Cable-worthy but Primetime treatment: Empire’s leading man Lucious Lyons, portrayed by Academy Award Nominee Terrance Howard, is a from the streets to the boardroom music mogul who is diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) on the show’s premiere. Given three years to live by his physician, millions of viewers tune in weekly to follow the music while some of us watch this art-reflects-life script about death, dying, and the difficulty African Americans typically experience around having these conversations. Making the necessary plans to die well is Lucious’ fictionalized quandary and is also a realized truth in many African American families.
But even amid the personality wars being wrought in skin and sin, I ache to ask Lucious, "but, is your paper in order?"
I am not talking about the money, the green, the Benjamins, the war between brothers which has begun bloodletting and casualties of war. No, I am talking about the Will, the Living Will, the Advance Directive, the Power of Attorney, the Life Insurance and Catastrophic Illness Insurance policies-- the DNR, the dreadfully ominous, Do Not Rescusitate order, just in case. Just in case and before you can't do it for yourself?
"Is your paper in order?"
Not just the funeral program, but also means to PAY for the funeral. Not just talking about who gets bits and pieces of what you possess, but also having it WRITTEN DOWN. Not just circulating rumors and innuendo about your fifty cents, fiddy thou', 401K or retirement fund, but also being able to produce a document naming your intended and relationship-current BENEFICIARIES.
As African Americans focus on cultural legacies of our champions and change agents during Black History Month this February, what a timely opportunity to host conversations within our living rooms, churches, in our communities, and around this television series to talk about personal responsibility for tending individual and family legacies. Now—under the ancestral watch of remembering—is an appropoe time to broaden our conversations about death, dying, estate building, wealth tending, and legacy-making in African American families in the twenty-first century.
Is. Your. Paper. In. Order?