Leah Dobkin – Guest Blogger
Writing a loving testament of our values, life experiences, hopes and gratitude and sharing it with family is a life-affirming, profoundly spiritual and healing experience. Known as a legacy letter, the exercise enables people to pass on what they have learned, not just what they have earned. Putting pen to paper about life’s intangible assets is a way for people to preserve who they are and what matters most to them. It is a way to be remembered and understood and to make a real difference to younger and future generations.
A Legacy letter, sometimes referred to as an ethical will, is based on a 3,500 old patriarchal tradition where the father was obligated to write a letter to his sons transmitting blessings, moral directives and burial instructions. The sons opened the letter after their father’s death. Much has changed since then.
Now women, particularly midlife and older women are finding their voice by writing about their wisdom, values and stories in a legacy letter. They share their legacy letter while they are alive to provide an opportunity for dialog with their children and grandchildren. Your family gets to understand you better as a three dimensional person, not just as the mother or grandmother role.
A legacy letter is generally written from adults to the younger generation, but equally powerful is a tribute legacy letter, in which a younger person writes about the legacy they received from an elder. Daughters can write letters of appreciate to their mothers, for example, or to a female role model or mentor. There are a variety of legacy letters designed to enhance special circumstances and relationships in life, such as the caregiver relationship. The letter can also be written at significant junctures in our lives, such as weddings, anniversaries and births. New content can be added at any time to this living document.
Every letter is as unique as its author. Some clients create books that include the letter enhanced by favorite photographs, recipes, poetry and/or quotes. The letter or book becomes an heirloom gift passed down and enjoyed by family for generations.
In reviewing the important events of our lives, the choices we’ve made and our struggles and triumphs, we gain clarity, insights and a deeper understanding of life, family relationships and our feelings and submerged memories. Through this cathartic experience, people often let go of pain, anger and resentment and discover peace within themselves and towards others.
Reflecting, clarifying and documenting a legacy is a gift to ourselves today and to those that come after us. By leaving a piece of our mind, we find peace of mind, knowing that nothing is left unsaid and that important stories are not forgotten.
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Leah Dobkin is a professional journalist, author, gerontologist and founder of LegacyLetter.org. She offers writing services, workshops, classes and retreats and writing circles to help individuals or their loved ones craft a legacy letter, memoir or business history. To learn more about legacy letters and Leah’s inspiring legacy journey, go to www.legacyletter.org or Connect at 414-238-1577, Leah@LegacyLetter.org .