Life Journals: What Will Be Your Legacy?
Family history has always been important. Births and deaths carefully recorded in family Bibles. Intricate family trees traced across generations.
These days, family historians can turn to tools like ancestry.com to research details across the ocean without leaving their couch.
You can find the basic biographical details: date of birth, date of death, marriage certificates and number of children.
What you miss out on are the day-to-day details of a life well lived.
At Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, our Life Journal volunteers listen for these stories, while paging through treasured family photo albums. What they try to capture is the patient’s true legacy.
"When we talk to patients about doing a Life Journal, they often say they haven't accomplished anything," says Crossroads volunteer manager Wendy Wenger.
"But the most exceptional stories aren't always about monumental achievements.”
She continues, “We will learn that they raised four children or spent many hours volunteering. The little moments of life that they discount as ‘boring’ are deeply meaningful for their families."
Families can create their own Life Journals by talking to their loved ones about their personal histories.
Questions to Ask When Writing a Life Journal
1. Ask about daily life.
Did they share a room with siblings? What was their school experience like? What was their first job? What do they remember most about their parents?
2. Ask about their reaction to big moments in history.
It doesn't matter if your loved one wasn't a direct participant in big moments in history (although they may surprise you!), ask about their feelings and recollections of the time. Questions can include:
Do they remember the end of World War II? Where were they when John F. Kennedy was killed? What was the first election they voted in?
3. Ask about the music, fashion and social gatherings of the time.
What music did they like as a teenager? What kind of clothes did they wear? Where did they get their clothes? Did they go to dances? Where did young people get together?
4. Ask about the holidays.
Did their family have special traditions? What was the best present they ever received?
5. Ask about hobbies.
What was their best fishing trip? What was their favorite thing they ever knitted? What was the best trip they ever took? What's the recipe for their best dish?
6. Ask about your own relationship.
What was it like the day each child was born? How did they meet their spouse? What was their favorite family vacation?
Preserving a Legacy
Use family gatherings as a time to start these conversations. Include scanned photos of the family, letters and drawings if you have any. Record the conversations to preserve the moments in other ways.
Even if you’ve heard some of your loved one’s stories many times, write them down in their own words. A Life Journal can be passed on from generation to generation, and grandchildren and great grandchildren will appreciate the personal insight.
At Crossroads, we think of the Life Journal as a gift from our patients to their families. To learn more about Life Journals and other unique programs at Crossroads Hospice, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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