At the end of our lives, we won’t be so concerned with how many times we went to the mall, how many rounds of golf we played, or how many “likes” we got on social media. But we will most likely ask ourselves, “Did my life make a difference?”
So, keeping this idea in mind, when my sister and I prepared for my mom’s 85th birthday party, we asked all the members of the family to write her a note or letter sharing a special memory and describing what they especially admired or liked about her. We saved these letters in a photo album filled with pictures of her life.
Here are some of the cherished memories offered by family members:
- “You’ve always been the kind of mother on whom I could depend, to help me and encourage me . . . and be my trusted friend. I warmly think about you as the best mother anywhere! Love, Harold”
- “Grandma’s cherry pies are the best cherry pies I have ever eaten.” Abby
- “Over the years, you have had enough adversity to make you cynical and bitter, but you never became that . . . and I admire you for being positive and upbeat about your life. You are a fine person, and I’m proud to have you for my mother-in- law.”
- “Even though you and Grandpa had many grandchildren, you always made each one of us feel special.” Debbie and Julie
- “One of the great things about laughter is that it is contagious. Anyone who knows my grandma and has seen her laugh knows just how contagious it can be. Whenever I hear her laugh, I cannot help but smile and feel good inside. Not only do I smile but I usually join the laughter regardless of what made my grandma laugh in the first place.”
During the last year of Mom’s life we often opened the memory book. She loved to look at pictures of her family and became absorbed in the world of remembering special times, places, and people.
During the last weeks of her life, we read the tributes to her. Even though she could no longer communicate much, she would smile and had the most heavenly shine on her face.
At her funeral we made a PowerPoint out of these letters and pictures and used it as a celebration of her life. Reminiscing is healthy! It’s the process by which we make sense of this mystery we call life. Reminiscing helps those who are older to find meaning and purpose in the years they have lived. It can create new levels of appreciation and intimacy between generations and can transform times spent beside beds or other visits into memorable times together. To learn more, read Telling Life’s Stories.