The somber events of last week didn't do a whole lot to ply the country with a much-needed punchline or stress relief.

The sad confluence of events leading up to the death of Terri Schiavo probably did little to help epoxy the ever-increasing political and philosophical divides that currently exist and are seemingly getting wider.

Then, shortly thereafter, the death of Pope John Paul II following a lingering illness, left a tremendous void in the lives of roughly 1.1 billion Catholics around the world. But that issue, and the speculating on the Pope's successor and his future challenges, is for far brighter minds than mine to contemplate.

But back to the Schiavo case.

Now I'm not going to reveal in which direction I leaned during this tragic two weeks. Arguing the merits of the Schiavo case, to me, is like getting into discussion over the death penalty. Rarely is there ever a consensus on that subject and all that happens is there is a lot of shouting and emotion followed by periods of uncomfortable silence.

But in some ways, a not-so-surprising side effect has begun to surface in the wake of the Schiavo case.

A lot more Americans are becoming familiar with the term living will.

And education -- even stemming from an unfortunate series of events -- isn't ever a bad thing.

Financial education, after all, is being promoted by many state CPA societies and the American Institute of CPAs after several perceptive folks looked at the record bankruptcy filings and mammoth amounts of credit card debt and realized that maybe, just maybe, schools and colleges weren't quite doing their part in educating students on practical life matters involving finance.

And to few people's surprise, sales of living will software have surged, in many cases well into double digits.

For instance, sales of WillMaker Plus 2005, the proprietary product from Nolo.com, rose some 63 percent after March 18, which incidentally is the date that doctors at the hospice removed the feeding tube from Terri Schiavo and the nation began its macabre death watch.

A spokesman for the company said the living will has "become a part of American consciousness in a way it hadn't been before."

Meanwhile, tax-prep giant H&R Block, which during this time of year is usually buried in a sea of 1040s, said sales of its WillPower living will program jumped 95 percent, according to a representative for the Kansas City, Mo.-based company.

And adhering to the theory that an event happening more than twice is a bona fide trend, smaller vendors have reported a similar spike in sales of their living will software as well.

But casting aside the recent profit angle of living wills, it's refreshing in an odd way that Americans are clamoring to draw up living wills after seeing firsthand the confluence of events that can lead up to its use.

Tragically it's far more sobering than being overdrawn on your Discover card.

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