This year one of my favorite Christmas gifts was Letterjoy, a subscription of historical letters that comes weekly through postal mail. These are duplicates of actual letters written to and from people involved in various historical events. At the end of the letter a summary explains the context of the letter, describing the conditions and issues of the day. I treasure people’s stories as the greatest means to knowing them and reflecting on the human story, so as a legacy writer, this was a perfect gift for me. (https://www.letterjoy.co/)
Several years ago I participated in The Worcester Women’s Oral History Project. The project records, collects, and shares the personal and historical memories of women throughout the broader Worcester community. Focusing on the four areas that characterized the spirit of the First National Woman’s Rights Convention held in Worcester in 1850: work, education, health, and politics, for each woman interviewed, a summary is written and becomes a legacy piece of the project. A great example of legacy writing, the project offers a birds eye view of the heritage of women in Central Massachusetts. (https://www.wwohp.org/)
Legacy writing is storytelling that carries one’s experiences, connections, and values. The simplest and oldest form is a personal diary or journal. The diaries of Henry David Thoreau left a legacy of scientific observation about weather that has proven invaluable. Other famous journals have recorded historical events such as The Diary of Ann Frank. The disturbing autobiography of Elie Wiesel, Night, recounting his days in a concentration camp, has inspired millions of readers on the resilience of the human spirit.
I have written several legacy pieces for celebrations and special occasions. Christmas gifts, welcoming babies, special birthdays and anniversaries are the most common. One of the most loving was a letter written to a daughter from her parents to be read at the rehearsal dinner for her wedding. It narrated the values they had given her, the joy they felt in being her parents and their wishes for her future married life.
There are several legacy pieces associated with funeral care, the obituary being the most common, but letters to one’s heirs left with their preplanning documents is also becoming popular. Celebrating a life and honoring the memory of a person at the time of death involves understanding their legacy, hence when I work with families creating a memorial service, the first thing I say is: “Tell me about your mom…” the story they tell creates the path we take for planning the celebration. Capturing one’s legacy is the starting point for planning a life celebration at the time of death.
In a previous blog I introduced the Funeral and Memorial Information Council’s program called Talk of a Lifetime which offers a structure to help families and individuals begin pre-planning their funeral. It is legacy work that helps families share their story while living, but it certainly helps direct the path for funeral care. For more information and a link to the program visit the blog: https://blog.milesfuneralhome.com/who-you-are-matters/
At the end of the day, every life is precious as in each person’s story there are lessons to learn and a reminder of the magnificence of human life.