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Legacy of Love in Your Everyday Life

You loved them dearly. Now they are gone and you wonder how they will be remembered.

Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us they are by those who stay. Loss is our legacy. Insight is our gift. Memory is our guide. Hope Edelman, Motherless Daughters 

Saying goodbye to a loved one’s life is painful.  Your memories are many but there remains a hole, an abyss, a void where once stood your dear person.  You know you’ll never forget them but then you worry you might forget some of the details.  You worry that others won’t remember the things that made your loved one so very special.  You worry they’ll quickly forget.

To begin, don’t forget that the individual you miss so greatly will be remembered according to the life they lived.  Their special hallmarks will remain indelible. 

Still, you wonder how they will be remembered years from now.  You, as one who loved dearly, can sustain a part of their legacy.  Actually, we all do it naturally though not all of us do it consciously.  We tell their stories.  We hold on to our memories.  Still, you wonder, how will they be carried forward? 

It doesn’t have to be in big ways.  Grand drama is not a part of everyone’s daily life.  Small gestures, small things are often ideal.  But how?  What expresses their essence?

Story telling.  Telling stories is the easiest and most graphic way to remember.  Happy stories or funny stories.  Romantic stories or loving stories.  Stories about their values or their work.  War stories or travel stories.  Stories give a flavor for the people remembered by the story; their essence is a part of each telling.  Stories acquaint younger family members with generations that preceded them.

Objects of their creation.  Did they knit or paint, carve or write?  Keeping items of your loved one’s creation can be meaningful.  Choosing to display one of their pieces can become the start of conversations with younger generations.  Letters are another treasure from which younger family members can learn about those who’ve gone before.

Personal habits.  The purpose here is not to mimic a loved one.  Nor is it to change who you are.  On the other hand, there may be a particular phrase, an idiom or a unique gesture you especially appreciated.  You may choose to use it now and again.  It’s a small and simple nod to one who has gone before.

Heritage.  Many families enjoy researching their heritage.  Studying genealogy is not just easier today, it’s become immensely popular.  Websites such as ancestry.com and myheritage.com enable worldwide genealogy searches.  Libraries are another resource for tracing ancestry.

Traditions and Hobbies.  Carry on a tradition.  Perhaps these are traditions they started, perhaps they are traditions the loved.  These traditions may be holiday-related or not.  Perhaps it’s the family reading hour.  In our house, Grandma J served cracked crab and an orange and avocado salad every Christmas Eve.  Though she’s no longer with us, the family still looks forward to its Christmas Eve tradition. 

Carry on certain pastimes or hobbies.  Whether it’s cooking in the Italian tradition using favored recipes or the annual fishing to Umpqua River in Oregon, there are pastimes that are familial.  These can be carried on.

Write.   Whether as a book, an article, a song or a symphony, create a written or musical legacy.

Create.  If you are creative, a painting, a ceramic bowl or a woodcarving may be your ideal expression of remembering.  You might even decide to create a composition of your dear one’s favorite items – a collage or collection presentation.

Start something new that highlights a unique quality.  There are many forms of legacy creation. Their purpose is more than a memorial.  Often, the purpose of starting something new is to recognize the essence of the one who has gone before. 

Funded internships and scholarships, for example, usually recognize the remembered person’s work or passions.  Grieving widows, widowers, parents and friends have successfully lobbied governmental bodies for the passage of a law – often in the name of their loved one.   

Many organizations and foundations have been started to reflect specific qualities or experiences.  For example, Leeza Gibbons honored her mother and her grandmother by establishing her Memory Foundation to provide respite for families who are currently caregivers.  The Joyful Child Foundation was begun by Samantha Runnion’s parents; it is dedicated to preventing crimes against children.

Size does not matter.  Rather, when starting something new you are institutionalizing a characteristic in a way that best carries a legacy forward.   

Build or buy something in their memory.  Whether it’s a porch swing or a statue in the garden, there are objects that can tell tales about a person.  You remember how much Grandpa Zack loved the lake.  All those trips to the lake will never leave your memory banks.  Perhaps a lakeside bench would be a fitting and long-lasting tribute.  You might decide to have the bench placed in a public space to his name will be known by future generations.

A legacy of love need not be costly.  It is the heart and thought that goes into it that makes it memorable.  It memorializes the substance of a person.  Establishing legacies of love celebrates the person while it also exposes younger generations to their heritage.