Barbara Bates Sedoric
Our interview with November DEATH speaker, Barbara Bates Sedoric - Founder of LastingMatters.
PKX: Tell us about your journey to being the expert on the DEATH conversation?
Barb: My answer is two fold, maybe three fold.
Many years ago I was a paralegal in a big firm in Boston and I was often sent to widow’s houses after the death of their spouse. I was looking for documents for a court inventory.
What I found besides documents were…families grieving, families stressed out, decisions that hadn’t been made, arguments between siblings, and essentially chaos at a very emotional time.
It really stuck with me.
I was dumbfounded that every time this happened, nobody knew what was going to happen when someone passed away. They had boxes of things and papers, but they were missing almost everything else of importance.
The second part of the answer is that it’s in my DNA.
I grew up in three generations of financial advisors and I’m married to Tom, a nationally recognized wealth manager. We always talked about the “what if’s.“
The third part is that this happened to me.
11 years ago my brother called me and said two words that changed my life: “Mom’s dead.”
I had just talked to her the night before. The adrenaline kicked in, the panic, “who do I call?” - all of the chaos I had seen so many times.
We found ourselves in a place of not knowing the details of what my mother wanted at her funeral.
I spent a few weeks with my dad cleaning things out.
So my decision to start LastingMatters happened when I talked to my dad in those weeks after my mom’s funeral. I decided this was not going to happen with my dad. When the time comes, and we really do not know when it will, ever, I wanted to be prepared.
I also realized I had a solution to a big problem.
And there was nothing like the LastingMatters Organizer out there that I could find.
It took me 4 years. I interviewed 100s of people - and it boiled down to one question: What do you wish you had known before someone passed away that would have saved you time, money, stress, and family discourse?
We wanted to design an approachable organizer about life and death that wasn’t morbid.
People don’t want to feel helpless - this organizer empowers people.
PKX: Where and how do you find creative inspiration?
Barb: I never thought of this as being creative before I was asked by CreativeMornings. But then I realized - it is!
It’s very thought provoking to start talking out loud to people about your death.
Even the language around DEATH is provocative. We “lost” Uncle Joe. Well we didn’t “lose” him. People don’t want to use the words even.
It inspires me to share my work with people, and then have them think about their own individual needs.
Maybe you don’t want to have a funeral? Maybe you want a cocktail party!
People get creative with death. We plan for everything else - parties, weddings, retirement. But we don’t do a good job planning for the inevitable event.
People are afraid because they think that if they talk about it, it’s going to happen.
Well, it IS going to happen. You are going to die.
And we don’t know when.
So let’s talk about it.
It’s as simple as “do you want to be an organ donor?” Do you know the answer to that question?
It takes a year to plan a wedding. The funeral is the same thing - except you have to do it in 3 days.
Everyone has a story to tell.
Writing it all down is a gift you can give to your family and loved ones. A gift you can get and receive.
PKX: How did this months DEATH theme speak to you?
Barb: I recognized my ability to create something that can help people. I found that powerful and meaningful.
I think that everyone will benefit from having this conversation.
And the holidays are perfect. Place an organizer on everyone’s table setting and let the conversation fly.
PKX: Any advice to young legal professionals?
Barb: It’s very targeted area - I don’t know many people who do this.
If you are really interested in helping other families in a more meaningful way:
You have to be at ease talking about death. It’s not for everyone.
Even my friends sometimes say to me “is this really what you want to do?”
My approach to death is practical. I want people to be able to grieve in comfort. It’s that simple.
PKX: If you could open a door to anywhere, where would you go?
Barb: I would open a door to the past.
To my grandparent’s house in Rochester on Christmas morning.
I would see people who have passed away.
I would be that carefree child again - not the responsible adult that I pretend to be.
I would love that.
PKX: If we could invite anyone to speak, who would it be?
Barb: Ian Bremer. Because he is the most intelligent global thinker, and this is a global organization. He’s my first choice.
I would invite a friend of my husband’s, Gloria Steinem. She is one of the most thoughtful people I know. When you are in her presence, you are the only person that matters.
I also like Michael Kimmel - author of Angry White Men. Read it if you want to understand the political environment we are in today.
Locally - my husband Tom Sedoric on financial literacy and civics education.
Thanks Barb. We are looking forward to having this conversation about DEATH with our own families.