A legacy letter is a heartfelt letter in which you share selected thoughts, experiences, memories and life lessons that hold the most meaning for you and from which your values were formed.
If you have lost someone close to you, you may know the regret in not having asked the questions of your loved one when you had the opportunity. Having learned this lesson, you may anticipate the questions that your loved ones would someday wish they had asked, and answer their questions in a legacy letter.
In a legacy letter you can convey what you believe, and why. You can also offer hope to your future generations by affirming your love, and declaring your blessings, prayers or wishes. In this letter you can also express a desire to forgive and be forgiven.
A legacy letter can be written to anyone with whom you wish to share your thoughts: your spouse, your children, to a special friend, a student, or "To My Family". Legacy letters can be shared with your loved ones anytime during your life, particularly at special occasions such as family reunions, birthdays, anniversaries; or at traumatic times of life transitions, turning points, challenging events, loss or illness; or at joyful times such as the marriage or birth of a grandchild or great-grandchild. Or the letter can be saved for a time that is yet to come.
Even young mothers, having gained wisdom from life lessons, are now writing legacy letters to their young children, realizing that no one is guaranteed another day in which to write a letter. Age has no bearing on this reality.
A legacy letter communicates a positive message which gives the reader as well as the writer a sense of gratitude, hope and closure.
- It is a way to accept and validate the past, share the values that have enriched your life, and express your hope which will contribute to the health and vitality of future generations.
- It is an opportunity to release the things that have weighed you down and which you were not meant to carry, and to ensure that these things are not passed on to future generations.
- It is a place for you to express, in your own words, how you would like to be remembered.
- It is an opportunity to share family values and family history that would otherwise be lost over time.
- It is a tangible and comforting gift that can be passed down to future generations.
- It can provide an opportunity for healing and a reason to be positive about the future.
- It is an opportunity to share the values that mean most to you: values such as honesty, integrity, kindness, truth, and love.
- It opens the door to forgiving others and being forgiven.
- It can be a spiritual experience that provides a sense of closure.
While there may be reasons why you think you can't write one soon, the fact remains that we always find a way to make the time for what we feel is important.
Writing a legacy letter is a private, individual experience, and it can often elicit memories that evoke laughter and tears and everything in between. Pausing for a moment here and there, can help bring clarity to your mind as you recall the events that shaped your life.
The historical Legacy Letter (Ethical Wills) carried a formal tone, leaving the reader with specific instructions (a to-do list), whereas the legacy letter expresses thoughts and emotions with the objective of giving the reader a reason to believe, a reason to hope, and a reason to love.
So while there is no right or wrong way to compose a legacy letter, there are some guidelines that we offer that will prove to be useful in giving the legacy letter a sense of dignity and preserving its worth as an heirloom.
Legacy letters are not usually written in a hurried fashion, but are carefully crafted and thoughtfully written; using words that are chosen for their ability to communicate clearly what it is you want to say.
Legacy letters, when written in this way, will find their way into the hearts of your loved ones, precisely at the right time and at the right place. There won’t be a "wrong" time to deliver its message. They can be shared with your loved ones at any time during your life, such as family reunions, birthdays, anniversaries, or other occasions. Or they can be saved for a time that is yet to come.
Plan now to set aside the time you need to write your Legacy Letter, and you will be able to say like others have said, "I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders", or, "When I opened the Legacy Letter my mother left me after she passed away, I cried for days, but they were happy tears."