Guest Author - Shirley McGillivray
If you ask most people what they wish they had more of, in regard to family or friends who have passed away, in most cases their answers would include photos or letters.
Too often we put things off as we are sure that we have plenty of time to say the words; to tell our loved ones that we love them and to take those special photos.
Photos used to be something very special and rare; best clothes were worn and the people in the photos were very stiff and posed. Gradually the photos became more natural, but they were still fairly uncommon and prized, especially as they were reasonably expensive to have developed. With the advent of digital cameras we now have more photos than we know what to do with. The problem is, they are often left sitting on camera cards or in computer folders without really seeing them or having them developed. All it needs is a computer to crash or a card to be misplaced and all those precious memories are lost at the same time.
Another big issue is, so many of us donít like how we look in a photo and so avoid being included in most, if not all the family photos. Unfortunately this often means that after that person is no longer with us, there are no, or at best, few photographic keepsakes.
What you look like is no surprise to the people who know you, they love you just as you are and you are doing them a disservice by refusing to have your photograph taken.
Think how many times you have looked through old pictures and recalled events and happy times. By not letting your family have this, you are depriving them of similar experiences, as well as future generations who will never know what you looked like.
Perhaps it is time to take a deep breath and accept that this is the way you are, for better or worse, and take the time to honor your family and give them the legacy they deserve.
The Written Word
Again, think back to a time when you found some writing of someone dear to you. Perhaps it was an old letter your mother wrote, or a recipe from your grandmother, a story from a grandfather or even an old birthday card. Remember the joy it gave you when you looked at their writing and perhaps recalled the time or event as well as the person.
Donít your family and friends deserve those same feelings and memories? You may consider you are not a writer or worry about the way you write, but it is more important that you do write, not what you write. No one is going to check your grammar or spelling, they will be more interested in what you have to say.
Some Ideas about What to Write
If you are a parent, write a letter to each child. Tell them a little about themselves as a baby and small child, talk about how you felt when you learned you were pregnant.
Talk about their grandparents and where you lived. You could also talk about your hopes for their future, why you are proud of them, a time you spent together, something they did that made you laugh/happy, any regrets you have.
Pass on some advice - what you have learned the hard way, how to get through the tough stuff, what really counts in a person, what constitutes a good relationship, how people should be treated, what is fair, how to act when things aren't fair, goals, the future.
Update this letter every 5 years or so, adding to it as they grow.
Talk about yourself; your place and date of birth, your education, where you met a life partner, your family members, where you went to school and for how long, favorite and hated subjects, your first car, favorite sport/book/hobby, favorite vacation, music you like, what you did for a living, favorite food, childhood memories, best friend, a time you got in trouble and what happened, a time you were happy/sad, a president you remember, favorite birthday, favorite holiday, a historical event you remember, your faith/beliefs. Leave your family a legacy that will let them know more about you when you are not here to ask.
Write a letter to a close friend telling them how much you appreciate their friendship, perhaps recall how you met, some favourite things you liked to do together, favourite places, happy memories, why you think you are friends etc
Perhaps you have worked with the same people, had the same boss, the same neighbors or people in your lives for a long time. A few sentences written to express what they mean to you would mean more than you could imagine, especially after you have gone.
Memories are important but something tangible makes it just a little more special.
Some Other Thoughts
If sitting down with pen and paper is too difficult you can always record your voice or your image using whatever device you are comfortable with. The most important thing is to get it done.
Whether it's written or mechanically preserved, the idea is to get your thoughts out. Give your family the gift of you.
Decide if you want to give it to them immediately or keep it to be given at a later date. Only you will know which the recipient would appreciate more. Of course with children it would be better to wait until they are at least of age and this, with some treasured photos, would make a wonderful gift. It could also be left to be passed on after you have gone, just be sure someone knows where these letters are kept so they are not accidentally destroyed.
This a gift that keeps on giving, possibly for generations, make some time and do something special for your family.