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There’s lots of shoes to fill

There is a wonderful country song sung by George Jones which is about great country singers who have now passed or someday will. To give you a taste of it, here are four lines:

“Who’s gonna fill their shoes?

Who’s gonna stand that tall?

Who’s gonna play the Opry

And the Wabash cannonball?

The answer, of course, is that no one can likely fill their shoes. Country singers are one of a kind. However, there is a subtheme, I believe, in the song, and that is that transitions are coming for all of us, either in life or in death. We cannot stop them. The question then is: How do we prepare for them? Who’s gonna fill our shoes?

As to dying, the answer is pretty clear — you should have a will. Even if your estate is small, it is not fair to have your heirs squabble over matters you could have addressed in a will making your intentions known.

Probably, more important, is the making of proper transitions while you are alive. For example, if you are changing jobs — make it easy for yourself, your family, your employer, and fellow employees by planning ahead for it. The same goes for politics. If you hold an elective office, you should let people know in advance if you not going to run again — so that they have an opportunity to choose a successor.

However, I think the most important transition is for those who own businesses, because transitions there can affect the livelihood of many as well as impact family dynamics.

I knew a man who was the owner of a very successful family business employing hundreds of people.

Yet, his “Achilles heel” became evident when he tried to pass the business down to his three children – none of whom were either interested in or capable of running the business. It ended up in bankruptcy.

On the other hand, I have another friend who had a family business with three children who wanted to be a part of it. He worked out a transition where all three children eventually had businesses of their own, including keeping the existing family business going. That is what you call good transition planning.

Sometimes there is no family transition possible, so other arrangements need to be made. In that regard, it was good to see in the newspaper recently where two local businesses were sold to employees, financed in part by assistance from our local Industrial Development Agency (IDA.) To me, that is exactly the kind of activity the IDA should be involved with – retaining local jobs by helping with a business transition.

So, the moral of the story is that whether we like it or believe it — transitions in life and death are coming, are inevitable and should be planned for. Enabling someone else to “wear those shoes” is important.

Yet, George Jones has a point — some country singers are so good that I don’t think their “shoes” will ever be filled. Certainly, for sure, there will never be another Johnny Cash… who, on one unforgettable day, before an audience of inmates, sang the “Folsom Prison Blues” at Folsom Prison.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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