A Gift from the Heart
Posted on December 1, 2017
In the search for a meaningful gift for family and friends this holiday season, a book called My Living Legacy: A Personal Journal to Guide Loved Ones could be the answer. Written by Rancho Santa Fe’s Susan Fielder, it is a workbook designed to help you organize and record life experiences and lessons, hopes and dreams, last wishes and requests. “If you don’t write it down,” says Fielder, “it won’t be passed down.”
Fielder came up with the idea after her grandmother passed away, leaving little behind to remember her by. “What I really wanted was a letter from my grandmother telling me how much she loved me,” Fielder reflects. So, the book includes space to write special, personal notes to loved ones. “That handwritten word is the most important part of this book,” she says. “I think it’s wonderful to see that person’s personality in their handwriting, their real sense of who they were.”
Fielder, who dedicated the book to her late husband Dan Mears, conceived it as “a treasure chest of life experiences.” Sections include “The Tapestry of Life,” a place to write about experiences that have shaped your destiny, life-changing events, memorable moments and achievements, words of advice and wisdom. What are your favorite travels, books, movies, plays, poems, and quotes? What recipes did you make famous? Are there secrets you’d now like to share? “Write in it as you would a journal or diary, making changes as needed,” Fielder recommends. “Embellish it with articles and pictures. Whatever you make of it, it will be cherished in the hearts of those you leave behind.”
To avoid family squabbles, she includes a chapter entitled “You Can’t Take it With You,” a place to list prized possessions and make it clear to whom those belongings should be passed. Though not a legal will, this segment of the journal aims to prevent unnecessary arguments later. “It could be a diamond ring, a piece of art, or old leather gloves that your great grandmother wore,” she says. “But let them [family members] know who you’re giving them to and why.”
The book also contains a section to record family history and folklore, including your family tree, medical history, and the location of treasured memorabilia. Fielder suggests creating a “sentimental drawer” for keepsakes and a “legacy drawer” for important documents such as birth certificates, a marriage license, military service records, tax returns, wills and trusts, passwords, and keys to your safety deposit box.
In “Exit Dancing,” write down your wishes for a funeral or memorial so your loved ones won’t have to guess. Fielder says it is unlikely you’d want your heirs to plan this significat event “within 48 to 72 hours and under intense emotional strain, with little or no idea of cost. Yet, that’s exactly what most of us leave family to do when we die. Rather than peace and resolution for our survivors, funeral arrangements often breed chaos, misgivings, and excessive expense.” Record your instructions to guide your family and to make sure your “exit” is the one you want.
UC San Diego recently selected My Living Legacy as a gift for York Society members who have generously supported the university through planned giving. “This book is your legacy,” emphasizes Fielder. “This is the most powerful thing you can do for your family. It’s the most important book you’ll ever write.” mylivinglegacy.life Andrea Naversen