The Importance of Passing on Your Legacy for Future Generations
Legacy is Built One Moment at a Time
“What we have heard and known for ourselves must not be withheld for our descendents, but be handed on by us to the next generation.” ~ Psalm 78:3-4
If your life is anything like mine, we are constantly writing things down, taking notes, making lists. I write things down to remember whose birthday is coming up, what I need to get at the grocery store, and what child needs to be where and at what time.
According to Rachael Freed in her book Women’s Lives, Women’s Legacies, we write things down for many reasons: because we need to belong, to be known, to be remembered, to be needed, to make a difference, to bless and be blessed and to celebrate life. The most important reason that I write things down is to remember. To remember moments, stories, traditions, people, and lessons. We need to write to be able to hold onto the most important lessons that we want to cherish tomorrow. As the saying goes, we do not remember days, we remember moments.
Four generations before me, my great-great-grandmother’s name was Susan. She was born on July 15, 1847 and was 77 years old when she died. I could tell you the names of her sixteen children and when they were born and when they died. Beyond those sixteen names and dates, I have no idea who Susan was, or what the stories are between the dashes, the stories that filled her lifetime. I long to know more about Susan’s life. What type of person was she? Did she like to sew, sing or bake? What were her favorite recipes? What was it like to lose a son in a farm accident? What type of woman would give her ninth child to her sister because she wasn’t able to have any of her own? I wish I had the answers to these questions. I wish that someone would have taken the time to write some of these stories down for future generations.
Our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren need to know who we are, our life stories, the wisdom and lessons learned over our lifetimes. We need to write things down so that our experiences and wisdom can be passed on for generations to come. What do you know about your mother, grandmother, great-grandmother? Who are our ancestors that passed on before us? What was it like growing up in their era? It is up to us to write the stories down, to listen to what they have to offer, and to pass on what is truly important.
My mother wrote the following about my great-grandmother, her grandmother Rose, “Sometimes the phrase ‘family traditions’ can feel a bit overwhelming. Traditions can be as simple as oyster stew on Christmas Eve at Grandpa Charlie and Grandma Rose’s house. They had a small house on the lake. They always had a very small Christmas tree which they put on top of the sewing machine. Grandmother was an excellent cook and baker on a wood burning stove. She made homemade dumplings, doughnuts and cookies for us. I was named after her.”
I do remember great-grandmother Rose and could write a few stories about her, but I chose to start writing down my stories about my grandmother, a woman I dearly loved, a woman I called ‘Granny’. She was near and dear to my heart and I used to call her every morning at 6:30 to see how she was doing. She was an only child and had a vast knowledge of the past few generations. When she died we lost our link to those stories. She loved to read the newspaper and talk on the telephone. Actually, she loved to talk to anyone, the bus driver, strangers in a line, anyone. She grew gladiolas and zinnias in her flower garden. She bought only the grocery items that were on sale or if she had a coupon. Her favorite color was blue and she didn’t like the color yellow. She had beautiful blue eyes that occasionally had a twinkle in them. She would have liked ‘to shoot the man that invented bubble gum’. She loved to play cards, Scrabble and Cootie. She used to babysit us when we were little and when it was time to go to bed, each of us three kids wanted her to sleep with us, so she took turns. She loved cheese puffs. She was known to poke thru the bottom of chocolates to see what filling was inside as she liked some better than others. And the lists and stories go on and on. All of these things are important and I want to remember and pass these memories on not only to my daughters but for my family’s future generations. With each experience come lessons that need to be passed on and continued to be treasured from generation to generation.
We need to write things down because even though we think that we are going to remember the details, as we get older and time passes, it is natural to forget. It is also extremely important to document events and details for medical reasons as future generations also need to know family health history. Does high blood pressure, stroke, heart conditions, diabetes or cancer run in the family?
We need to write our stories down so that we can be remembered and not forgotten. Have you ever asked your parents or other relatives their stories, or for pictures or scrapbooks that they may have of the family? Writing is not just for the older generations or if someone is terminally ill, it’s for all of us. Start with a single letter or story. Wrap it up with love and give it as a gift. Make copies for each family member and extra copies for future generations. We need to start now. If not now, when? If not me, than who? We want to be remembered. We need to share our stories and our wisdom, our Lessons for Tomorrow.
Renee M. Liming
Published in Queen of the Castle ~ May 2014