I have been thinking a lot about legacy these days. The start of a new year always puts me in the mood to be more intentional about what I want for the next 12 months. Yes, it’s goal setting time, but more importantly, I want be more deliberate in how I show up and leave a positive impact with my life this year.
If you could leave the people you love with something important when you check out of life, what would it be?
- Your grandmother’s rocking chair?
- Your family photos?
- Your home?
When we think about leaving a legacy, so often what we’re talking about is grounded in materialism – in things collected, loved, handed down, that have resonance for us. But…
- Do your loved ones know why those things matter to you?
- Do they know the stories of the people from whom those treasures came?
- Do they know what you hold dear?
- Who you were as a child?
- What really made you who you are?
- What words of advice or encouragement do you want them to carry with them through their lives?
Surely, to those who love you and whom you love, these thoughts and memories are at least as important as Grandma’s rocking chair – and much less fragile. That’s why, when I saw THIS wonderful story about legacy letters, I knew I needed to write about it – and create one for myself.
What exactly is a legacy letter? To start with, it’s not a legal document. Sometimes called an ethical will, it’s really whatever matters most to you; a very personal distillation of your values and experience. There are really no set rules or rigid guidelines on what needs to be in it, and yours will be unique to you.
But like a legal will, it’s very much better to prepare it well ahead of need, and to share it with the people for whom it’s intended while you’re on this earth. It’s an act of love and giving that will help to define you, and to comfort those you leave behind. One expert in the topic, hospice medical director Dr. Barry Baines of Minneapolis, suggests you begin with three questions:
- How do you want to be remembered?
- What’s something you’ve learned from your parents?
- What challenges have you overcome?
You don’t have to be a hospice worker to know that none of us are here forever – but for most of us, the “end” seems like a distant abstraction. So much to do, so little time – that’s certainly my experience! But some things are worth making time for, and writing and sharing your legacy letter is one of those. We spend our lives working to pile up material wealth, hoping to make life easier and the path smoother for our families and friends or causes. But what we leave in the hearts and memories of those we love is so much more important.
Make creating your own legacy letter your first important act of 2019, and Happy New Year!