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Putting Life in Perspective: All That Lasts Is What You Pass On!

Putting Life in Perspective: All That Lasts Is What You Pass On!

by John Sheppard, a founding trustee and senior advisor
SWFL Community Foundation Board of Trustees

In November of 2001, my wife Ellen gave an article to read from that November issue of Family Circle magazine, written by the horror story Novelist Stephen King. I did not know it at the time, but researched and found King and his wife have a very impressive record of charitable giving before and since their Foundation donating millions to charities.

One of Mr. King’s novels “The Shining,” was made into an award-winning movie with Jack Nicholson. It still gives me the ‘willies’ to think about that book and movie.

This article was compelling, but it was not the Stephen King I had known. Below are a few pearls of King’s realistic wisdom and truth taken from his article:

In 1998, Stephen King was in an automobile accident while driving alone on a dark, and lonely road he might have described in one of his stories. The accident nearly took his life. It took two years of rehab for him to recover.

He recounted in the article that, as he lay in the ditch, along that dark road, thinking he would die, he began to reflect on what is important in life.

Here is how he expressed it:

“We come into life naked and broke. When we go out, we may be dressed, but we are broke. (‘We don’t take anything with us.’) Bill Gates, broke. Tom Hanks, broke. Stephen King, broke. Not a crying dime. No matter what you may have made or have, (when you die) it’s still going to be a quarter-past getting late, whether your watch is a Rolex or a Timex.”

Stephen King mused: “Sooner or later…the only three things you can call your own: your body, your mind, and your spirit. So, I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others. And why not? ALL THAT WE HAVE IS ON LOAN ANYWAY. ALL THAT LASTS IS WHAT YOU PASS ON.”

King continued: “Giving is not about the receiver, or even the amount of the gift. It’s for the giver… to improve oneself… giving is a way of taking the focus off the money we have and putting it back where it belongs… on the lives we lead, the families we raise, the communities that nurture us and we nurture. A life of giving – not just the money, but time and spirit – repays.”

WOW! Did he get that right or what?

Stephen King concluded: “It helps us to remember that we are going out broke, but right now we’re doing OK. Right now, we have the power to do great good for others.” (Now, while we are alive and at our passing through our estate planning.)

“So I ask you to begin giving generously. I think you will find, you gave more than you ever had, and did more good than you ever dreamed.”

All this from the master of horror, and philanthropist, Stephen King.

I’m not glad he had the accident, but I’m glad he had an epiphany and the revelation that night!

And I am glad he shared it with us.

Like the old farmer’s mule, sometimes we have to be hit between the eyes with a two-by-four to get our attention and see the light.

Stephen King got the whack and heard the message, loud and clear.

Has the two-by-four hit you yet? Have you heard the message, loud and clear?

Are you giving now, or have you planned to give at your ‘graduation’ (passing) what you are able to give?

A man who fought in the Civil War Albert Pike wrote this “What we do for ourselves dies with us, what we do for others remains, and is immortal.”

What will be your legacy? Remember, all that lasts is what you pass on.

If you’d like to talk to us about your planned, current or life’s legacy, please either email us at [email protected] .com or call us at 239 274-5900. The staff and trustees of the SWFL Community Foundation are always ready to help you to -thoughtfully- give to the causes or charities you care about.

Note: John Sheppard is a retired estate planning attorney, author, a founding trustee of the SWFL Community Foundation, a past president of the organization and now a senior advisor, a donor and multiple fund holder.

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants. For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit

John Sheppard