We believe that everyone has a story, a legacy they leave behind. The question remains, will anyone remember it? Shannon has a toy iron made in the 1800s that she keeps on a shelf in her home. Whenever a small child sees it and touches it, she tells the child about how she was given the iron on a summer day by a lake, and how it once belonged to her great great grandmother. You may not have a tangible emblem (such as the toy iron) that symbolizes your life's history, but you do have a story.
Our family is rich with history, not because we have famous ancestors, but because we have shared the amazing stories and read passages from the journals our ancestors left behind.
Our family's ancestors kept journals that we now treasure. The stories of their adventures and activities keep us close to them now that they are gone. My children love reading and hearing stories about their great great grandparents.
Erin's grandmother explained how she has documented her history and what she would do differently if she could go back in time. She has written her life story in a journal and periodically writes about what has happened in her life. She has also compiled pictures from her life in chronological order by year. She says if given the chance she would write down events as they happened, so she could better document her feelings about the events.
She recorded many events that she didn't think were important when they occurred, like how her father survived the depression by building historic trails for the government. These are precious stories that we enjoy reading about.
She also says she would slow down and take time to do her genealogy and document her parents' lives.
Erin's grandfather has many fond memories of his childhood. He once told about how his mother and her sisters traveled west in an old roadster in the late 1920s. They had to drive in reverse to go up hills so gas could flow to the engine. They became very mechanically adept on this trip. When they got to the west coast, they bought a beach house. This house has become a haven for our entire family. Jeff's stories are filled with loving memories that even the smallest grandchild loves to hear. He says, "I could go on and on with my stories. I had such a love-filled life." This is the legacy his parents and aunts left with him. He passes that legacy on by telling stories, and doing his genealogy. The family has created and reproduced a photo album with journal entries.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind? Here are some ideas for capturing and passing along your legacy.
Keep a journal
This may be the simplest, and yet hardest tip. We all have busy lives and writing feels like one more chore if left until nighttime when you're exhausted. Keep your journal visible and within reach for when something happens or you have a moment to write.
Journals are great places to write the silly things your children say, or the first moment your daughter walked, even a simple thought of love for your husband or wife. These may seem mundane to you, but when you're gone, they will be a treasure to your children and grandchildren.
Take pictures and video
Document your life including holiday experiences, trips you took, your children riding their bikes, nothing is too simple that it won't be cherished by future generations. Take pictures of your child holding a masterpiece they drew for you, you'll have her big toothy grin to go with her art. We have video of our family beach house from 1942 with Grandpa Jeff in diapers. These films were silly when they were taken, but they are priceless now. Invest in converting old film to DVDs.
Family holidays are special. Sit down with your children and start some simple family holidays, write them down on your calendar and let everyone help with the planning. Our family has the great pumpkin massacre one week before Halloween every year, complete with roasted pumpkin seeds and hot chocolate. We also have a huge bonfire on the beach for our Independence Day celebrations. We've even caught our children telling their friends how cool their family is because of their traditions. Instant cool points!
Find a cause
Is there something or someone that your family is passionate about? Maybe you love family history, compile your family history into books for your children to treasure. Maybe someone you love suffers from a disease, you could find a way to raise awareness as a family. Maybe you love to do silent acts of service. Take one day a month as a family and find someone you can serve. Finding a common cause brings families together as a team, on the same level, and can create bonds of love and harmony. These bonds, and stories, can be passed on for generations if you record them.
Document your history
. Start compiling your pictures, journals, and other documents into a file or binder and organize your own history. Your children will thank you. It's hard to piece together someone's history after they've passed on from this world. Take a moment each day to gather little bits and pieces of yours together in chronological order. Even something as simple as a file folder for a year is helpful.
Whatever your legacy (large or small), the biggest impact the collection of your history has is on your own family. Some of your proudest moments are captured when your children are small. The videos you capture of little girls in tutus dancing and picking their noses, who go on to become head cheerleaders and successes in their own families and occupations encourage the next generation. Take some time (and encourage your family members to do the same), to record your life's stories. Tell about the hard times and the good times. Make sure your legacy continues for generations.