• Joanne Peters

Leaving Your Legacy with Purpose

Updated: Jul 26

Your Legacy is more than the refurbished Ford Pick/Up, winter cabin in the mountains, or possessions from a past generation.


What’s most important is how loved ones and friends remember you – Let us take a look at this last chapter of life in a way that enables you to “leave your legacy with purpose.”

There’s work to be done to satisfy your soul. Something that will give you and your family peace of mind at the same time celebrating a life well-lived. A gentle peace settles into my mind when reminded that birth is a miracle and a privilege, as I’ve always marveled at “creation” here on Earth.

If you find yourself unprepared for this last great chapter of life, a little bit of research will go a long way to ensure you can start the conversation with your family before the final episode of your life, and the story has ended. It was on November 13th, 1789, that Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, a phrase that has reverberated ever since. “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world, nothing can truly be certain, except death and taxes.”

For many families, the last illness of a loved one is a time of confusion and conflict. Bruce Nemovitz authors a couple of simple books I found extremely helpful. Guiding Our Parents in the Right Direction, practical advice about seniors moving from the home they love and its companion book Moving in the Right Direction * The Senior’s Guide to Moving and Downsizing, both talk about communication within the family and how to move through the last great chapter of your life successfully.

You may wonder why I like to call this period of life our last great chapter; it indeed can be a time of relaxation, contemplation, reflection, and enjoyment. During this time of pause, we’ve been allowed to direct our attention solely upon ourselves and the life we have lived—your Legacy. Starting the conversation about aging can be intimidating to some and liberating to others.

I am working on my Legacy Project. As my memory begins to fade, I remind myself how important my daily journaling is. Each morning I find a quiet spot to sit and reflect. I’ve broken it down into categories of my life; younger years, school years, marriage and family, each child, career, and home life. We all will have different titles for the chapters, some parts will be fun, and other parts will be difficult. It is in those difficult times that real Forgiveness begins.

Forgiveness to ourselves and for others is one of the most critical roads we travel during this chapter of life. You’ll find yourself on windy roads, dead ends, mountains to climb, but in the end, your heart and soul will thank you for Forgiveness you’ll shed along the trail.

One day, God hit me with a ton of bricks. I needed to forgive a sibling for the years of, well, let’s call it misunderstandings. I adored my sister, lack of communication within the family, led to confusion about what my mother wanted at the end of her life. I knew others knew, but she did not have the opportunity to have a conversation with her mother to know. Years later, broken hearts, a waste of thousands of dollars spent on legal counsel, there was no resolution. No right, No wrong. In the end, broken hearts, broken families, and the wishes my mother had for happy daughters; she was to leave behind were tainted. It was hard to live with myself for at least five years or more after my mother’s death. I was constantly questioning the decisions I had made on behalf of my mom. Had I made mistakes, could I have done it differently, what does mom think as she looks down on her children now. Bitter, Mad, Destroyed, were just a few of the feelings left behind because of the lack of communication with all concerned.

It is important to note that the disease that ultimately took my mother’s life was adult-onset diabetes at the age of 55. She did very well with her management, but eventually, it took her life. This disease was very cruel to her and her family. One day she had a Stroke. I was out of town, called her the night before my return from the airport, to check in as I always did. Mom and I were still awfully close. She mentioned she was not feeling particularly well. I promised I would stop by in the morning and have coffee with her. I arrived; she was standing at the kitchen sink, attempting to make coffee. I am not sure how long she had been standing there. In her beautiful self with her loving heart, she turned to me and said something. It was not audible. My heart sunk; I knew there was something wrong immediately. I walked her over to the couch, desperately searching my mind on what to do. She was trying to tell me what had happened. In her style (we always called her the “Eveready battery”), she wanted and was trying to say so much. The best her voice could do was gibberish.

Panic arrived, and I suspected at that moment she had had a Stroke. Sure enough, it was called an Ischemic Stroke. She lost her ability to speak and apply the written word. She could still walk, cook a little (that had to stop after she accidentally left the burner on), and golf too! So this Eveready battery of ours did not want anything to do with writing her last chapter, or should I say her opportunity was lost forever. For 3 ½ years, my son and I took care of mom while she could not communicate with anyone else. These were some of the best and worst times of our lives.

Right after that, life was callous. The tension between my sibling and me over my mother’s estate, as you can imagine, only got worse. The attorney pointed to his jam-packed file cabinets and said, it’s families like yours that keep me in business. It turned out to be a 3-year fight.

I’m going to share with you something very personal, yet it is so relevant to “Forgiveness” I do not want to leave it out. I know first-hand Forgiveness is healing and liberating. Most of us can’t just do this on our own, especially in cases of great pain. One day, I decided the pain was too much to bear, so I threw in the white flag. It had been several years of fighting with attorneys, spending tons of my own money to prove my innocence, but the attorneys keep it going and going. I prayed, I even screamed to God, please stop this pain. And one day, a miracle occurred. I saw my sister from afar. I always truly loved her; I still do. I longed to say Hi. So I did, yelled across the yard, and said Hi as loud as I could! That’s it; I just said Hi. She didn’t hear me, no response, that was okay, down deep inside my gut and my soul, the pain began to roll up through me and right out of my mouth with the word “Hi.” All the pain, madness, disappointment was gone, disappeared right out of my being. One second, one word, HI. My new beginning and ultimately, a new relationship established with my sister again. I never will forget, but I am so happy I was able to forgive.

My purpose today in life is to share my story with others, so they may sidestep the woes of not taking this Next Chapter seriously. Starting the conversation and planning is so very important.

The non-profit organization Five Wishes offers access to the basics of wills and health care advocacy. You will find a helpful checklist that guides you through creating your own Legacy Project, along with health care forms needed. Check out the website of FiveWishes.org, and as always, you should consult a qualified family law attorney.

Families are often torn apart by not knowing what health care decisions to make on a relative’s behalf. Five Wishes explains that effective planning assures families the care a relative receives or doesn’t receive reflects that individual’s beliefs and values. Thought-provoking questions about end-of-life wishes provide help to readers about starting a conversation with loved ones. You will want to tell your loved ones what you would say if you could not speak for yourself. They then can make the right decisions for you, based on your wishes.

Creating your Legacy Box can keep you on track in making sure all the needed information is in one place and can be easily accessed. Take your time and enjoy the process. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it is essential to everyone, and this will be the best gift you will leave behind. Some of the parts of your legacy box can include, Legacy Letters, Birth Certificates, Social Security Cards, Passports, Marriage Certificates, Auto Insurance, Homeowners/Renter’s Insurance, Health, and Long-Term Care Insurance, Disability Insurance, ID Theft Protection, Passwords, Estate Plan, Power of Attorneys, Wills, Funeral Instructions, as well as Bank and Retirement Account information.

In retrospect, wouldn’t it be nice to have complete peace in your heart and soul as you begin your last chapter of life? The opportunity to let go of your past troubles allowing your heart to open and engage with the rest of your future life equals peace.

Quote:

Please come back, and I promise to leave you with an Overjoyed, not an Overwhelmed feeling!

Until next time….

Joanne Peters

Central Coast Senior

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