My mother-in-law will soon celebrate her 90th birthday. Our family has discussed possible ways to remember this special day. We know what she DOESN’T want. No big parties or lavish gifts. She’d prefer a family-only get together at her favorite restaurant or at one of our homes.
Perhaps you’re thinking through how you will help your aging loved one celebrate his or her big day. You might consider a Legacy Letter, a type of tribute to the wonderful contributions he or she has made to you, your family and to the broader community. A Legacy Letter can stand alone or be part of a celebration, big or small.
The previous two posts discuss the four parts of a Legacy Letter in more detail.
1. The Why: Think about what you want to say and how you want the receiver to feel after reading the letter. Focus on the values 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. Things like taking hikes together, doing crossword puzzles, attending football games, proofreading college term papers.
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.
A Legacy Letter will be part of my mother-in-law’s celebration. We’re working on a draft
If I had to choose a word to describe you, both on your 90th birthday and throughout your life, that word would be “Giver.” You have showed generosity to every member of our family and to countless others whom we don’t know.
For example, you hosted family dinners well into your 80s, and were generous in baking pies, cookies and other desserts. We certainly knew that when we left your home, we would be “stuffed to the gills,” with yummy food and good memories. At Christmas, you gave the children special personalized treats which they didn’t receive at home. And when your great-grandchildren began arriving, their parents could count on a baby afghan, hand-made by you–blue, pink or white.
Your church family and retirement community also received your gifts of time and talent. People could count on you to attend services and other functions and to do what you were able to do to help others. You worked at the senior community annual bazaar for years, making sure the pies were cut just right and the coffee replenished.
You have helped me understand the meaning of hospitality and the importance of doing my part to help others. Our whole family would echo this sentiment: you are a giver, and we thank you for it.
Our children are blessed to have a generous Grandma and Great-Grandma for their children.
We have some time to revise the letter, and I’m sure we will think of more to say about this woman’s legacy.
Good luck on your own legacy letter!