Updated on 12.30.11

2012 Resolution #4 – Create a Lasting Item for My Children and My Wife

Trent Hamm

For the rest of this week, I’m going to discuss the goals I’m setting for 2012 and the plans I have for achieving them.

When I think back to some of the people in my life that have passed away that I greatly miss, one of the things that really bothers me is that I don’t have some memento of their life that lets me have at least a sense of the person that they were. All I have are memories, a few old home movies, and lots of photographs.

The one exception to this is my great grandmother, who spent a significant amount of time during the last few years of her life writing something of an autobiography. I had the opportunity to read most of it once and, in the near future, I’m hoping to be able to have a copy of it of my own and read it again. It’s just a way to touch the thoughts of a person that I loved very much that I’ll not be able to see again in this life.

This, of course, brings me to thoughts of the people I love the most: my wife and my children. What will they have to know me by if something were to happen to me?

I’m not foolish enough to think that I’m infallible. I’ve protected their financial future with a sensible life insurance policy and an estate plan.

What I’d like to do is, in some way, protect their emotional future as well. What would I want to leave for them as people if something were to happen to me?

For my children, there’s simply a lot of life advice that I want to impart on them as they grow older, become adults, and face their careers and lives. I’d like them to know about their ancestry and I’d also like for them to be able to know something of the person that I was, what I held dear, and what I felt about them.

For my wife, the mission is a bit different. She already knows most of the things that I would leave for my children. What I would want to leave for her is a different gift: the knowledge that I loved her very much and that I want her to move on and have new experiences and a new life after I leave, whatever those may be. I think a lot about the scrapbook that Ellie created for Walt in the movie Up that recollects their lives shared together and ends with an admonition that Walt creates his own adventures.

This is challenging work, but it’s also valuable work. It’s something I can give to my children when they become adults even if I’m completely fine. It’s something I can continue to update throughout our marital life and leave for Sarah.

My goal in 2012 is simple: I want to create a journal/scrapbook for each of my children and for my wife that collects together the things mentioned above. I want them to have these items if something were to happen to me in the near future, and I want to give them to my children as they reach adulthood. As for my wife’s book, I’ll leave it for her to find it when the time is right.

For the most part, these will take the form of handwritten journals. I communicate so much through the written word that this seems natural to me. Although the material covered in the journals for my children will be similar, I’m going to write them each individually and I hope that they do vary some.

As for my wife’s memento, I hope to just recollect everything that’s happened in our lives together to this point and add to it regularly, with a note on the last page reminding her that I love her and that I want her to have a beautiful life, whatever that may be.

If a time comes in their life where they yearn to reach out and touch me in some way after I’m gone, perhaps I will have left behind something that can fulfill them at that moment when they need it.

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  1. kc says:

    Sounds remarkably like “Tying Up Loose Ends” from March of this year.

  2. Jennifer says:

    My mom did this for me and I’ve been doing it for my kids, though not regularly enough. Mine has also taken the journal form. I started my journals when I was pregnant with each of my kids.

  3. deRuiter says:

    Great idea. Part of it should be audio, so they wil never forget the sound of your voice. There wasn’t the easy / widely available technology around when my Grandparents were with us, and I am bitterly sorry not to have recordings of their voices.

  4. Joan says:

    What a great idea. Maybe I’ll start a journal, with flashbacks of memories.

  5. valleycat1 says:

    Nice idea. Some recorded stories would be nice too (how many times do you hear about people keeping the answering machine message or last voice mail left by a love one, just so they can hear their voice again?).

    In a way you’re already sharing your legacy with your family, just not in writing. You’re making your family your priority and creating memories they’ll carry forever of you spending time with them, as a family & one-on-one. And they see who you are by your commitment and actions.

    I have several older relatives who have passed away, and a few of them had put together something similar. The books are nice to have, but the memories of our times together and stories they shared with me are what I hold closest to my heart.

  6. Diane says:

    Interesting post for me on a personal level! It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to and started working on myself.

    We lost our Mom in May at the age of 76. My sisters & brother & I were happy to find some things she’d written about her life. Not really written to us, but reflections on her life & childhood. Though we knew she was going down, and she did too, she was never able to admit that she was dying and so we weren’t able to have conversations about things that would have helped us cope.

    Consequently, I’ve written a joint letter to my sons (ages 20 & 25, both still living at home), reflecting on their meaning in my life and sharing some of my favorite memories of our life together. I also started a few other “essays” on my life as a child and memories of my parents & grandparents. I’m also writing one on things I want them to know, advice & things I’ve learned that I’d like to share with them.

    Most of these things I’ve said to them already, at various times. But if something should happen to me suddenly, I want them to have these things to read later and remember.

    I also left a list of friends & family to call if needed, and instructions about my finances, household accounts and life insurance. They know where these things are in my lock box if they ever need them.

    Several years ago I started crocheting baby blankets for family members & friends. This year I made a baby blanket for each of my sons to have, just in case I’m not here to do that when they have kids. After making them for everyone else, I’d hate for my sons to miss out on that. I let them choose the yarn, finished the blankets & labeled & stored them in the closet. Since they both picked blue & white, I’m going to do another girls blanket for each one next year.

    I’ve also scanned years of photos of my parents, grandparents, my childhood & their childhoods, and I’m storing these on flash drives for them at the moment, while looking into longer term storage solutions.

    I hope I’ll be here to see them get married & have children, but I feel better knowing that if something happened to me suddenly, I’ve left everything I can to help them.

    So far all the writing has been on my computer (because it’s quicker!), with signed printouts placed in the lock box in a folder for each of them, but I like the idea of hand writing some of it and leaving a video recording. I’ll have to add that to my list!

    Thanks for sharing your plans and wishing the best for you and your family in 2012~!

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