8 Ways to Start Building the Story of Your Life

Why It Matters:

  • Make sure you're remembered the way you want to be remembered.
  • Don't let stories behind important possessions, keepsakes, and/or favorite family recipes be lost to history.
  • Write letters to the people you love so they know how you felt about them.

Everplans tkc.profilePicture Written by: Everplans
March 07, 2018

6 Min readClock Icon

Keep your family tree alive and healthy for future generations by sharing details and stories about deceased family members. Here’s a starting point:

Relation to person: Maternal grandmother | Maternal grandfather | Paternal grandmother | Paternal grandfather | Mother | Father | Other (great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. …)

For each person include the following info:

  • Name.
  • Birthday.
  • Favorite memories.
  • Lasting impressions.
  • Other thoughts you may have.

Old/antique photos

Even though we live in a world of digital photos, every family still has these rare items. Make sure they aren’t lost or forgotten. Plus, imagine how cool it would be for someone in your family three generations from now to know it’s their great-great-great-grandma in that wedding photo they find in an old album.

For each photo, include the location and who’s in the photos. You can also include a sticky note on the back, or make digital scans of the photos and include pertinent information either in the title (Grandmom-Sally-Nord-Ohio-1945.jpg).

Family recipes

Make sure generations can enjoy these delicious meals and treats for years to come. Here’s what to include:

  • Name of recipe.
  • List of ingredients.
  • Cooking instructions.
  • Additional instructions and tips.

Favorite charities

Include all the charities and causes that have meant the most to you throughout your life and where you’d want donations to go in your name after you pass:

  • Name of charity.
  • Website or phone number.
  • Notes and instructions (example: In lieu of flowers, have everyone donate to this cause).

Memorialization

Would you like a tree planted in your name? An annual bike-a-thon? Your name on a brick in front of your favorite team’s stadium? Well then, let your family know!

Write legacy letters to your family and friends

We know we just inundated you with lots of planning information. This is the part where you get to kick back and be yourself without any laws, statutes, or other complicated aspects getting in the way.

This doesn’t make it any easier. Sometimes, there’s nothing more intimidating than a blank piece of paper. Where do you start? What do you write? Will this even get to the right person?

Fear not: Your legacy is safe as long as you follow these steps, organize your thoughts, and take your time.

Letter to everyone

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to share with the world? Something to be posted on Facebook or printed out and put on a community or church bulletin board? Now’s your chance to start thinking about what you’d like to say and get it done.

This isn’t the same as writing your own obituary. This is an informal way to share your thoughts, experiences, special stories, or anything you have in your heart and soul that you want other people to know. This shouldn’t be written to one specific person (we’ll get to that later). It should be something you’d be willing to share with strangers who never met you before. Here are some tips:

It shouldn’t be too long. This is a letter, not a manifesto. Though, if you want to write a manifesto, go right ahead. But those don’t always play very well on social media.

  • Stay focused. If you had to encapsulate your life in 500 words, what would you say? Do you want to inspire people to live their lives? Thank people for showing you kindness during difficult times? Make a few jokes so people remember you in a positive manner?
  • Be careful if you want to go dark. You may have felt slighted or treated poorly. While this is terrible, and many people can relate, think twice before asking someone to share something negative. This is how you will be remembered. If you lash out, you’re not the one who will feel the repercussions. You’re gone, so your family and friends will have to manage the backlash. Remember the old saying: “If you don’t have something nice to say…”
  • It doesn’t have to be a story. It could be a list of lessons you learned that stuck with you your entire life. It could be a song that always made you smile, a photo that provided inspiration, or a famous quote that gave you hope. Perhaps there’s a saying or mantra you’d always repeat to close friends and family. When you’re expressing your genuine emotions, there are no rules.
  • Tell someone about it. While you might not want to share this with anyone while you’re still alive, be sure to leave instructions to a specific person so you can be sure your wishes are followed. Whether it’s a handwritten letter or a digital document, leave it somewhere it can be found with instructions on where you want it posted.

Letters to specific people in your life

A lot of people call this type of thing an “ethical will,” which is a terribly cold name for something with so much heart. Here’s where you get the chance to let your family, friends, and anyone else in this world know who you are and how you feel about them.

There’s a lot of people in your life, and each person might require a different message to help ease the grief after you’re gone. It doesn’t have to be a novel, but it’s something they will likely treasure for the rest of their lives.

The thought of this letter gives us happy chills and misty eyes, because this is the culmination of all your hard work. Not just in getting a plan together, but in life and what you pass on to future generations. We’re fully aware people share so much through social media, but there’s something special about sharing personal thoughts directly to the people you love written directly from your heart.

Keep your plan up-to-date

Make sure all of the stuff listed above is neatly organized, updated, and shared in your Everplan. (What’s an Everplan? Learn more here.)

This article is provided by Everplans — a life and legacy planning company dedicated to transforming the way people get their families organized. For more information, visit: everplans.com.

Things to Consider:

  • Crafting a legacy can take time and effort, so take it step-by-step.
  • Make sure your family knows about any charities you strongly supported throughout your life.
  • If you're unsure of where to start, create a list of your loved ones and start jotting down the most meaningful moments for each name.
  • It's up to you to keep your family history alive and thriving for generations to come.

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