A legacy is the story of someone’s life: the things they did, placed they went, principles they stood for, goals they accomplished, characteristics they held, and so much more. Each of our loved ones have played a monumental part in our life and the lives of others. I often find myself thinking of ways that I can carry on my grandparent’s and parent’s legacy after they leave us. It’s a daunting task but I think we all dream of making a mark when we leave.
Some individuals may see their legacy as a physical good- a plaque at the University, a book they wrote, or a house they built; others see theirs as a personal and emotional journey hoping to encourage their children and grandchildren to love with an open heart as they did; many individuals envision their legacy as a combination of both along with a successful career and status quo changing moments. In a Vanity Fair article written by Michael Kinsley, he calls “reputation” the ultimate baby-boomer competition. For over 60 years, boomers have been competing with one another for a succession of good things. Beginning in grade school all the way through vacations and possessions during retirement and now the competition is how they will be remembered after they die.
This makes the real question for us- how do our loved ones want to be remembered and how can we carry on their legacy?
To begin carving out their legacy, start with a conversation- ask them what they want to be remembered for and get specific! Would they like something or someone named after them? Would they like a family event held in their honor? Would they like to write a book or create a photo album for each of their kids and grandkids to hand down for generations? Talking about death doesn’t have to be a depressing conversation. It can be a conversation that brings our loved ones joy as they discuss how they will live on beyond their time on earth. During this conversation, ask them about monumental moments in their life- moments they want to be remembered by, and jot them down. To help prep for this conversation, I created a list of questions that I would ask. Here they are:
- How would you define the word legacy?
- What would be the title of your memoir if you were to write one?
- Which characteristics do you take pride in?
- If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would that be?
- What are your biggest achievements in life?
- What are the top three most important things in the world to you?
- If we could honor you in a family gathering, where would that take place and what would you want us all to do?
- What roles have you held in life and which have been the most important to you?
- Would you like to leave a legacy of a physical good for your community? If so, what do you imagine that being?
- Name your favorites and preferences in each of these categories and beyond: person, place, entertainment, food, color, activities, charitable organizations, politics, music, movies, clothing brand, sports teams, vacation spots, hobbies, etc.
A legacy is a beautiful thing and the power we have to carry on our loved one’s legacy is even more beautiful. How will you help them be remembered and honored?