Cantwell Heggie is a prin- cipal of the Heggie Wochner Law Firm LLC in Northbrook. Corinne helps people avoid asset loss, court battles and taxes, with wills, trusts and powers of attorney. She lives in Glenview with her husband, who is also her law partner; her family is active in sports, ministries that support women and children in crisis, and Boy Scouts.