Sentimental Planning. This is where you are only limited by your imagination! Let’s have some fun!! After you are gone, the ones left behind are looking for a way to stop hurting. They are looking for validation of their relationship with you. These ideas are fun and can start anytime in your life.
Memories are sometimes the best legacies we can leave. When my children were little, my parents used to take the children for a weekend, individually, and do something that was of unique interest for the child they were with at the time. These trips gave them memories of my parents that they could carry with them forever. Toys and gifts were fleeting. Since my own experience with death, I was very aware of mortality and wanted my children to really get to know their grandparents and visa versa. My desire was to have both side enjoy good memories to carry in their hearts forever! We didn’t need more things, building memories was far more important to me. I can’t tell you how wonderful that was for both parties! Thankfully, we are still making wonderful memories together all the time! However, if you are like me and have experienced many major life events, perhaps you have lost those memories. I myself have lost chunks of time in my life. I used to keep journals and take pictures and movies of my children and their progress in life. After Caitlin died, that journaling stopped. Over the years I have tried to do more but there has been no real consistency. My focus now is on making new memories. My children are excellent picture takers and of course we now have social media so things are a little different then from my time. Memories are invaluable. No one can take them from you and they provide comfort to those that are left behind. Why do you think we see so many slideshows at weddings and funerals? It brings back good memories of the people we love. So make a point of creating memories with your loved ones! Maybe is it is family vacation or a weekly dinner night for the whole family! Whatever works for you and your family is perfect!! Just be very deliberate in creating good memories that will outweigh any bad memories in your family's future! Don’t be shocked here...no matter how wonderful your family is, it’s ok to admit that sometimes there can be friction. In the end that difficult patch of time only makes people closer if they stick together through it and don’t give up!
Traditions are also a way to leave a legacy of love. These can be carried on with your loved ones. They will feel you are “present” when they uphold a tradition you passed down to them. It’s comforting for your family to have these things. Maybe you have a tradition, like we did, of going to cut down a Christmas tree every year. It’s simple and fun. There is always an argument over which is the best tree, and in the end every tree is glorious when it is home and decorated. Maybe there is a favorite recipe that you cook that your family loves. Teach the next generation how to make it! For them it will feel as if you are at the table with them, enjoying your cooking! There is a tradition I started when my children were little. This tradition meant the most to me because I could include Caitlin! Every year at Christmas I would buy my children a Christmas ornament. It would be relevant to what was going on that year for them. Perhaps a soccer ball, ballet slippers, computer or baked good for a favorite food! For Caitlin I always bought angels. These would go on the tree every year. As each child turned 18, their ornaments would go into their own box so that when they had their first apartment they could take that part of their “history” with them. In a new place, they would have some remembrance of home. Last year was the first year my children were all out of the house. I went upstairs to get my box of ornaments and I ended up with a tree full of angels! It was beautiful and so unexpected. It really is a great legacy to leave!
Here is an idea I just heard recently and I loved it! Have family members write letters to your child on each birthday. Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles can express feelings and memories of the child in their letters. Later on you can even add cousins! Perhaps they could put in pictures of themselves with that child and put them in an envelope. Your job is to save the letters in a special box. On the child’s 18th birthday, you can present them with these letters to read. Before entering a new phase of their lives (going to college, for example), they will be bolstered by reading about things they may not remember. They will see how much they have been loved over the years. Some of these letters may reflect love from family member that are no longer here! What a gift to the child to have all this history in one place. Now you have created a firm foundation of love. The knowledge and security your child receives from these memories will propel them forward in life with confidence!!
Leaving a legacy of love is so much more that estate planning. In this time we are in, many people do not “feel loved”. Our teens are committing suicide at an alarming rate. Parents are working so hard to provide for their families that some of these simple yet affirming things get pushed to the back of the shelf. This section of the book is to help you bring to the fore some interesting ideas for you so that you can be excited about legacy planning. Please don’t feel condemned if you haven’t done any of this. There is no time like the present! Just planting a seed in your heart is the start of a wonderful legacy. Here are just a few ideas to get you started. I’m sure you all could help me fortify this section of this guide with your own wonderful ideas!
Traditions and memories we take for granted. We are making them every day even if we aren’t aware of it! I know one day I won’t be with my children. I want them to continue to know how much I love them. New traditions are hard to start but now that I have an empty nest, I want to create something new to continue on the legacy I hope I am leaving for them. These are the fun parts of planning. You can get everyone involved. Do you read to your children? Did you have a favorite book you read to them when they were little? Perhaps you buy them that book when they have their first child. (Or if you are like me, you have it saved in a box!).
As I said, you are only limited by your own imagination. Have fun with this part. Have a few laughs. Be creative! Not the creative type? We have put together a Pinterest page so that you can share or borrow from others inspiration! These are the things that will be cherished by your loved ones more than anything else. Plus, they will have something wonderful to share with their future generations...just think….you will NEVER be forgotten!
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