Legacy Development: Being Intentional


Two young women have shaped my thoughts about what I would like to leave behind for my children. Both lost their father when they were very young - under the age of ten.
One has nothing from her father, and she spoke with resentment as she told me this. She said her father was sick for more than a year, knowing he might pass away. “How could he not write me SOMETHING? Even just a short note?” As an adult, her mother has explained that he felt to do so would be to admit defeat. He spent every last bit of energy to stay alive. All for his two daughters. But now that he is gone, she has nothing to touch, to read, or to watch that is from him, and she desperately wants just a few words just for her from her father.
The other young woman’s father left her a short note, written in his own hand in the hospital where he passed away on the one thing he was able to find - a napkin. He didn’t write anything fancy - just a short list of things he admired about his little girl. Yet, this has become her greatest treasure on earth. Instead of regrets about time lost with her father, she remembers her time with him as full and blessed.
Every parent, particularly those battling a life-threatening illness, wants to leave a legacy for their children. While legacy encompasses many things, one simple, but essential, element is something tangible you leave behind that will be treasured by your children.
This guide provides some ideas and resources to help you think about your legacy and how to put it into action. Do not be overwhelmed by the number of suggestions. No one expects you to do all of them. In fact, most parents will do only one or two. Read through these suggestions and perhaps you will find something that feels both doable and right for you and your child. You may have something you would like to do that is not listed here. If so, go right ahead! If you have ideas you think might benefit other parents, please let us know.
Remember, what you leave does not have to be perfect. It needs to be heartfelt, and it needs to be from you to your child. It might be something small, like a list of admirable traits scrawled on a napkin. I encourage you to do something, anything, whatever feels right to you.
Try to do something for each individual child, and remember this is your chance to encourage them, not to make suggestions about what you think they should change or improve. The power of what you leave will be immense, but don't let this intimidate you.
Instead, let it encourage you to get something on paper or tape or on DVD. This is your chance to leave something that will mean the world to your child should you be gone.
Kristen Milligan (1973-2012)
Inheritance of Hope Co-Founder


I love the idea of my children seeing my face and hearing my voice as I share some thoughts and encouragement. Here are a few suggestions for DVDs you might like to record. Remember, you need only pick one or two, or you may feel motivated to do all of them! You might even have another topic about which you would like to share. Some DVDs may work for all of your children, but some will be most powerful if you make one for each individual child. It is all about what your heart wants to share with your child.
Possible ideas for DVDs recorded for your child:
•Special birthdays, such as 16, 18, 21 or 25
•First Christmas after you are gone
•High school graduation
•College graduation
•Your child’s engagement
•Your child’s wedding day
•Thoughts for a good marriage
•Your child’s first baby
•For when and if your spouse remarries
•Thoughts on dating
•About that child specifically … your pregnancy,
that child’s birth, childhood, special attributes,
hopes for that child, encouragement
•About your spouse … how you met, fell in love,
marriage, why your spouse is special


I believe an important video is one that will be watched by your child or children just after you have passed away, when their grief is the greatest. Here are a few suggestions for topics that might help you get started on this video. Once you begin talking to your child through the camera, your heart will flow into words, and I know your child will be blessed by what you share.
•How much you did not want to leave them
•What to expect in the days following your passing (funeral, visitors, people saying things that are awkward and sometimes just foolish because they do not know what else to say, where they will go and
who they might stay with, etc.)
•How much you love the child
•How none of this is their fault and there is nothing they did that made you upset with them
•How they were a gift and encouragement to you during your illness
•Favorite memories with the child
•Things you are most thankful for about the child


Put together a mixed CD of your favorite song, or songs, that remind you of your child or that you think will be an encouragement to your child. For me, music is always very soothing and healing when I am experiencing deep grief, and I hope songs picked by me as a gift to my children will be an encouragement to them.


Have someone you trust put together a quilt made from your clothing for your children after you are gone. This can be something they share with their own children.


If you knit or quilt, you can make a blanket for your child. I encourage you to pray for that child as you make the blanket for them. Your quilt will then always remind them of how much you love them and how much you have prayed for them.


Have you ever read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman? If not, I would very much recommend you do so. It talks about human beings having five basic ways in which we express and receive love. Chapman lists them as (1) touch, (2) quality time, (3) words of affirmation, (4) service, and (5) gift giving. The book explains that each of us has a primary love language, a way in which we express and receive love the most effectively. I have found this to be true with my husband and my children. It is so powerful to discover a loved one’s primary love language and express love in that way. For young children, however, they require love to be expressed through all five love languages. For many, gift giving is a very powerful expression of love.
Consider the milestones in your children’s lives and whether you would like to buy them a gift to be given on one or more of those milestones. Doesn’t a shopping spree for your children sound like fun? Or, even better, no need to spend a penny.
Consider wrapping things that are precious to you, such as jewelry or other items that you treasure. A card could be left informing the child that a piece of furniture or other family heirloom will be held for them. Remember to give instructions to your spouse or other family member or friend detailing when these gifts should be given to the children. Don’t leave them where they can be found … few children can resist an early present!


I do not have the talent to knit or quilt. Instead, I have for each of my children a simple rock with their name engraved on it. I have held their rocks daily as I have prayed for each of them. It is not a magic stone, but simply a reminder of my prayers for them and their future.


Perhaps you prefer to express yourself through written words rather than speaking into a video camera. Writing letters is, I believe, a lost art. Your children would be enormously blessed to have just one heartfelt letter specifically for each of them from you. I recommend writing the letter in your own handwriting if you are able. If you feel compelled to write more letters, consider the milestones mentioned for making DVDs, and write letters instead or in addition.


Writing in a journal is something I have always very much wanted to do, but have found very difficult to keep up with. If you are a more motivated writer, I think keeping a journal for each of your children would be a very personal and powerful gift. You may share memories from ordinary days with that child, or you might share deeper thoughts and encouragement for that child. PaperSunday.com sells beautiful journals with Scripture at the bottom of each page that includes the child’s name. If you would prefer something different, there are many lovely journals on the market; or, remember, your child would love something written on a napkin!


Are you a great cook? I am not, but I still have a few recipe cards put away for each of my children with recipes I have made for them that they might enjoy making for their own family someday. If you have many, perhaps you can find a personalized recipe box from TheStationaryStudio.com. One of my friends even suggested putting all the recipe cards in a small scrapbook.


For many people, scrapbooking is something they love to do. I am not one of those people, but I do love having my photographs of my family organized and preserved. I enjoy journaling next to the pictures in my own handwriting, describing the event or the memory that is depicted.
Some of you may prefer to record yourself as you look through the album, and have an attached envelope at the back of the scrapbook to hold the tape or video. Later, the children can listen to your voice as they look through the pictures. Perhaps you have many family photo albums, or perhaps you just make a small album for each child. The album does not need to be fancy. Remember not to let the project intimidate you. Many albums just have sleeves to hold each picture, and you can slip in an index card beside it with your notes about the pictures. Keep it simple, but get it done!


Even if your children are a little older, I imagine they still have a favorite children’s book you used to read together. Record your voice reading the book and attach an envelope in the back of the book to put the CD, tape, etc. Hallmark even sells some “recordable books,” which allow you to record your voice reading each page of a children’s picture book.


Choose a Bible for your child and have their name engraved on the cover. Many different Bibles can be found at ChristianBook.com. Write a personal message in the front of the Bible. This is the book your child is mostly likely to keep for a lifetime.


Collect the children’s items that are precious from your child’s baby days, family heirlooms, and anything else you would like preserved for your child. A cedar chest is a simple and safe place for these things until your child is old enough to care for them. I finally found a simple cedar chest at: AmishHandCraftedHeirlooms.com/chesttrunksandtoyboxes.htm


Be intentional about making memories with your children. It does not need to be a day at Disney World! A day at the park, a date for breakfast just you and that child, or an ice cream cone after school can provide lifelong memories. Remember to bring your camera and ask others to take your picture with your child!
Some of my children’s favorite memories are accompanying me to chemotherapy and radiation treatments. They have appreciated being included and informed, and the nurses and doctors have worked hard to make it a pleasant experience for my children. My son, at the age of 5, told my chemo nurse that he hoped I had chemotherapy forever! He loved having me all to himself on the days it was his turn to accompany me to treatment. Miraculously, I looked forward to those days, too. This was not my idea, it was my husband’s idea, and it was brilliant. It taught me that precious memories can be created absolutely anywhere!


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