Shared memories, stories, are so crucial to those who have been left behind after a loss. Looking back on experiences with funerals and memorial services I’ve been a part of most recently, I can confidently say that I am now even more aware of how the gift of myself and my legacy are so important to share.
So many times we attend services for those who have died and we realize that we didn’t take the time to say or share all the things we wanted to with each other. There are things we wish we had known about them – their hopes and dreams, stories about their childhood, lessons they had learned, or how we impacted their lives. There are things we wish we had told them – how much they meant to us, and how they made our lives better.
When faced with dealing with the illness and death of those closest to me, I think of my family, and I feel an overwhelming need to be sure they really, really know me so that when my time comes, I will remain present to them through the knowledge of who I am and what matters to me. Most importantly, those memories will comfort them as they celebrate my life.
The interesting thing is, that even though I am lucky enough to say I am healthy now, I have learned that these conversations are really so valuable and meaningful. I never want my loved ones to say that there is something they ‘wish they had known’ about me some day.
For those dealing with the loss of their loved one, these conversations can be crucial in helping them through their grief. According to a study conducted by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC), an overwhelming majority of Americans over the age of 40 said that a memorial service was an important part in helping them begin the healing process after the death of a loved one. So, it’s extremely important to have these conversations, but people don’t always know where to begin.
There are many resources out there to help people begin to have open and frank discussions about how they want to be remembered. One such program is Have the Talk of a Lifetime. It’s a free public service initiative that encourages people to talk to their loved ones about what matters most to them and how they want to be remembered. We all want to learn more about the rich lives our grandparents, parents and other loved ones have led; however, we may need some help to begin a conversation. On the Have the Talk of a Lifetime website, www.talkofalifetime.org, there is a wide range of free tools and information. The site features downloadable resources such as a family-friendly activity guide, a workbook filled with advice on how to start a conversation and discussion questions to help families learn more about each other, and Have the Talk about what matters most to them and how they want to be remembered.
The important thing is to start talking now. Taking the time to talk about life, and sharing memories with your loved ones can make the difference of a lifetime. I think that having a deeper understanding of all of the people in my life, and for them to have a deeper understanding of me is invaluable. My goal is that I will never have to say ‘I wish I had known’ something about my mom, or my dad, my husband, the children in my life, or my friends. And they will never have to say that about me.