A memory chest opens with bright yellow light and birthday cards, Christmas ornaments, plane tickets, an Eiffel tower, and a photograph.

Leaving a Legacy Behind

About a year and a half ago, I had the incredible experience of going on a legacy retreat sponsored by a non-profit organization called Inheritance of Hope (IOH).

What is a legacy retreat?

It’s basically a 3-day retreat staffed by all volunteers that serve families with young children (under the age of 18) that have a parent facing a terminal diagnosis. Inheritance of Hope teaches these families ways to build a legacy for those children that lose a parent. They give you great techniques and ideas for how to build a legacy for your children and what that could look like for your family. I think back to when my mother died and how much I would have loved to have some legacy items from her. While I was technically an adult (age 23), I would have loved to have a note from her on my wedding day or at the birth of my children.

Working on my legacy items

While my retreat was over a year and a half ago, I am still working on legacy items for my children and will likely be working on this for a while. What have I done? Here are a few of the things I’ve done so far:

  • I asked my Uncle Norbert, who is a very skilled woodworker, to build two memory chests for me. I am using both chests to house whatever legacy items I want to leave my kids for them to have forever and potentially pass on to their children.
  • I started writing cards to my children for each birthday or significant event in their lives (graduation, marriage, 1st child, etc). I wrote them in a way that I could still use them if I were alive or if I had passed on. I basically shared how I felt about them, what I hoped for the next year, and what I hoped for their future. I also had the pleasure this year of handing my children their 11th and 13th birthday cards this year. We read them together and got to witness first hand how meaningful the cards were for them!
  • With the help of IOH, I created a video for both of my children telling them about my memories as a child, what it was like for me growing up, what my favorite memories of them are, and what I want them to know. It’s a little snippet of me talking directly to them, with my voice and my face for them to listen to whenever they are missing me.
  • Every year I get my children an ornament for Christmas. It was something that my mother did for me growing up and I’ve continued that tradition. One of their favorite things to do at Christmas is put the tree up and look at all of the old ornaments from my youth and then the ones that they are adding to the tree. I’ve purchased a bunch of ornaments and wrapped them for upcoming Christmases until they turn 21.
  • I’ve made an effort to have memorable family vacations with my children, especially when school is not in session. We have planned a vacation for every month of summer since my diagnosis. Some places have been within driving distance, some places we fly, but all have been full of memories! This summer we are planning a BIG trip to Europe. I’ve never been abroad and I would love nothing more than to experience my first trip from the eyes of my children! Wish us luck! Along with this travel, I have purchased two large size maps from Etsy that my kids can scratch off where they’ve been in the world, both with me and on their own in the future. My hope is that they will get a passion for travel and explore the world around them!

Creating future memories for my loved ones

These are just some of the ideas I’ve been working on. I have a longer list and as I find time and energy, I work on crossing off a few items here and there. My hope is that my children, my husband, family, and friends will know how deeply I care for them by spending a little bit of time now on things they can look back on in the future.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on April 1st, 2023, Julie passed away. Julie’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

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