What is your legacy?
Simply stated, a legacy tells the story and meaning of your life after you are gone. Your legacy could relate to your faith, family, or personal achievements.
One way to leave a legacy is through a legacy project.
A legacy project is different than an heirloom, as an heirloom is an object of value that has been handed down in a family for several generations. A legacy project is specific to YOU.
A legacy project is a tangible item meant to communicate in a summary who you were. It can be in the form of words, images -- or even music -- that provides information after you’re gone about what was most important to you, about your characteristics, and how you’d like to be remembered.
When considering a legacy project, consider talking to people you trust about what would best express what you love to do, your skills, what you want to say, the memories you would like to evoke, and how you’d like to express your love.
In my lifetime, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been the recipient of legacy projects from family and friends who have passed away. Having a tangible item that I can hold and treasure close to my heart reminds me of the special person who is no longer physically present in my life and preserves their memory.
I am moved deeply when I consider the thoughtfulness and effort, in light of all the other circumstances, that must have gone into creating a gift that was meant specifically for me, and how my loved one would prefer for me to remember him/her.
Here are some other examples of legacy projects:
Write a Book
Your legacy book doesn’t have to be fancy or professionally published. If you want to put your life events into words, consider writing a biography.
Maybe you love to cook? If so, consider creating a cookbook of all those wonderful tried and true recipes that you developed over the years that can be passed on for generations.
If you are a world traveler, why not share your impressions of all the places you have visited and the impact your adventures had on your life?
Perhaps there is a story of a single milestone etched in your memory, and it is time to put that experience on paper?
Also, it’s okay to use humor. Your family will love and appreciate that aspect of you if that is your natural demeanor!
Everyone loves to receive a letter in the mail. Consider how meaningful it would be for your loved one to receive a message from you after you’re gone that you penned and put away for such a time?
Topics you might want to consider:
If you don’t like to write or cannot write, ask for help from someone you trust.
A Piece of Art
Whether you consider yourself an artist or not, artwork is something that can be displayed in the family home where everyone can see it and have a personal connection.
Today, if you’d like to explore your own creative nature, consider collaging with magazine cutouts, quilting/sewing, or trying watercolors or pottery. With most art forms, you can usually find a way to add a note or signature to personalize it.
A friend told me that when her mother and father were first married, her father made a wooden side table for her mother to use near her favorite chair in the evenings. Over the years, her mother didn’t have the heart to upgrade the simple table because it reminded her of their humble beginning years together when times were lean.
I recently read an article about a woman who, every Thanksgiving, brought out the same tablecloth and asked her loved ones to write their names on it in pen. After the holidays, she would embroider the names onto the fabric, and then bring the tablecloth out again year after year. Imagine how touching it will be to whoever receives such a well-thought-out and loving legacy project!
Journal or Diary
A journal or diary with a specific purpose can be a unique gift, as it memorializes how one feels through daily challenges. If you are ill, recording your experiences in a journal as the days progress might be helpful not only to your family but will offer an opportunity for you to also express how you are navigating through difficult times.
If journaling doesn’t seem like your idea of a legacy project, perhaps consider making an audio or video recording.
Legacy projects are not only for those who will receive them someday but are powerful tools for the giver, as they have a tendency to resolve issues and express love.
For more information on legacy projects, contact me!
I’ve long espoused the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle. It seems easy for me because when I was a child, I moved around a lot and rarely had the opportunity to become attached to much of anything.
As an adult, I do find it more comforting to live in a small, cozy house with few items rather than too spacious of a house that needs to be filled with furniture I won't use and “stuff,” especially anything that requires regular dusting! Ick.
I just finished up a quick read of a book from a wonderfully witty and wise Swedish woman (who is "between the age of 80 and 100"), Margareta Magnusson, author of “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.” I highly recommend it!
"Death cleaning" isn’t a reference to what to do with a body after somebody dies! It is about forward-thinking that makes everyday life run smoothly now and for your loved ones in the future. It is about removing unnecessary things from your life and making your home orderly and pleasant.
Have some of your possessions been with you so long that you don't appreciate them or can't see the value in them anymore? It may be rewarding to spend an amount of time with them, and then gently disposing of them or giving them away.
When you are gone, can you imagine that anyone in your family or circle of friends will wish to or be able to schedule the time to take care of what you didn’t bother to take care of yourself now? No matter how much people love you, you shouldn’t leave this burden to them. Make your loved ones’ memories of you sweet instead of dreadful. Once someone is gone, there can be chaos enough anyway.
We can plan in advance to lessen unhappy moments for our loved ones. When someone passes away, there are things to take care of that are more urgent and complicated than going through their leftover belongings.
How to begin your own death cleaning while you’re still alive:
Your first choice of where to begin should feel natural for you. A good option is one with many items to choose from and without too much emotional connection. (Do not under any circumstances start with photographs, letters, or mementos.)
Go through the larger items in your home and finish with the smaller ones. You'll feel like you're making progress faster.
Get rid of abundance! For example, the author suggests keeping just one set of dishes, glassware, and utensils for the number of guests that you can fit at your table. If you want to decorate your table for dining, you can use flowers or bright napkins instead.
Another trick is if you are invited to someone’s home, don’t buy the host flowers or a present -- give away one of your pretty things!
Only keep books that you haven’t read yet or books that you return to often. This is usually a difficult thing to accept for a lot of people.
Remember, too, that your memories and your families’ memories of photographs are not always the same. You really should be able to name everyone in a picture if you're attached to it. It might be easier to involve your family when going through old photos so you do not have to carry the weight of all those memories by yourself and you are less likely to get stuck in the past.
Living smaller is a relief and a mess can be a source of irritation. All things should have a place of their own. Give everything a spot and you won’t feel angry, irritated, or desperate. To hunt for a lost item is never an effective use of time.
While you are death cleaning, you must not forget to take care of today's things: your sweet home, the garden, and yourself.
Thinking of where your objects will end up can be crucial. Don’t offer things to others that do not fit into their taste or the space in which they live. It will be a burden to them. To know something will be well used and have a new home is a real joy.
It can be a delight to go through things and have memories. If you don’t remember why or where you have something, it has no worth and it should be easy for you to part with.
Someday someone will have to clean up after you. Whoever it may be will find it a heart-wrenching burden. And yet, it is very hard to do one's own death cleaning. In the end, death cleaning is as much or more for you as for the people who come after you.
“…As long as you remember what you have seen, then nothing is gone. As long as you remember, it is part of this story we have together.” ~ Leslie Marmon Silko
We can all agree that we still find tradition, ritual, pomp and circumstance in our modern world at celebrations such as weddings, birthday parties, and graduations.
Ceremonies serve to honor life's landmark events; they allow us to bring into light acknowledgment of a transition or a rite of passage. They reflect our beliefs and hopes and fears and draw forth the quieter aspects of spirituality.
A ceremony, done correctly, is a transformative process and allows us to serve as witnesses to each other, bringing people together to show that they are united, and to strengthen the bonds in relationships and communities.
A personalized ceremony motivates us as an individual, honors our own Hero's Journey, allows us to accept and embrace our varied emotions, prompts our memories, and compels us to move forward after a significant life event.
Ceremonies recognize the social life, history, and material and spiritual beliefs of the people who came before us and who it is we choose to be in the future. They also provide a valuable opportunity for a tradition to be passed down from generation to generation.
Historically, ceremonies and rituals were associated with organized religion. Nowadays, an option to a church-based ceremony service is to engage a “Celebrant.”
A Celebrant is a professionally educated and trained storyteller, one who believes in the power of using personal symbolism and ritual to craft a ceremony intended to heal, transform, honor, and commemorate life’s meaningful moments.
Celebrancy does not represent any particular faith tradition but blends together the modern day desires, beliefs, and needs of the client. As we enter new paradigms, opportunities still exist to explore and express our evolving rites of passage.
Here are three examples how a Celebrant might be an option for marking your next milestone:
MICHELE DUNCAN KING
Personal Life Coach
Certified Life Cycle Celebrant
Caritas Conscious Dying Coach
Magic of Essence (TM) Facilitator
State of Oregon Notary Public