Kim's Thoughts: What Did I Do When I Grew Up?
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” -Henry David Thoreau
In the fall of 1970, I showed up in Athens for my first semester of law school, two weeks late (the National Guard would not let met out any earlier), sleeping on a friend’s sofa. Somehow, I survived the year. The next summer, my college sweetheart and I married; and I found a job with a local law firm. As it turns out, I stayed with the firm for 25 years. In the meantime, we were fortunate enough to move to New York City for a year so that I could receive an LL.M. (in Taxation) from the New York University School of Law – the pinnacle for tax lawyers. After returning to Athens, I began teaching tax law and estate planning at our UGA School of Law School. We had two great children and our dream home we built ourselves. What a wonderful life.
In the spring of 1996, I had a massive stroke, paralyzing my right side and losing my ability to talk, read or write. So, enough of practicing law and teaching. After the next 15 years, I recovered, though my God had not answered my prayer: “Why did you keep me alive that night as I am?” However, I heard a hint telling me maybe I should practice again; and I did, by myself with a paralegal, though I still had not received a real answer.
In the summer of 2013, my family was to spend a week at the beach. Sheryl and the kids left on a Saturday; and I would follow them on Tuesday, leaving my office at noon. Just before I left, a client showed up crying. Her husband was dying, and she wanted to know what she should do. I told her that simply she needed to take care of her husband and herself, and we can take care of business later. I began to leave when she said, “Your demeanor is so unusual; you make me calm.” My paralegal then said, “That’s the way he works. It’s like magic.” Flustered, I lamely commented, “The stroke must have done that; I must leave for the beach.”
In my truck, I found a CD with a sermon titled “Purpose,” which is what I had been trying to find for so long. The preacher’s message was essentially to find your talent and use it for your purpose. After listening to it, in the cab of my truck, I heard a quiet voice: “Kim, what you did with that woman, that’s it; give comfort to your people as long as you can.”
And I realized that what I told my client was correct; without the stroke, without the praying, without the time it took, I couldn’t have been able to deal with her as I did.
After that experience, we grew the practice with another lawyer and a staff of seven other women. Over the last eight years, we have given comfort to more than 1,000 clients, including over 650 of them who are receiving VA Pension benefits.
Throughout all this time, these 73 years, I have amassed an incredible amount of knowledge through formal education, self-study, experience, observation, introspection, practice, interactions and realization; and I just thought: Have I ever reflected on the knowledge I possess and what I’d like to pass on to the next generation?
Then, suddenly, I realized that, over these 8 years, we have created a legacy right here in my office. How can I go through my last years, keep it together and, maybe, expand the firm to help more people with more lawyers and other staff, so the firm will stay for our existing clients, new clients and our public?
So, here’s my hope: Carve my name on hearts, not on a tombstone; have my legacy etched into the minds of others and into the stories they will share.