May was National Leave a Legacy month, a public awareness campaign that encourages people to leave a gift to a favorite charity when they die. The idea was to support a cause that was near and dear to your heart with money as a lasting family legacy, kind of a footprint to be remembered by those in your community.
Most people hope that their life matters. Maybe you don’t have the money to leave to a charity. A financial gift can do a lot, but according to Billy Graham, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” Although no one likes to consider their death, the best way to leave a legacy is to consider it now. Here are five things to think about when planning your legacy:
- What’s most important to you in your life?
Think about what you want to leave as your legacy. If your family were to think of you 10 years after you die, what would you want them to remember?
- Where did you find inspiration or transformation in your life’s journey?
Maybe you had a life-changing moment in a college class. Were you touched by cancer? What has made you who you are today?
- What blessings have you been given that you want to share with others?
These blessings could be tangible, for example, a set of chinaware given to you by your grandmother, or intangible, such as peace or kindness. If you have tangible items that your family doesn’t appreciate, think about who might use the objects. Check with local museums or charities.
- What causes are important to you?
Most people support at least one organization in some way. It could be a church or synagogue. Maybe you have a favorite 5K run you do each year. Your passion is your legacy.
- Who do you mentor?
Mentoring isn’t always a formal relationship. You can mentor people in your family, your church or your community just by being available. These relationships can last a lifetime, even after the period of mentorship is over. These people are your legacy.
Planning a Family Legacy
Your will is not a legacy, but it can be part of it. A written memorial can help your family know what you want after your death, but your legacy encompasses so much more. Whether you plan to leave a legacy or not, you will have a legacy. You may not ever think about how people will remember you, but they will remember who you were and what your passions were. You can’t really tell people how to think of you after you die, but you can leave ideas on how you want to be remembered.
Think about the people in your life who have passed on. Maybe you remember your grandpa smoking a pipe and telling stories. For some, it might be the smell of fresh apple pie coming from Aunt Mabel’s kitchen. Those are the legacies of your loved ones. It’s likely that Aunt Mabel never told you to remember her apple pie, but you did. Your children and grandchildren are likely to be the same way.
Those activities and character traits you pursue will be your legacy. What you’ve been dedicated to throughout your life is what you will be honored for. If you don’t like the legacy you are leaving, then it’s time to change your life. Maybe you will want to give money to a charity or leave a note to your family about something special to you. More importantly, think about relationships, faith and character. Are you living the way you want to be remembered?