How to Create a Meaningful Life Legacy
Leaving a legacy can mean more than just drafting up a will and distributing financial assets. It can also be about passing on your history, life experiences, and values. It can be a way to leave a connection to the people and places you love.
You might want to pass on advice, significant history, humor, and favorite memories. Or maybe there are meaningful religious or cultural traditions, language, or cuisine that you would like to share. Along with being meaningful to you, these memories and traditions are often seen as gifts to the people who receive them. Here’s a quick guide to help get you started.
Ideas for creating your legacy
There are so many mediums—writing, filming, audible recordings—for sharing your memories and values with your loved ones. Choosing the format you’re most comfortable with may be a great way to start.
If you prefer to share your experiences through oral storytelling, consider taking out a digital recorder. You can even invite others to join you in a conversation about events in your life and record those conversations through tools like Zoom or Facetime. This is a great way to help you remember more moments to share.
If you’re a musician, you might perform and record your favorite songs to share with others. Are there songs that have had a strong impact on you? Consider compiling them onto either a CD or a drive of mp3 files.
And if you want your stories to reach even more people beyond your family and friends, you could try out StoryCorps, a tool for recording and storing meaningful conversations that anyone can listen to. The free StoryCorps website guides users through the interview experience from start to finish. It provides easy-to-use tools to help you prepare for an interview, record high-quality conversations on a mobile device, and store them in the archive or even submit them to the Library of Congress.
Writing (or typing) it out
If you love to write, start with a simple ‘brain dump’ of ideas and thoughts. This can help you get the ball rolling on the writing process and bring up stories and memories you want to include.
If writing a memoir feels overwhelming, there are some easy and free resources that offer tips. The website JamBios lists helpful prompts and memory-triggering questions for getting started, like asking about your first car or major in college. It also offers a group memoir option, where you can invite others by email to join you in sharing memories together.
Memoir from Era Living resident
At Era Living’s Aljoya Thornton Place community, resident Sunnie Gordan has typed up her family history to pass down to her children and grandchildren. In the prologue of her book, she writes:
“Our children’s children and their children may wonder: Why did their ancestors act the way they did? What were their motivations? Who influenced them? Whose lives did they touch? What legacy did they leave behind? And on whom or what did they have an impact?
I am completing this family history during my 70th year in 2002. My husband and I want to leave this manuscript for later generations to answer these and other questions, information that otherwise would not be available in later years. We want to leave a treasure that can be passed on to generations to come. I write this story now while I am able to recall some of the details of our history. I write this story now while I have the energy and passion. By making our family history available to our children during our lifetimes, we hope they will ask questions, which will enhance our dialogue and further research.”
And there are plenty of other and simpler ways to share memories with writing. If you’ve always loved hosting family or group dinners, you could make a personal cookbook of your favorite recipes, including any memories attached to certain dishes. If you express your feelings better through writing than talking, spend time on personal letters, cards for future events, poetry, or songs for family and friends.
Crafting a legacy
If you love working with crafts, there are many ways to let your creativity flow. You may want to organize keepsakes, event programs and tickets, and other special items in a scrapbook documenting the decades. Or, you might prefer the simpler format of a photo album, with pictures of the big and small moments. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you might try making a quilt out of fabric that shows not just your personality and history, but that of your family as well. You can even take the opportunity to paint a family tree or create a plaster imprint of your handprints.
Make a video or montage
If you’re comfortable on-camera, you might love sharing hopes, dreams, stories, and expressions of love on a video. You could invite others to join you in conversation by sharing their own video recordings. Or, you could set up your camera to film yourself cooking a family recipe or performing music!
Leaving a legacy is a win-win
However you want to do it, the effort that goes into your legacy will be worth it. It gives you an opportunity to reflect, create, and spend time with others. And it’s meaningful for everyone receiving it as a way to learn more about, connect with, and cherish you.