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Lifestyle: Ever thought of writing a legacy letter to your family?

04 Oct 2019

Dad died last year and Mother four years before that. We four children dealt with the legal and financial side and shared their belongings between us, and our lives have returned to normal.

I surrounded myself with many of my parent’s things, much to my wife’s frustration. My parents were of a different era where one stuffed as much as they could into a large home. Their things don’t necessarily fit with our interior design ethic, which is modern and minimalist. Mum was into a style where every bit of flat space had something on it. A little bit Victorian, some art and craft, and a little bit cottage.

Still, it gives me a lot of comfort to wake up in the morning to a painting that father had bought for him in Siena in 1945 after the war by a grateful Italian patriot, to step onto a Persian rug that my mother collected many years ago and to reach over to an arts and craft bedside cabinet that my mother’s family bought out from England in the 1850s.

I have my mother’s garlic crusher that she used every day of her life and her favourite spatula in our kitchen drawer. What a blast it is to quietly sense their history when I use them. My daughter has a string of pearls and my wife a precious brooch from my mother. I have my father’s regimental sword and a miniature set of this war medals. Such treasures. All the more enjoyable as I had to fight off my siblings in the scramble to get what I wanted. I can’t believe I actually have them, to use and to pass on when my time comes.

We did throw a lot of things out as you would expect. Mum died before Marie Condo started her tidy-up movement and Dad was a well-known archivist.

What I miss most is their wisdom. The ability to pick up the phone and chat about life. I am probably thinking of them before they got really old. Dad was 101 and mother 89 when they died and by that stage their ability to hold an extended conversation had gone. I would like to spend time with my parents when they were my age now, 68. Knowing what I know now and what they knew at my age. That could be a truly memorable conversation.

But I ask too much.

What would help, or could take its place, would be a letter from them to their children. Even a list of their values with some explanation to flesh them out. Life principles and the like. What a delight that would be for the 14 grandchildren and 30 + great grandchildren that are well on the way.

We had a values conversation in the weekend, my wife and 11-year old daughter, and it was the start of something that I am confident I can flesh out over a period of time, before I get beyond it. I have a nice, strong notebook with a cover that should last a long time and I’ll start recording in it some of these ‘meaningful’ conversations we are having with our young tween. There will be the odd shopping list or gardening tip in there as well, but that might make it more interesting down the line. I will be careful to remember who my intended audience is, otherwise, it could go right off track.

Something to leave for future generations, when they are most likely to appreciate it. When I’m dead.

Keep asking great questions …

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