By: Linda Burhans
Seniors bring so much to their families it is hard to capture the full importance of their contributions. From family history to parenting advice to creating precious memories, your influence is felt in ways both obvious and subtle. Imagine, then, the hole that will be left behind eventually when you are gone. You can take steps to help fill that inevitable hole right now, though, by finding ways to “pass it on” and share yourself with your family well into the future.
Capture your family history
A great way to share yourself with your family is to capture your family history. There are lots of different ways to do this, and most are really simple to accomplish. Here are a few examples:
Photo albums – You know all of those old photo albums and loose pictures in boxes? Make it your goal to sort through them and create family history photo albums. Make notes by each picture with names, ages, and family relationships of the people shown. Or, you could make individual photo albums for each of your children or grandchildren, each with a special note communicating something special about that person.
Personal journal – Create a personal journal to record your memories and thoughts. You can talk about anything and everything that comes to mind, such as your fondest memory of growing up, your biggest parenting challenge, your favorite foods, the story of your first kiss…..the list could go on almost indefinitely. Mix it up by including a variety of topics, ranging from sentimental to humorous to inspiring.
Video tour – Take a video camera and tour a place that has meaning for you. Go back to the neighborhood where you grew up and walk around it with the camera running, capturing your memories and thoughts along the way. Or, you might set up the camera and record you and a good friend having a conversation about the things you have done together and the adventures you have had. The idea here is to take a piece of yourself and preserve it in a way that your family can enjoy for a very long time.
Write a letter – Write a letter to each member of your family, sharing your fondest memories of them and expressing your feelings for them. Let them know something about them you’re proud of, and share with them some of the life lessons you think are most important to pass on. Once you’re finished you can choose either to share the letters right away, or put them in a safe deposit box with your will so that they will be there waiting when you are gone.
Record your voice – Chances are you have read plenty of bed time stories to your children and grandchildren over the years, and they probably have good memories of listening to your voice tell their favorite tale. You can help these memories last even longer by recording yourself onto a cassette tape as you read each child’s favorite book. Give these as birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, or as a “just because” gift at any time of the year.
Share special treasures now – Someday when you’re gone your family members will sort through your possessions and probably choose a special treasure or two that has meaning for them. Why wait for that day? Why not give your family members a special treasure right now when you’re able to see their reaction, share with them your thoughts and other information about that treasure, and be part of their enjoyment of the treasure you have given them?
Some people are reluctant to do some of the things we’ve mentioned above because they feel awkward or uncomfortable about openly acknowledging their own eventual passing. This is certainly understandable because it’s a very difficult subject to think about or discuss. If you’re not sure this approach is right for you, try starting with something small and just see how it goes. Chances are you’ll find it isn’t so awkward after all and you’ll get lots of positive feedback from your family members. And remember, no matter what you choose to do your family will always carry with them their own memories of the contributions you have made to their lives.