It’s a big occasion: birthday, anniversary, holiday. Your aging parent or loved one deserves something special. But what do you give to the person who has everything?
Health Advocate Melanie Vetter of Wellfleet Circle as a ready response: legacy letters. She explained the concept in a presentation for the Certified Senior Advisors called “Legacy Letters: Valuable Tools for You and Your Client.”
Legacy letters are a bit like eulogies, except the receiver is alive. Generally written in second person, they address the person directly rather than speaking about the person in the style of a business recommendation. The letter highlights the person’s positive key value, such as generosity, moral strength, humor, leadership. True stories and memories follow to illustrate the impact of the person’s life.
A bonus of a legacy letter is that it can be read over and over again. It can be read in front of a group, or to the recipient alone. Either way, the person is honored and recognized for the legacy he or she leaves the world.
Vetter offers these tips for writing a legacy letter, whether it’s to an elderly loved one or other family member or friend. You can also write a legacy letter to a younger person, perhaps at graduation or marriage.
1. The Why: Think about what you want to say and how you want the receiver to feel when he or she reads the letter. Focus on the values, traditions and wisdom he or she has imparted to others.
2. The Story: Include things that highlight your main idea. These are the concrete things that make your letter ring true. Thinks like taking hikes together, doing crossword puzzles, attending football games, proofreading college term papers. Your list will be as personal as the relationship between you and the recipient. How have these memories shaped the person and illuminated their values?
3. The Reflection: Phrases such as “You have taught me…” and “You helped me understand…” show your gratitude to them for the impact on your life.
4. The Love: Tell the person how much you love them. Show how grateful you are that they are an important part of your life and the lives of others.
Do you have experience writing a legacy letter? Would you like to write one?