Last year I experienced a health crisis that brought into sharp perspective the fact that my time on this planet is limited. As reality set in, I realized I had better attend to anything I consider vitally important to leave for my children and grandchildren now, while I still have the ability to move and to think somewhat coherently!

As a result, I have a folder on my computer labeled “Final plans and letters.” It includes my wishes in regard to funeral and burial plans, information for my obituary, a beginning draft of a will, and most importantly, love letters to each family member, which I plan to include in an ongoing project I’m calling “Legacy Scrapbooks.”

What are Legacy Scrapbooks?

I have started “Legacy Scrapbooks” for each of my children and grandchildren. Here is a checklist of what I am putting in each of them.

  • A personal love letter from me. I don’t want to regret later that I never told my loved ones what I most want them to know.
  • The best pictures I’ve taken of each one individually, as well as with others over the years. I originally had all these in big family books but have divided them appropriately into each child’s book, which will make the dispersal so much simpler when I’m gone and hopefully more meaningful to each individual.
  • Copies of family stories I am compiling that relate miracles, guidance, and divine intervention in the lives of family members. I have titled this collection, “A Heritage of Heavenly Help.”
  • Excerpts from my journals and articles over the years that mention a child or grandchild personally, that are about memorable family activities, or that I have reason to believe might be particularly meaningful to that child or grandchild. This process will be ongoing, and my articles will be on a CD because there are many of them.
  • Memories they dictate to me about any of the pictures in their individual books.
  • Certificates or rewards to keep safe and remember.

Benefits of Legacy Books

One benefit I’ve already experienced from this project is clarity in regard to what materials and pictures I should put in each book. I’ve had so many questions about that over the years. I also have peace of mind knowing that much of my treasure trove of memorabilia and pictures will be easily divided when I’m gone.

Even though they are far from completion, I displayed all the grandchildren books at our family Christmas Eve party. Many family members showed interest, and I think the project is helping some of them recognize how important they are to me and to the family.

Another great benefit I’ve found so far is the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with loved ones as I enlist their help and support on their individual book. For instance, I have a dearly loved son who has spent very few hours communicating with his old mom in recent years. But I actually got him to sit down with me for almost three hours to help me decide what materials should stay in his book and what should be tossed, as well as to get the material in somewhat chronological order. We talked! I learned more about some of his teachers and early school years than I ever did when he was in school. He got a kick out of seeing old pictures and seemed pleased with all the memorabilia of his early life I had collected into one place. We had a wonderful afternoon together.

Several grandchildren have already spent time with me looking at their books, and we’ve had such fun! The older boys might glance quickly through the pictures, but they like them! The oldest granddaughters, who are just turning eight and have the interest and ability, have helped me design some of their pages, choosing the decorations and colors they liked best. For my upcoming 70th birthday, I’m going to request only one-on-one time with children and grandchildren to help me with their books.

DVDs from Old Family Movies

I’m also gathering all our old family movies and videos from the years I was raising my children. I have committed to get the help I need to edit and compile them into a final DVD that will include narration and musical background. I want the narration to tell things that only I might remember about each event. This year, the very last of my parents’ generation passed on, and there is no one to answer my questions about past events. I want to leave my children with as few unanswered questions as possible.

Achieve a Sense of Purpose Doing Things Your Way

I’ll never finish all I’ve started, but I like doing it my own way, at my own pace. I definitely won’t lack a sense of purpose in my remaining years! All these projects have one thing in common: no one else but me will ever do them. That gives me great motivation to give them priority in my life.

You too have a legacy to leave family members that should be done in your own way. If you don’t like scrapbooking, don’t do it! Find a different medium. If you are computer savvy, you might enjoy one of the many possibilities that exist for creating picture histories or picture books online. If you don’t like to write or work with pictures, but like to talk, you might consider recording your memories and your sentiments to your family in your own voice or have someone videotape an interview with you. The possibilities are endless.

The important thing is that we decide now what we would most regret leaving undone and then do it! When I was unable to do anything for weeks on end, thinking about the things that would make me really sad not to have done gave me motivation to forge ahead on these projects as soon as I was up and moving again. I decided that while nobody can go back and start a new beginning, I could start today to make a better ending.

You don’t have to wait for a health crisis in your own life to get started. Take it from me: there are many things no one else but you can or will do, such as express your loving thoughts to family members. Choose the projects that most inspire and motivate you, that you feel would give you the greatest satisfaction and peace of mind to have done, or even in progress. Then start! Step-by-step progress is what it’s all about. Baby steps are fine. Just a page a week or a paragraph a day can add up to a very meaningful legacy that won’t be left if you don’t create it. Now is the time to begin.