A couple of years ago, a very close aunt of mine passed away. She was the keeper of the family history. She found relatives we never knew we had and even created an extensive family tree that could plaster the walls of a decent size bedroom. She knew connections and remembered events and dates like no one else I knew. As I started noticing changes in her physical health, it occurred to me that when she was gone, no one would be able to fill that role. So much of the history of our family would be lost. So I asked her to start writing about her life. She couldn't understand why. To her, her life was unremarkable. To me it was incredibly special and a story I wanted preserved for future generations. I wanted her to leave us a legacy by transferring the knowledge of those connections, people and history to me. Unfortunately, by the time I asked her to do this, her abilities were already declining. She wrote some, but not enough to give me the story I wanted. I realized, it was something I should have asked her do years before or sat with her to create when I had the chance. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day, that the years fly by and things get forgotten or put off until it is too late.
When I worked as a hospital social worker, the concept of leaving a legacy for family came up often, especially with people who were nearing the end of their lives. There were many ideas people had - some talked about a video or audio tape, some were more inclined to write letters and others wanted to gift something special to a person in their lifetime. I remember one woman saying that she wanted to give her grandchild a special necklace from her "living grandmother, not her dead one". As a young mother, immersed in a job where illness was commonplace and things happened to people regardless of age or circumstance, I decided to start creating a legacy for my family from when my children were born. Every year, on their birthday, I would write them a letter from me - I would talk about what they had done, learnt and accomplished in that year, how proud I was of them and how much I loved them. Some years those letters were long, other years, not so much, but I would always write that letter. Those letters went and still go in a box and one day, they will each get their own box to go through. Perhaps I am simply nostalgic; I think of it as something beyond that though, something that will give them a sense of history and belonging, perhaps at a time when they need it the most.
I wonder how many of our readers think about legacies and how to leave them for their loved ones. Would you consider making a video? Writing a letter? Recording your life history? Do you have seniors in your life who you would like to write out their family history? How important do you think this is?
We'd really like to hear from some of you about this topic!