LESLIE & ERIK LASSI:
Leading by Example for a New Generation
By Florence Yaeger, MHCF Vice President
It comes as no surprise that younger people typically don’t have estate planning, wills, and legacy gifts on their minds. After all, there are so many other things to think about – relationships, career goals, travel, families, friends and fun. But Leslie and Erik Lassi are no strangers to loss.
They’ve each lost close friends and family members, in a range of ages, and realize that time is a precious commodity; one which we never know when it will end. That’s why they’ve chosen to become Nautilus members with the Mile Hi Church Foundation.
Leslie currently serves as President of the Foundation and is passionate about her commitment to doing all she can to support our beloved Mile Hi Church. She began as an Associate Director in 2011, became a Director shortly afterward in September of that year, then Vice President in late 2013, and, most recently, President in August 2016. She leads our Foundation team with grace, brilliance, dedication and love.
Moving from Dallas to the Denver area in 1994, Leslie founded an Edgar Cayce study group (through the Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach). After having such a strong bond with her ARE group in Dallas, she knew she wanted to continue that connection in her new Colorado home. Her study group members kept talking about Mile Hi Church. Curiosity got the better of her, and after visiting Mile Hi a few times, she realized it contained the best parts of her spiritual home in Dallas – and even more.
Erik grew up in Colorado, near Evergreen, and attended an Episcopal church in Golden. He feels lucky to have grown up in a church that cared about people and taught them to make your corner of the world a little bit better. He had always heard about that “hippy, spider church on Alameda,” and when he and Leslie were dating, they started attending Mile Hi together. He realized that Mile Hi also carried that compassionate and caring “vibe” that he appreciated from his youth.
Although many Mile Hi’ers talk about finding their spiritual home here, Erik’s journey was a bit different. For him, Mile Hi came to him as he was entering his “spiritual wilderness.” He was feeling alienated from the world, not home, as he was going through his midnight of the soul. “It’s easy to lose your bearings. You doubt everything. Trust is hard to come by. Bitterness and cynicism are your constant companions,” he said. Although still walking through his spiritual journey, Mile Hi offers him a tether to hold on to.
Erik adds, “To be brutally honest, I don’t necessarily agree with everything Mile Hi teaches, but on issues that are most important to me – embracing one another’s differences, loving and respecting one another, recognizing everyone as they are – those are the values I believe in.”
Although his journey has been filled with tests and doubts and, at times, despair, Mile Hi offered him a lighthouse, a beacon home from wherever he stood. “Everyone wants to find a place of peace, acceptance and love. Even if we voluntarily walk away from it time and again, it’s nice to know there’s a place to return to – even if I’m not done spending time in the wilderness,” Erik notes.
Leslie took classes early on in her time at Mile Hi, and it offered a missing piece for her to understand how truly in control of life she was. She understood accountability and control like never before and that opened a whole new door for her. She said, “I wish I could share this information with the world, but people only find it when they’re ready.”
In 2011, one of Leslie’s co-workers, Mike Rengel, found out that she attended Mile Hi – so did he. Mike was on the Foundation board at the time, and they were redoing the bylaws, reformatting them and “translating” them into English. Since Leslie excelled at translating engineering into English in her day job, Mike thought she’d be a perfect candidate for a board member. The timing coincided well with her job at the time, as her manager had just told her that she should seek out board membership for the next step in her career growth. Of course, the Mile Hi Foundation opportunity fell into her lap serendipitously (funny how that happens!).
Serving on the Foundation board, and seeing how much it supported the church, Leslie began to think about how important it was for her and Erik to become Nautilus members. Around that time, they had seen first-hand how deaths in the family had a tragic effect on those without estates plans. She lost a number of people close to her in a short amount of time, including her mom, aunt, grandmother and two cherished friends. Erik, too, lost close friends; his dad when he was 17, and a number of friends through accidents, murder, suicide, and disease. Since they had no heirs, Erik and Leslie were highly motivated to make sure they had their affairs in order. They didn’t want to leave their estate to chance…or the powers that be. They wanted to have control of what happened with their legacy.
Leslie noted, “We wanted to make sure that others along the journey had the opportunity to see how things work, to find a true, spiritual family. We’ve seen so much good come into people’s lives, so to be able to sustain that beyond our lives is important to us.” They put their money where their values are, and support Mile Hi and organizations that protect the environment and help survivors of abuse and trauma.
When asked how they felt about being some of the youngest Nautilus members today, it wasn’t a question of being young – it was more about asking, “Can I get this done in time?” Whether or not you have an estate to put in order isn’t the issue, but if you can create your legacy before it’s too late. They have named the Foundation as a beneficiary on an insurance policy and included the church as a trustee for their estate. “I know money will go to the church, and that’s what matters,” Leslie said. Leslie and Erik believe there’s no excuse for not planning for your estate. It’s easy, and the Foundation offers support to make it effortlessly possible. Leslie emphasized, “There’s really no excuse. Get it over with while you can, while you’re thinking clearly. Then you don’t have to think about it as you get older.” Filmmaker and movie buff Erik added, “To quote Indiana Jones, ‘it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.”
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