A recent discussion with Dr. Kimberly Harms about leaving a legacy of love reminded me how often we think about legacy in terms of our work and reputation, and the things we leave for others. If you own material assets, it is wise to make sure you have written instructions on how these assets are to be disbursed. I saw a poor family fighting for a single golden talisman. And we've probably all heard about the court battles that take place within families where large sums of money and expensive properties are at stake. The result, whether it's an argument over a talisman of gold or a huge estate, is the same: broken relationships, anger and grudges. In some families, even a written will will not prevent these difficulties, but in other cases, practical instructions combined with a legacy of love will go a long way in leaving your loved ones with the tools that will help them navigate life afterward. your departure. A legacy of love can be anything you create. Today, for your reflection, I suggest at least these two elements: Prepare them for your death; and provide emotional life insurance.
Prepare them for your death
As my parents reached their sixties, they began to talk to me about their deaths. They had retired to another state and I visited them two or three times a year. During each of these visits, they would sit me down and discuss what to do after they died. At first, I hated these discussions. I sat quietly, tears streaming down my face, just waiting for them to stop talking. They continued and eventually I was able to listen, then participate, then remember what they had told me, what they wanted, and why these discussions were important. With my mother-in-law, there was no conversation except to tell her that her important papers were in her office. But in these diaries we would discover that she had arranged and paid for all of his funeral. When my husband learned his cancer was terminal, he shared his wishes with me. Each of these approaches differed in terms of level of teaching and depth of discussion. And in each case, the preparation was perfect for all participants. In each case, I knew what to do, how to do it, and who to involve. It will be hard enough for your loved ones to lose you, don't leave them guessing about how to honor and remember you.
What can you do to acknowledge your own death in a way that allows you and those close to you to accept your ultimate impermanence?
Providing Emotional Life Insurance
We know the importance of providing life insurance to help you solve your financial problems. Leave behind some sort of financial cushion when we die. But what about helping to manage the emotional consequences? This is what Dr. Harms recommended. It is the support that helps carry our friends and family past formal services. You can achieve this in several ways. The common theme is that you leave behind assurances of love and support. Memories that can make you cry, but they are tears of joy. For example, two years before his death, out of the blue (at least that's what it felt like), my father told me that he loved me, that he was in no way disappointed of me and that he was proud of me. During her last years without my father, my mother had similar discussions with me and we were able to overcome some of the challenges we had faced in our relationship. You may not be able to have these types of conversations. But you can still offer emotional life insurance.
A powerful form of support is a love letter. Something your loved one can keep and revisit in happy days and sad days. This can be as long or short as you want, from “Remember, I’m always proud of you” to more. You can include special memories or stories. Reminders of your link. Another option is to create a recording. Most smartphones have the ability to create recordings, and there are other free, easy-to-use options available online. I know that for several years I kept an old cassette tape because I found a recording of my father's voice on it. All he said was, “Test 123, test 123.” But it was his voice. One of my uncles created a family history book. This covered our great-grandparents, our grandparents, his generation and our generation. This is helpful because when your elders are gone, your family history sometimes goes with them.
What can you do to leave behind words of love and comfort? How can you help preserve your family history?
You will likely leave unfinished business behind, possibly in the form of difficult or broken relationships. Forgiveness is important to you and to others. Sometimes people are not ready to forgive you or accept your forgiveness. Forgive yourself and still offer forgiveness. This will free your heart, allowing you to experience a more peaceful death. And maybe some time later when you're gone it will help the other party.
In difficult cases, write a letter or make a recording anyway. And leave it with your other legacy items. You don’t have to say, “I forgive you for what you did.” You do not have to mention the source of your misunderstanding of the shared grievance. Just write or record a few kind words. Some sincere wishes for this other part to be well and happy. The story of your troubled relationship is not necessary, your words of kindness carry a kind of reconciliation.
I frequently rely on the following quote, I think you will understand why:
Some people don't understand.
that we must die,
But those who do it realize it.
settle their quarrels. — Dhp 6
We can not only settle our quarrels but also prepare our loved ones by leaving behind a legacy of love.