What is Legacy Letter?
A Legacy Letter, or Ethical Will, is a letter to family, loved ones, and descendants about someone's life. It's about more than just facts. It's about the things that truly matter - values, beliefs, life stories, and events that have influenced that person's life or affected them during their lifetime.
While traditionally a Legacy Letter is written about your own life, as part of the Alzheimer's Hope Community, you can use this tool to pass on the values and beliefs of your loved one with Alzheimer's. Whether your loved one is early onset and early diagnosis, or farther along in the journey, there are stories and beliefs you know about that will touch the hearts of their friends and family. This is a great activity that you and your loved one can do together. Reminisce together about times past, things that changed their life… whether or not they can still tell stories with you, you can share the stories about them that made an impact on you. Write to their loved ones about the treasured moments, so this important document will go on through history. You may find you have so much fun doing this that you want to create one to pass along to your family!
Why create a Legacy Letter?
Whether you're writing one for yourself or someone else, a Legacy Letter is both a keepsake and guide that will be invaluable to descendants and loved ones. Not only will it illustrate the often-unsaid ideas that you feel, know, and use as a guide for your life, it will act as a roadmap for them to interpret your legal documents. If they know what your life goals and values are, they can keep them in mind as they carry out your legal wishes.
Why would someone want to know your loved one's story?
Think about your ancestors. What would you give to hear what your great-great-grandparents wanted for your life? What did they experience or learn during their lifetimes that could benefit you? For your loved one's letter, maybe there are some things they've always wanted to tell their kids, but never felt that it was the “right moment” to do it - such as an apology, an I-love-you, or an achievement they were especially proud of. This is their opportunity to impart love and wisdom to their family. In creating this Legacy Letter, you will be giving these children, grandchildren, and others insight into a wealth of wisdom that your loved one has spent a lifetime gaining.
Below are some questions to get you started thinking about what you would like to put into your loved one's Legacy Letter. Consider them a guide. Read through them, jot down some ideas, and you can think of some new topics you would like to delve into in your letter. After you make your preliminary notes, take a day or two to let them “marinate,” because you may think of new things, stories you had forgotten about. Ask some of these questions of your loved one, being sure not to put them on the spot. Just spend some time reminiscing with them. Then you can use the important life lessons you loved one has taught you to create a priceless heirloom for their family.
Ask your loved one:
- What is your loved one's earliest memory, or your earliest memory of them?
- What is your happiest childhood memory?
- What were you like as a child?
- What were your parents like?
- Did you have any siblings? What was your relationship like growing up?
- What funny stories do you remember about your family?
- What were you like as a teenager? Did you ever do something mischievous or outrageous?
- What was a dream or goal you had as a young person? Did you achieve it?
- What did you do for a living once you were out of school?
- What would you consider to be your life's work?
- What is your greatest passion?
- If you married, how did you meet your spouse?
- Are you a person of faith? How has this directed the course of your life?
- What was the best advice your parents or someone else close to you ever gave you?
- What values did you try to pass on to your children?
- What did your children teach you?
- What qualities do you admire most in your children and grandchildren?
- What has been one of the happiest days of your life?
- What was the most difficult thing you had to face in your lifetime?
- What single event taught you a great life lesson?
- What is your greatest accomplishment?
- What decade of life have you most enjoyed so far? Why?
- If you had your life to live over, is there any one thing you would change?
- What do you fear most?
- What is your recipe for a happy, successful life?
- How do you want to be remembered?
- What would you still like to accomplish?