How one Mother's Dying Wish Impacts our Parenting

 Death is never easy to accept. When it comes prematurely, it yields unrelenting agony for those left behind.  Our hearts ache, particularly, for children who are not equipped to understand.

My own heart is aching for one very young fellow who recently lost his mom to cancer.  This mom had many roles but “mother” is the one she fought hardest for.  Motherhood is a job that can never really be finished.  There is always an opportunity to love, teach, impart wisdom, extend the hand of friendship, soothe pains, revel in joys, and of course so much more.   In a job that seems limitless, this mom had very limited time. 

I came to comprehend her plight most clearly when I read her last online journal entry.  She said it was the “most difficult” one to write as Hospice had been summoned and she knew her end was near.  She made a final request.   

The request was for letters that would help her son know her better as he got older.  Friends and family were advised that the letters would be held for him to read at an age that was appropriate and she asked that they indicate that age on the envelope.  Specifically, she longed for stories about the kind of person she was, or any other information that would help her son to know her as he became an adult. 

This dying mother’s request saddened me deeply, but it also inspired me positively to think about my legacy, and I am writing to inspire you to think about yours (if you want to). 

Besides a legacy in which we bequeath material items, what could we leave our kids that would enrich their being?  Here are some questions to ponder.

  • What do you want your kids to know about you?  Why?
  • What easy to recall stories can you share that will illustrate your strengths in overcoming adversity? 
  • How can you help your kids avoid mistakes by sharing stories about your weaknesses and how they debilitated your efforts or results?
  • What are the most important scriptural verses, or spiritual messages you’d like to impart?  How do you hope these will help your children?  Are there any specific situations you’d like to include?
  • What guidance will you impart to your kids about managing everyday frustrations, romantic relationships, community or corporate leadership, or their own roles as future parents?
  • Are their favorite books or movies that you would want to share so that your kids have insights into what moved you emotionally?
  • Do you have perspectives on social graces, etiquette, study skills or education that you’d like to convey?
  • Would you include a code of ethics, family “commandments”, or moral wisdoms that they could live by?

As you can imagine, this list could go on and on.  What is important is that you create it in a way that reflects what is most important for you, and what you think is important for your kids to know as they navigate their own lives.  You are the author of your legacy.

After pondering the questions, one might ask “how do I best convey my legacy?”  Here, we have to consider the child’s age and level of maturity, and the style that best suits the parent.  I have heard of one mother (also dying from cancer) who left her daughter videos on various subjects including how to apply makeup.  Verbal communication, letters or journaling, audio recordings, or even video are options.  Choose one or choose them all.

Alice Earle Morse wrote this quote:  "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that's why it's called the present."

Since none of us have a crystal ball to know what will happen tomorrow, we can use the gift of time today.  What do you think?  How can we start to leave our legacy for the ones we love the most?  What would your legacy include?  What method is best for you to convey it?  Please share your thoughts in our comments section.