Few things in life are more valuable to a family than an elder's life lessons and experiences. Most family members realize this and have every intention of one day taking time to have that special "legacy talk." Unfortunately, because of life's distractions and the convenience of social media, that day rarely comes. Before you know it, Mom is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and Dad dies of a heart attack. Not only are they victims of their illnesses but they are also denied a chance to pass down their wisdom to future generations.
With all the technology at our fingertips today, it's inexcusable to allow our elders to take their priceless wisdom to the grave. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. This maxim applies to anyone putting off having a legacy talk with a loved one before they are gone forever. Many people have already suffered the pain of regret, a pain that may fade but never goes away, like its own hell.
If it were possible to somehow feel the pain of regret before a loved one died, more family members would find time to ask. Since that's not the case, we must do what we can to avoid the procrastination trap. Here are a few suggestions:
Act when an event presents itself. Whether you're reminded when an elder gets sick, enters the senior care continuum, etc., make having a legacy talk a top priority, no mater what. You're more likely to have the conversation when the motivation is high.
Be prepared. Thankfully, most people own smart phones these days, which have built-in audio and video recorders. This makes it easier than ever to spontaneously start a legacy talk.
Go audio vs. video. Seniors are generally self-conscious of their appearance, and often feel pressure to perform when a video recorder is in front of them. Recording in audio allows you to place the device nearby but not in their face. However, professional video biographers know how to help seniors overcome their resistance to video, and can produce amazing video memoirs.
Start with questions about an ancestor. Most seniors suffer from humility and feel uncomfortable talking about themselves. The perfect icebreaker is to have them talk about others, and who better than to give first person testimony about an ancestor?
If your loved one has already passed away, you can mitigate the pain of regret by helping to give him or her an honored place in family history. Here are a few suggestions for this:
Write or record special memories. You may be on of the few people in your family who remembers the smell of Thanksgiving dinner at grandma's house, or the way she sang in the kitchen, or how Grandpa told you about life in the service, etc. Documenting these memories can provide vital family history to future generations and secure an honored place in the family for your elder AND you!
Use photos and keepsakes. When a photo or keepsake is divorced from its narrative, it has little value to anyone except the owner. Before your memory fades, choose a dozen or so vintage family photos of your loved one, and try to fill in the blanks with what you know about the event, person or item. This doesn't take long to do yet it can be one of the greatest gifts you can give to your family.
Reading this is another reminder to take action. Before you close the page, please look at your calendar and commit a day and time to take a single action in this regard. If you don't do it, who will?
You have all the free tools and resources at your disposal right here in the Legacy Stories website. You can write your stories, curate your highest priority photos or record an oral history with our free IOS or Android mobile app.
Tomorrow a whole new host of distractions will put at risk the priceless wisdom of your loved ones. Thankfully, you already appreciate the importance of telling legacy stories or this post wouldn't have interested you. Make a commitment today and while you're helping your elder, remember that your legacy matters too!!