20/20 Hindsight: Lessons on conflict resolution from the home for the aging Lesson #6 The burial shroud has no pockets
LESSONS ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION
FROM THE HOME FOR THE AGING
THE BURIAL SHROUD HAS NO POCKETS
My great-grandfather worked in a funeral home as a young man, preparing the bodies for burial by sewing burial shrouds, the simple muslin garment which traditional Jews were buried in at the time. He told my father, his grandson, that it was there that he learned that there were no pockets in the shrouds, meaning nobody could take anything with them when they died. I understand this is now folklore, and perhaps my Zaide didn't really make up the saying, but the lesson remains important. My Dad recently pointed out to me during one of my visits that there is a man who resides in the Home for the Aging who boasts of being the wealthiest man there. And you know what? Nobody cares.
I draw the lesson for mediation this month as a reminder that while retirement and old age take some planning, often times people need to be reminded that once they have "enough" for their own needs, there is no need to be miserly or petty. If they can avoid litigation and settle their disputes amicably, they may even live longer and will surely avoid hardening their hearts during the months or years of conflict that would otherwise ensue. Nobody takes their wealth with them to the grave.
P.S. I had a chance to co-facilitate a "Junto" at the International Academy of Mediators Conference with Professor Stephanie Blondell of Pepperdine's Straus Institute last month in Banff, Ontario. The topic was "The best little lies and the role of Lying in Mediation". We had a fascinating discussion. I hope to see you over the summer and remind me to give you some of the highlights.