Create a Legacy That Honors Your Loved Ones Part Two of Three
Hopes, Dreams and Everything in Between
One of the most powerful things I did through all of my care giving was
help my parents document their hopes and dreams, fears, lessons
learned and traditions they cherished. Through this experience, I learned
so much about my dad. I felt a strong innate need to help my dad find
his power and healing through his stories. I wanted to preserve our family
history and I wanted to help my parents feel complete when they
decided to leave this physical realm.
Moving from head to heart
I helped my dad, who was always in his head, express his heartfelt feelings. I learned that by asking him questions I helped him feel and heal while documenting his life.
I gained a whole new perspective into his personality. The most
valuable advice my dad received when he was young was from his father.
His father taught him it’s not what you say but how you say things that
matter most. My dad considered life’s greatest gift the inalienable rights of
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I learned my dad had never been
on a real vacation and he wanted to go to Yellowstone. His favorite song
was: “Man in My Little Girl’s Life.” If he could have only kept one
family photo, he would keep “the” family picture with him, my mom, my sister, and me. The people who made the greatest impact on his life
included the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, his mom and dad, his Grandpa
Eulin, Professor Smith, his director of music in High School, and
Chaplain Johnson from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Professionally, my dad felt most valued and trusted during a
Temporary Duty assignment while in the USAF. With a lump in
his throat, he told me he was the 22nd USAF person in Iceland and had
top clearance. He had access to anything he needed. If he could have a do
over with his career choice, he would have gone into education and been
a teacher. His favorite Christmas carol was “The Little Drummer Boy.”
My dad expressed vulnerability when sharing with me the one time he
saw his father cry and what he learned from this experience. These are
just some of the things I learned about my dad through this process. Some of these things I knew and many I didn’t. Some things we shared are private and reserved for family yet I hope you get a sense of the power of this process.
I feel fortunate to have learned so much about the man behind the title ‘dad’
and how his past affected his decisions and how he raised us.
Sometimes, when my dad and I were alone together in the car going
from appointment to appointment, he opened up and shared some of his
innermost feelings. I noticed that the night before when he would
respond to questions I asked about his life (and I captured responses in
writing), he would recall the question and want to talk further about it.
What I learned about some of my dad’s innermost fears, dreams, and
regrets was just how vulnerable, ‘broken’, and sad he had been. I felt
surprised that he would speak from his heart so openly with me. I think
he felt safe and trusted me to share his deepest feelings with me. A part of me felt additional burdens with information he shared and these are
things I will take with me to my grave, but if we are to really learn
about someone, we should learn about the whole person.
I thanked him for sharing with me and expressed my gratitude for
raising us. I reaffirmed he was a great father. I learned my dad was
actually a man, a human being separate from being my dad. There was
a lot about him I didn’t really know until now and I was grateful to
have a different perspective about my dad.
My mom, too, began to share some of her innermost fears and
deep, damaging experiences from her childhood. These conversations
typically happened when we drove places together. I gained a deeper
appreciation and understanding for her as a person. I felt immense sadness and anger for what she endured, and, with my maternal instinct, wanted so much to take her pain away.
I gained an appreciation for my mom’s incredible strength and respect for the knowledge…the minute details of their life. Through these valuable insights, I was able to put many of my puzzle pieces together about why my childhood was the way it was, why they were the way they were, and coping mechanisms they used
throughout their lives. This is one of the many reasons why creating a
written legacy is so important; you may realize things about yourself
you either never knew before or hadn’t recognized in yourself. I felt profound
compassion and love for my parents. This was a gift and helped us
all heal in our own way.
Create your personal and family legacy by documenting and
sharing stories. Ask your loved ones questions to draw out
information you may not know. Do it today.
Here are some life categories to get you thinking about:
a. Biographical information and family information. This
includes extended family going back as many generations
as they can remember.
b. List of favorite things. Everybody has a favorite book,
song, movie, food, drink, color, clothes, and gifts. The list
goes on. Do they have favorite memories of pets?
c. Positive and negative influences; both past and present.
d. Favorite historical stories and inventions.
e. Everything childhood and family. Who, what, when, where,
why and how? Include religion and/or spiritual beliefs,
traditions and childhood and family activities.
f. Education and lifelong learning. Who, what, when, where,
why and how.
g. Career/Job. Why the career they chose? Best boss? Worst
boss? Best lesson? What about their first job?
h. Who inspires them or who has inspired them the most
i. Relationships. This could include family, spouse, partner,
friends, siblings and/or any role they have in life. Include
past and present. Any regrets? Funniest moments? Most
embarrassing moment? It’s important to know that it’s
natural to have some life regrets. To the extent possible, as you discuss things, let it go. It’s in the past.
There is nothing you can do about it and that’s perfectly okay.
j. What were their favorite vacations and hobbies.
k. What are they most grateful for? What is the best advice you
have ever received? What is their proudest moment to date?
l. Look at old family photos and discuss who, what, when, where, why, and how!
One day there will be no tomorrow
We have no promise of tomorrow. If you suddenly died, would
your family know how you felt, what you were most proud of, who
influenced you the most and why, or what your favorite traditions were
growing up? Have you shared everything you want to with your family? Sharing stories helps them live on for generations to come.
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it
should be, because Death is very likely the single best
invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the
old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but
someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is
quite true. Your time is limited; so don’t waste it living
someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma —which is
living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the
noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart
and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” ~ Steve Jobs
Live your life. Share your stories. Inspire future generations.
If you missed part one of this series, you can read it here: https://tandyelisala.com/?p=4164
Next: Create a Legacy That Honors Your Loved Ones – Part Three of Three
Reigniting Family Traditions and Legal, Medical, and Financial Considerations
Creating a Legacy is such an important topic that I dedicated an entire chapter on the subject. Go to http://www.tandyelisala.com for information about my new book, Healing Through the Chaos: Practical Care Giving.
Tandy Elisala, MA, CPSC, ACT, CHt, TFT-fAlg, is Founder and CEO of Center for Inspiring Greatness. ™ Tandy is a Care Giving Expert, Certified Professional Success Coach, Author and Consultant. She is certified in various alternative-healing modalities. Tandy has 25 years’ proven experience as a corporate executive, speaker and coach. Tandy was a full-time caregiver for both parents simultaneously while kicking cancer’s butt a third time and raising three children as a single parent. Tandy lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her three kids, two dogs, and three cats. Tandy’s book, Healing Through the Chaos: Practical Care-Giving is available for pre-order at http://www.tandyelisala.com.
© Copyright 2013, Tandy Elisala, http://www.centerforinspiringgreatness.com and http://www.tandyelisala.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline and bio, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Tandy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join our Facebook community at http://www.facebook.com/groups/EmpoweredFamilyCaregiver
©Copyright 2003-Present All rights reserved
Latest posts by Tandy Elisala (see all)
- Empowered Family Caregiver Blog Interview Highlights with Crystal Kelliher - January 3, 2019
- 7 Ways to Survive Being a Sandwiched Family Caregiver - December 19, 2018
- Empowered Family Caregiver Interview Highlights with Beth Scibienski - December 12, 2018