When other people think of you, what do you want them to remember? Is it a particular personality trait that has defined your life? A passion for gardening or a love of art? Perhaps it’s that you always offered great advice or joyfully shared family recipes.
Regardless of what you’d like your legacy to be, now is the perfect time to start reflecting on this question, and to take steps to create something that your friends and family can remember you by.
“Legacy work is not about death and dying,” says Social Work Counselor Alan Nguyen. “It’s about life and living. It’s about making connections now and sharing the things that are precious to you with the special people in your life.”
The value behind legacy planning
Legacy planning is the process of taking your thoughts, values, wishes, and the essence of what makes you unique and putting them into something your loved ones can treasure year after year.
This could take the form of a tangible keepsake, such as a photo album or a scrapbook, or a tradition you begin with your friends and family, such as an annual bird-watching trip to a particular location.
“There are no rules, so these projects can be anything you want,” says Nguyen. “The idea is to create something that will leave a lasting impression of who you are and what is important to you.”
How to build a legacy
If the thought of starting a legacy project seems a little intimidating, keep in mind that since there is no single right way to engage in legacy work, there is also no wrong way to go about it.
“It can take whatever form you feel most comfortable with,” notes Nguyen. “The most important thing to keep in mind is that the items, memories, and traditions should be a reflection of you.”
A few legacy projects to consider include:
Writing letters to loved ones to share memories or gratitude
Recording videos with personal messages, advice, and thoughts
Creating art pieces on canvas with watercolors or acrylic paints
Writing down family recipes to share with future generations
Starting a tradition of monthly game nights
Formally bequeathing heirlooms to certain loved ones
Adding sentimental value: don’t go it alone
Another thing to remember is that legacy activities don’t have to be done alone. Sometimes, completing projects with loved ones can give them an added layer of meaning and even more sentimental value. It can also serve as a way for family and friends to cope by allowing them to be more involved with you on your journey.
“This is especially true when physical limitations are a barrier,” says Nguyen. “Caregivers can sometimes help with writing, gathering materials, or simply providing moral support. And loved ones can play a key role in helping you decide what kind of legacy you want to create.”
Go virtual to make legacy planning easier during the COVID-19 pandemic
Whether it’s organizing a regular game night via social media or picking the brains of relatives for family history on virtual platforms, don’t be afraid to harness the power of technology to make legacy projects easier.
“Zoom meetings are a great option for looking at old snapshots together, both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic,” adds Nguyen. “Virtual formats give more family members a chance to join in, increasing the likelihood that you’ll be able to accurately identify all of the people in any given photograph, instead of just one or two.”
Getting started on your legacy projects
If you’re finding it difficult to start a conversation on legacy planning, contact an MD Anderson social work counselor at 713-792-6195 for assistance. They can help you overcome any barriers you’ve encountered, and deal with related topics, such as advance care planning.