I have read that the connection to where we came from can frame our vision of where we are going. It seems so naturally occurring that when we preserve memories, we organically enable our families to embrace their lives. Below I have listed some ideas to archive these memories for them.
- Make a special box of memories and personal items for each child. Pin a note to each item with a memory attached it. For instance, “This was the outfit you wore when we brought you home from the hospital.”
- Create a videotape of you reading your child’s favorite story to them. Not only will the memories of you reading together be enforced, but your child will have a lasting recording of your voice. Consider videotaping other ways you spend time with your kids — laughing, playing, holding them, and praying with them. Every time your kids replay these videos, they will re-experience the feelings of your presence.
- Ask your children what their favorite family time memories are and record it. Remembering the past gives your children stability and can serve as a steppingstone helping your children move forward.
- Share information about where your kids came from – not just about you, as their parent, but of their grandparents, great-grandparents, and extended family. Share what your opinion of events such as “why grandpa chose to keep the farm.” Retell stories and advice that has been passed down through the generations.
- Make a recipe book with your favorite family foods. Write in the margin whose favorite recipe each recipe was, and for what event you’ve made it. “Violet’s favorite macaroni and cheese – and most requested birthday meal.”
- Create a Timeline of your life – insert baby and class photos, and photos of hallmark occasions.
- In your handwriting write your favorite way to say goodnight to your children. “Goodnight my sleepy-time bear. I love you to the moon.” Transfer it onto fabric and sew into a cuddly throw pillow.
- Photos tell stories. Collect and upload your favorite photos to a movie format, with your favorite music in the background. Make sure to include the entire family and extended family. This promotes the connection to family members and helps cement memories.
- Identify a unique memento for when your children are older, such as an engraved pocketknife, a watch, a piece of jewelry, a necklace embossed with your fingerprints on them, or a copy of your favorite book. Attach a note to it explaining what it means to you, and why.
- Make a framed collage of your family’s favorite sayings, who says them, and why they say it, i.e. “Don’t let the bedbug’s bite.”
- Share your wishes and dreams for each of your children. Record a conversation (either written or by voice) that you would like your children to know about you that they may be too young to know and understand now.
- Secure a professional photographer or a good friend to snap photos of your family laughing and playing together.
- Record a story of who you are, where you came from, your extended family, your family traditions, how you met your children’s father/mother, the character traits you saw in one another, and the unusual ways (with examples) he/she is an incredible parent now. Share your wishes and dreams for your family.
- Frame a collage or a multitude of your favorite photographs in black and white depicting memories of activities of you and your family, spouse, and children. Photographs are images that last forever.
- Gather a special box and fill it with an array of your favorite scents. Your perfume, your hand cream, and a list of your favorite brand and scent of dish soap, laundry detergent, dryer sheets. Don’t forget to add your favorite scent and brand candles. Scent has a most provocative connection to our memories.
- Underline everything that strikes you as important in the books you read. Write ideas and notes in the margins. If there is a heartfelt book you would like your children to have, write in the margins, and underline the same in that book. What an incredible way to create a unique connection to your thoughts and ideas that may have played a part in framing your beliefs.
- Assemble playlists of your favorite music and songs; and create a playlist of songs for each of your children.
- Write a list of your family traditions, of your parent’s traditions that you have carried on, and why they are important to you. List the holiday traditions and other routines or traditions, such as:
- A monthly picnic in the mountains, rain, snow, or sunshine.
b. Our taco picnic on the river every Summer Solstice.
c. Chicken dinner on Sunday evenings with Gram & Pop.
d. Family Game Night and Family Movie Night.
e. No one leaves the dinner table until they have told the family about their day.
- Maybe one of the easiest ways to preserve memories is to keep a journal. Add practical advice about living, and character-building advice only parents can share. Offer encouragement. Write the things that bring you joy and contentment, your favorite everything – colors, scents, places, and sanctuaries. Share your belief system and your spirituality. What things may you have done differently in your life? Tell about what it was like for you growing up. Add a collection of your personal likes and dislikes and why.
- Write a letter to each child. It’s very consoling to children to hear how much their parents love them. Include things you appreciate and adore them. Add life advice, and your hopes and dreams for your child’s future. Share the qualities you see in each child and let them know the reasons you know they are going to make the world a better place. Share advice for hallmark moments – graduations, their first date, driving, marriage, childbirth, parenthood, spirituality, and how to find joy in their chosen career. They can read it over and over, and the more they read it the more they will feel your love and connection.
- Create a scrapbook of treasured quotes, music, lyrics, poems, movies, scriptures, philosophy, and books.
- Keep a “Do You Remember When” list for each child.
- “Do you remember when we would turn the rocks over to look for bugs?
b. “Do you remember when we would take the red wagon to the corner store to buy licorice?”
c. “Do you remember the first time we went fishing and you snagged that big fish?”
d. “Do you remember the day your classmates were making fun of Hank, and you came home from school so saddened by how left out he felt, and you gift-wrapped your wooden helicopter, and wrote him a nice letter telling him you would be his friend. I was so proud of you for caring about his feelings.”
Include memories that illicit an array of feelings and character traits you see and is a validation your recognition of those good qualities. Help them remember the times you and the family were there for them, and your feelings about the memory.
Writing an Ethical Will – Sharing Your Legacy of Values – This website can help you work through the writing process, with examples, of writing an ethical will. Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Your Own Ethical Will
“This I Believe” is a nonprofit organization which explores values and beliefs of others through brief essays. They also have curricula for middle school children, and above. The essays can be obtained in podcast format and are wonderful examples of values and character traits to share in your journal. This I Believe
Family recipe books can be made through Shutterfly Recipe Books. There are several beautiful styles to help customize a collection of family recipes with photographs, while adding an unlimited number of pages. Any type of personalized books can be created through Shutterfly.
Create your own family cookbook online at Heritage Cookbooks. This could be an extended family project whereby all family members contribute.
Linkages & Shoestrings has a collection of reasonably priced pre-printed journals with legacy questions for grandparents, parents, and children.
Please see our previous article in this three-part series, entitled “Creating Meaningful Moments while Facing a Cancer Diagnosis” where we share ways to include our senses to make everyday memories for our families.
Toni Abbey, RN, OCN, ONN-CG
Oncology Nurse Navigator
Cancer Support Community Southwest Colorado