Many years ago, when I felt there was a possibility I might die within a year, I went to the store and picked out greeting cards that came the closest to what I wanted to say, to my husband and my children, and others I loved. The cards came close – sort of – but didn’t encompass all I wanted to express. I didn’t die, and when I came across those cards a few years later, I realized they didn’t express my feelings – just one small part. But it was a quick, easy way to leave a legacy to my loved ones.
Then a few years ago, I put together a much more involved Legacy for my family: children and grandchildren, siblings and their children. I used the regular genealogy pattern for one page, with dates going back through the ancestors. But then I added many pages of stories, memories and pictures going way back and bringing it all up to date with recent pictures. I rested on that for a while, feeling I had left some good information and memories there along with other memoir items I had put together.
This year I was preparing for the annual Hospice volunteer Retreat utilizing the book A Year to Live, as mentioned in my blog writings (http://osbethsview.wordpress.com). I decided that a section on gratitude flowed well from the Year to Live idea and so started researching ways to use for the usual collage/art section and exercises for our Retreat. I always include art and writing projects so the volunteers can have some fun as they create and learn new ways of exploring and expressing themselves. In the process I developed some work pages so that at the end of the day, each person would have the beginnings of a gratitude journal and a page of goals of what they would like to achieve or do if they only had one year to live. And as always, I worked on my own pages so as to show the volunteers some possibilities.
And so my Annual Hospice Volunteer Retreat project morphed into something my Hestia/crone aspect loves. I’m doing journal pages essentially, filled with gratitude – my gratitude for particular people. I wound up doing individual pages for my loved ones, as things come to mind. Right now I am keeping the individual pages in a loose-leaf binder with sections for each person so whenever I should die, in a month, a year or a decade, there will be a collection of things I wanted to share ready for each.
I also wanted to include little one-liners as they occur, i.e., “I really appreciated your call to share news of your engagement with me. Even though I don’t see you as frequently as I would like (because of the great distances between us) I care about you and what is happening in your life.” Using scribble paper initially, I at least get the thoughts with date down even if they are not in final form.
In order to further facilitate this, I am slowly putting decorative pages in the binder for each person. I transfer what I might have scribbled already, and then write down thoughts of gratitude and love as they occur right on the page along with the date. I may add collage, a poem or quote, drawings, paintings, colorings, frames I’ve made, pictures, clip art – who knows what – to decorate each page. In time, no matter how much or how little time I may have, there will be a collection of reasons and pages as to why I am grateful for that person in my life, using words and art to convey my feelings – my legacy for that person. And if there is enough time, I may have to separate out each person’s pages so there may be booklets for each person, containing their pages, a legacy from me – for them alone. I am also doing pages for my deceased loved ones as things come to mind. These pages will be a tribute to them and will also pass on to younger people the legacies of these people they might not have known.
This project feels so right as it combines my creativity with my legacy, and further compliments the genealogy and memoirs I’ve already done. And it is personalized for each person. And it can be added to casually, rather than as a big project – in which case it probably wouldn’t get done.
And one never knows where it leads. When I put in the two sentences related above to my niece, I found myself remembering another memory I had of her from when she was small, so I went on to include that on the scribble page since I don’t have a formal page for her yet.
These are my stories but they are focused on the other person and how I feel about him/her. Whether there will be only one memory/gratitude or many when each receives their pages, they will have something personal for themselves.
This will be my Hestia Project for these next months and thereafter. An ongoing art/writing project about gratitude: my abundant gratitude for the people in my life. What right now is one art journal kept in one binder about the various people in my life will become, when the time is right, many individual art journals of gratitude for many people – the people I love and appreciate.