It’s hard to lose a parent, and hard to talk about it, but I wanted to share the story of losing my mom and how keeping a daily digital journal helped me through it so that I might help others who are enduring this kind of grief to find solace of their own.
Let me start with a snippet from my Legacy Journal app entry from a few months prior to my mom’s passing:
At the time I didn’t know Mom wouldn’t be around much longer, but now I am so glad that I can look back on this and the rest of the timeline I have created with quick entries in a digital journal. It helps me see beyond the grief to the lifetime we spent together.
The next part I want to show you is hard, it’s the entries I made in my digital journal when my Mom passed. But it is part of the journey, our journey, and over time I want to share the whole journey with my children, so that our story together can live past our time together, just as my time with Mom will live beyond her passing.
The medical examiner said she passed peacefully in her sleep. Resting in her easy chair. That news brought a small sense of comfort.
By the time we made it back to town my aunts and several cousins had met at mom’s house to start organizing her things to try and make the arduous task ahead for my sister and I a bit more bearable. We held each other, told stories about mom, and all believed we would have more time with her.
Life is precious. And time is fleeting.
I had never lost a parent before. Beyond the emotional toll I had no idea what to do. I was designated as the executor of her estate and felt incredibly unprepared. I searched the internet for terms like, “What to do when someone dies.” I read articles that were filled with details and checklists. Thank you to AARP for this particularly helpful article.
The next two weeks were consumed with so many of the details that are thrust upon us with the death of a parent. One of the gifts of that time was time spent with family digging through old photos and sharing stories. I collected many of those photos, scanned them into a digital format and loaded them onto a digital photo frame. I also took note of some of the stories and added them into Legacy Journal, my digital family journal.
As we were going through boxes of files and old documents I came across a particular file folder. It was titled, “Letters from Bobby.” I opened the file and sat down as I browsed through the treasured content. Bobby is my mother’s brother. My uncle.
When my grandfather passed away in 1996 Bobby took over the role as patriarch of our extended family. He was our example of how to live a great life. How to be successful in business. How to treat people with kindness. How to start with a vision and bring that vision to reality. How to care for your immediate and extended family. How to bring generosity and benevolence to our community.
These letters are the greatest treasure.
For many years Bobby has been following a program called Letters from Dad that involves writing letters to your children so they understand you at a deeper level. He extended this letter writing to his siblings and sometimes even his nieces and nephews.
The letters that mom had saved from Bobby told the story of the influence that my grandparents had played in his upbringing, his work ethic, and his values. The family stories helped to shed light on parts of their lives that I had never known. These are the things that matter most. It is the details of our family history that often are lost with the death of a family member. When they are written down and shared with others they can live on for many generations.
The lessons can guide future generations and become a family legacy.
I started a similar process for my children over 18 years ago. I have been writing stories in a daily digital journal to my children so they understand who I am and where I came from. I write to them so they will always know just how much I love them (even when I am gone). And I write to them to give them a greater understanding of my perspective, my upbringing, my dreams, and my fears.
My thought behind writing our family stories in with a digital journaling app was that I would have everything in a safe and secure place that could one day be easily passed along to my children, and eventually my grandchildren. This would become part of our family legacy. Our stories would be preserved for many generations into the future.
It is a simple thing that any of us can do. And it will matter more than almost anything else. Imagine reading the story of your parent’s life as told by your grandparent. Or the story of your grandparent’s life, learning about details you had never known before. A simple habit with a digital journal can easily capture your family stories and help to create your robust family legacy.
You can create this. Leave your legacy.
I still have work to do. I want to tell the deeper story of my upbringing with Mom. I want my children to know the love she had for me. I want to tell the stories of her encouragement as I was growing up. I want them to know her story, challenges and all. Writing about it helps. And knowing that the stories will be passed down to future generations brings a great sense of comfort.
Rest in peace, Mom. I love you.