Legacy Letters-Creating the Gift of You

Posted on July 25th, 2012

Linda Ross Swanson, M.A., C.T.

You've lost your grandparents and perhaps your parents and a few friends; do you wish you knew what life was like for them? What it meant; who they loved; who their mentors were? Did you ever wonder what cultural and world changes they witnessed or the personal tragedies they endured and overcame?  Were you curious about where they found their passion, what gave them joy, their values and beliefs? Well, one day all of these questions will be asked of you. If you don’t record your life learning now, all will be lost and buried with you when you die.

We are all stories waiting to be told. Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, PhD, in his book Healing the Mind through the Power of Story, states “ Everything is story, including our identities, ourselves, our meanings and purposes, our theories about the world…Story holds the richness of the interconnectedness and complexity of the world in a way we could never articulate otherwise.”

When we share our stories we value, honor and believe the many truths our lives reveal.  We each have a story to tell; we each have wisdom to pass on. Even the blemishes in our lives, the many times we’ve fallen down are full of insights. Helen Keller once said “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”  How we’ve navigate that suffering, what got us through the tough times is worthy of communicating to others. Both triumphs and tragedy provide us with epiphanies that forever change our lives. When we offer our stories to others, they have an opportunity not only to learn from and identify with us, but also to keep our memory alive. 

As unrepeatable human beings, our stories are unique and valuable. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs work because they stand on the shoulders of other people’s success stories. Through modeling the lives of others who have managed to find sobriety, hundreds of thousands of people have found their way to new lives.

Who knows what others will learn from our experiences? We never know the impact of our lives, but one sure way to leave our mark is by writing or recording a Legacy Letter. Eventually we can bequeath our wisdom will to loved ones but in the meantime, as we grow in awareness, we can add to our letters. They become a work in progress.

I teach a 3-hour Creating the Gift of You: Legacy Letter Writing Workshop.  Participants learn the tools and techniques for developing their own letter. (Please check the Services page for more information.

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