Legacy: What will you leave behind?

The diagnosis of a life-limiting illness gives a sense of urgency to making the most of the days, weeks, or months that remain. Just as we plan for any journey we take, making preparations for life’s final voyage gives us the opportunity to create special memories and share the precious time that remains with those we love. Telling your loved ones if there are particular things you’d like to do during your remaining time will help you make these plans.

However you decide to create special memories on your final journey, remember there is no right or wrong way. Make the journey the way you want it to be, because it’s about living and it’s your life.

  • Get Active. If your health allows, you may wish to participate in physical activities such as sports, swimming, yoga, dance or movement classes as a means of expressing your feelings and relieving anxiety. You may find spiritual comfort through prayer, meditation, massage, talking with friends, or attending a support group meeting. Or perhaps you’re more interested in creative self-expression such as painting, arts and crafts. You might want to make a quilt from some of your favorite clothes, or put together a DVD of old home movies to share with those close to you.
  • Memory Books. Creating a memory book is a unique way to record cherished memories. It can be as simple as a collection of special photographs, the creation of a mosaic from several old photos, or an elaborate scrapbook filled with pictures, ticket stubs, personal notes, menus from memorable evenings out, favorite recipes, souvenirs, and other mementos from your fondest memories. You’ll have the opportunity to spend special time with friends and family, sharing stories and laughter as you write captions for the entries.
  • Journaling. Sharing special memories with your loved ones can be accomplished by creating a journal together. Write stories, recollections, thoughts and feelings about your life. The written word allows you to share your values and memories as only you can. You may also wish to write letters to those you hold dear—expressing your affection, offering advice or just sharing your thoughts about your time together. Creating audio and videotapes is a unique and personal way to leave a piece of yourself with those you love. Recording personalized messages for each of your loved ones is a precious gift that allows you to express your feelings in your own voice for those you leave behind.
  • Shadow Boxes. Another beautiful way to celebrate your life is with a shadow box. Choose treasured items that truly represent you, giving insight into your interests, hobbies and those things closest to your heart. These keepsakes will be treasured by your loved ones, and offer a smile and cherished memories every time they’re seen.
  • Travel. Make plans with loved ones to visit exotic destinations you’ve always dreamed of seeing. If finances—or health—don’t allow for travel, you can take a “virtual tour” of your destination of choice. Have your loved ones help you locate photos of the location and produce a slideshow of points of interest. Cultural meals can be prepared, and your home decorated in the manner of your chosen region to give the impression of “being there.”
  • Memory garden. Memory gardens provide a living memorial of your life, reminding your loved ones of you as the plants grow and bloom each year. You may wish to plant a tree or an entire garden filled with your favorite flowers. Your loved ones may offer seed packets of your favorite flowers at a memorial service as a special way of honoring your life.