It is only when you – the artist of your life – decide what will be made of your life that it takes on shape. With so many experiences and milestones already behind you, the New Year is an excellent time to look back and see how your legacy is taking shape.
Some people view their legacy as something material – a house they built or a building they designed, a book they wrote, a major gift they gave, or financial security they secured for their family. Others will be remembered for their ability to change the status quo over a long career in business or academia. Yet others find it more personal, such as managing a family through life’s ups and downs or accumulating wisdom and knowledge to pass along to the next generation.
Researchers from 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair surveyed people about how they view immortality. Among the choices, they listed: a grandchild, a street in your hometown, a pew in your church, a national holiday, and a rest stop on the highway. (Admittedly, not the only or even the best choice.) The most popular response by far was “grandchild.”
Leaving a legacy doesn’t just have to happen to you. If you begin shaping and defining it sooner rather than later, you have choices about that, too.
Here are some tips from experts on determining what matters in life and making sure others see it the same way.
Here are some exercises that can help you think about what makes you unique:
Create a title and introduction for your (hypothetical) autobiography.
Make a running list of your preferences in every area you can think of: food, entertainment, politics, activities, friends, charitable causes. Your list becomes a composite profile of who you are.
Create a new resume but don’t just focus on the professional side of you. Include all the roles that you have managed and mastered in your life.
Prepare the eulogy you would like to be delivered in honour of your life.
Interview with yourself. Find an interview with a celebrity you think touches on essential topics and ask yourself the same questions.
Write down what you want others to believe about your life if you’re clear about it. Write a letter to your children or best friend. Include a summary of your life story, along with a few points of wisdom you’ve learned. You might even write your obituary. This exercise serves two purposes. Your legacy will be more likely to be seen in that light if you put it in writing and give it to someone you trust.
All of us deserve a dignified death. As we depart, it is in our nature to be held and supported with kindness, compassion, honour and love.
A way to return to the natural process of death is to bring back the light and celebrate the love that brought us together on the road to life and death.
In my role as an End-of-Life Doula, I offer compassionate support, a listening ear, heartfelt dialogue and compassionate counsel while enhancing the living process.
Those who are dying deserve respect at this time in their lives. Ideal Caregivers 4u provides caregivers on short notice if and when the need arises.
By Nancy Dahdah
Serving the Ottawa Community since 1998.
We are now accepting clients in Smith Falls, Kemptville, Prescott, Brockville, through to Kingston, Ontario.