And again?

I just (5 minutes ago) found out that a mom from my older son's preschool days died suddenly about a year ago.

I am going to, today, write a letter to each of my children telling them how much I love them. Then this weekend I'm going to think about all of the subconscious hopes I have for each of them, and write them each a letter about that. I'll send copies to my brother and sister.

What else should I do?  (Besides life insurance and will stuff?) If your parent died too young, what do you wish you had from them? What do you wish they'd done?

60 thoughts on “And again?”

  1. Pictures pictures pictures. My mother was always camera shy, and was usually the one taking the pictures, so I have very few images of her as a young mother. And in this day of digital pictures, make sure you have quality prints made of your favorites. I want to be sure that my pictorial history is not locked on a laptop.

  2. I think I’d want more information about my mom, herself. But I’m not sure how to do that – one of those “about you” books, maybe?Also, I’ve tried to handle this by buying my kid a book for special occasions and writing short notes inside them. Every christmas, every birthday – it’s easier than a journal, but more regular than just random letters. I try to include big hopes and dreams, but also little things – like “you’re two now, and your favorite thing to do read a book about Thomas the Tank Engine.” I guess some of that is for me, too.

  3. My mom died just before I turned two. There is only one picture of me with her, and she isn’t facing the camera. I sure wish I had more. I love the idea of a scrapbook about you. I really know very little about my mom. What was her favorite book? Movie? Color? Also, now that I have kids, I would have loved it if she’d left a few things for my babies. A quilt she made or something like that. I’m totally going to follow in your footsteps. Will you post what you decide to do? Ellie

  4. My father wrote a memoir (some 15 pages) when he knew he was dying; he also provided a similar document from his mother (dead before I was born) and as much genealogical information as they each knew. It was much appreciated, especially since while my mother knew him well, it had been a May/December pairing, and she knew little of his youth.I missed him more when I married, and when my children were born. If the adult-me could have a conversation with him, I would grill him on his religious and political beliefs.

  5. Make sure you are doing the things you want to be doing with your life and with your kids and not pushing them off to a nebulous future which may not exist.We’ve all had “delayed gratification” drilled into us as a prime virtue, along with work ethic, and other such virtues. But you should never delay the gratification of letting your kids know how much you love them. New gizmo – delayed gratification, ok. Trip to the beach with the kids? Do it now. You will regret it if tomorrow you find out it is too late.
    A note that says I love you is a wonderful thing because a bereaved child can carry it always and look at it again and again when needed. But having that message firmly installed in the child’s heart – that’s vital whether you die tomorrow or live to be 103.

  6. My husbands mom died when he was young. When she died so did all the stories of him as a baby. We have a 9 month old and everytime we ask FIL stories he has no memories of DH as a baby, child. Also his mom was 100% italian and she cooked authentic from scratch and all her recipes were in her head, so he can’t have me replicate her cooking. And like others who posted his mom did not like to have her picture taken, except for her wedding photo we have 2 pictures of her (half hidden behind furniture etc)

  7. My mom died when I was three. Letters from her would have been wonderful. I have photos and personal items, but I have no idea what she hoped and dreamed for me. And, I know she loved me, because I was always told so growing up, but to see it in print, in her own handwriting, would have been really special.

  8. Wow. I know this is rocking your world.I very recently wrote a letter to my son (who is three going on four). It’s something I’ve wanted to do awhile now. I was going on a overnight trip without him (something I do very rarely as a SAHM) and was feeling really fearful. So I handwrote a letter in a journal, and put it in a nightstand drawer. I didn’t tell my husband about it until I came home from my trip, but it made me feel better to write it. Of course, he would also have my blog to read (which I’ve had since before he was born, before I was married, so I hope it is something he could read and feel like he really could know me). But I want to re-write the letter, with more of my hopes and dreams for him, maybe a little advice. Still, it expressed my love for him, how deep it is, how much I always wanted him…things that are important to know. I still can’t truly face the idea of not being here for him.
    I do wonder how it will be for our kids, though – if will be different, with all our digital footprints. Will they be able to go back and read our Facebook statuses? Our generation is pretty obsessed with expressing ourselves and scrapbooking and photography and documenting our lives (along with our childrens).

  9. Your voice.I had a friend whose father died when she was 3, and while she had a ton of pictures, she, of course, didn’t remember what he sounded like. (She’s my age, 46, so videos weren’t around then.)
    When her grandmother died, they found a set of reel-to-reel tapes. They found a player and played them, and lo and behold, they were “letters” from her dad to her mom when he was in Vietnam, and she got to hear his voice for the first time in her memory.

  10. Wow, such amazing ideas. Thanks all.I just taped my aunt and uncle’s recollections from World War II–a longtime goal–and am thrilled about that. Think about doing something similar. Video normal-fun moments together–just let it ride while playing Wii or something, just for a few minutes.
    Recipes for family favorites are priceless. My mom died before I learned how to cook from her and it’s been a hunt trying to
    recreate some of my favorites.
    My mother used to do a “12 Days of Christmas” tradition with us, and one year she gave me a teeny box, 1×2 maybe, and said, “No need to open it, it’s empty, it’s a symbol of _____”–some experience she gave me–and I kept the box. Every year I hang it on my tree and I have a present from my mom. I am so lucky she happened to use wired ribbon on that one. But for me it means a lot because she loved wrapping presents and had a world-class collection of wrapping stuff and she always gave the perfect gifts and she made anything look amazing.
    And–her death was unexpected, so this was a special bit of serendipity: in going through her gift table, there was a little box with a handcrafted pin of a llama and a note that said “(my name)–I llama you a lot! Love, Mom.” To have that one last little present meant so much, I still keep it as is in my dresser drawer.
    And realize–they will always have this site! What an amazing gift! When their babies are little and they are despairing about sleep patterns, or food intake, or growth spurts–they will always be able to come here and see what you did, the choices you made, your evaluation of those choices…hooray for you, with this incredible digital archive for them. May you be here to enjoy it with them, of course, but wow, what a legacy to leave already!

  11. About the “life insurance and will stuff” – it would be really helpful if you had all of the pertinent info in one binder in a place where your loved ones will know exactly where to find it.A will is no good to anyone if nobody can find it. A life insurance policy is of little good if you haven’t designated the correct beneficiaries, and they (and their nominated guardians) actually know about it. In my experience, insurance companies are less than helpful, so you need to arm your beneficiaries with all of the informational tools to be able to get those funds. Hopefully you also have disability coverage located in the same binder – I’ve read that statistically, you’re more likely to need disability insurance than life insurance but YMMV.

  12. My mother’s mother died after a protracted illness when my mom was about 2 years old. To some extent, I think it destroyed her as a person. Both she and her brother have deep scars from that (and also how it was handled in the family). I’m not sure that there is anything her mother could have done to make it any better for them.There are scrapbooks and photos and mementos. So much of how it is processed for the child has to do with how the adults around the child are handling it. If no one wants to talk about it or it is only talked about in hushed tones, the children internalize that. They might take away the wrong messages from that (that it’s shameful or something instead of deeply painful because your mother was much loved).

  13. pictures and info. My father died suddenly of a cardiac episode at 43. My bro/sis were 12/10. They ask me about daddy all the time. And really, even though I was 21, that is a hard thing for me to come up with. My mother will not speak of my father. I think information about parents lives, their favorite food, hobbies, tv shows, job, also not even just from themselves/spouse/other children is important. So for instance, if you have neices/nephews or other close people. Having info for them about their loved ones is important too. I would have loved info from my aunt about my father as a child.Me, I want to get better with pictures because I never am in any.

  14. My mom died when I was eight, leaving behind four small children. She was terribly sick for many years (colon cancer), but I wish she had perhaps written us letters, set aside some special photos, and maybe done the ‘memory book’ thing for each of us.I don’t blame her for not doing so – she was in terrible pain and nonfunctional for years. But my father’s grief reaction was to clear out EVERYTHING she owned, clothes, jewelry, family memorabilia. Only recently, when her long-lost daughter showed up in our lives (a beautiful midlife gift for us!), has he begun to unearth memories, for all our sakes.

  15. There’s a great book called Living with the End in Mind with a crazy lot of ideas about this. Obv, unless you were living with a terminal illness you wouldn’t do all of them (and even then, I can’t imagine how you’d have the energy), but there are some great ideas.

  16. I think the instinct to write directly to your kids is great — and is something I have been meaning to do. I am sorry you are experiencing these losses, but good for you for turning it into an opportunity to do things that are easy to put off.That said, my father died when I was 10, and I agree the the previous post noting that the impact on kids has so much to do with how the people around the kids deal with the loss. I survived on my own detailed memories, but the rest of my family was pretty much incapable of mentioning my father or discussing his life. I’ve pieced together bits and pieces (thanks to the internet and a distinctive name I was contacted by one of his closest childhood friends a few years ago), but I wish my family had talked more about who he was, what preceded my memories, etc.

  17. This is not the same as death, but a situation that I know applies to Moxie and many others.My parents are alive and well, but they divorced when I was 2. I have no memory of them living together, no pictures of the two of them together, and have heard almost no stories about their lives together (other than my birth and one involving one of their dogs).
    I don’t know why they started dating or got married. (They met in junior high but did not date until college.) I don’t know why they split up–I once asked my stepmother and she reassured me it had nothing to do with me (that wasn’t why I was asking), but I really didn’t need to know.
    Now that I am an adult, and have been married to my husband longer than the two of them were married to each other, I really would like to know. I guess, selfishly, only for the reassurance that there was some sort of happiness and “click” during the time they were together and it wasn’t just 10 years of increasing badness.
    (FWIW, they have each been remarried for over 26 and 30 years, respectively, and I do know the genesis of each of those relationships, and there are lots of stories and pictures. Which is great for my siblings.)
    Am I asking too much?

  18. This may sound silly, but I really wish I knew what my dad would have wanted to be called as a grandparent. I *think* I know, but we never talked about it. He died about six weeks before I met my now husband, and he didn’t have any grandchildren yet. My husband’s father also died before our kids were born, but he already had two grandchildren so we knew what he was called.What’s hard about not knowing is that I don’t know how to refer to my dad when I talk about him to my kids. My husband’s father was Grandpa, so they know who we are talking about (to the extent that they can grasp him in the abstract at ages 2 and 4), but when we talk about my dad, it’s always “Mommy’s Daddy” and it just feels so awkward. 🙁

  19. @Kate – ask them. Do it.My parents separated before I was born, and were officially divorced by the time I was a year old. When I was 18, my dad sat me down and told me to ask him whatever I wanted to know about his relationship with my mom. I’m so grateful he did that, for so many reasons. For one thing, it opened up the doors with both him and my mom, so I felt comfortable asking what it was like. And for another, he died about 10 years later. I’m so glad I had the chance to have that conversation with him before it was too late!
    There was a lot of pain and hurt involved in the story, but there was also love. You have to be ready to hear about both. But IMO, it will be worth it.

  20. @Kate – You might actually be asking too much or from the wrong people. If you want to know more about your parents’ relationship, you could try asking your aunts or uncles (on both sides). The memories might be too painful for your parents or feel too much like a betrayal to their new spouses to answer you that yes, once, they were in love with each other and happy.

  21. I am philosophically anti-journal for myself, but I have one that I have pre-dated with the significant dates for the next 15 years or so — I chose Christmas, my birthday, my husband’s birthday and our wedding anniversary. I started it when I was pregnant with our first, and write about a page about what we did on that special day each year. I have also kept my little purse-sized planner/calenders because my mom kept one of hers when she was pregnant with me, and it was a gold mine of conversation-starters and memories. I’ve moved my calender to my smartphone now, so, there are only 4 of the paper ones stashed away.On the more practical side, we just bought a lot more life insurance for my husband. I’m only so-so with picutres and really bad with video, so I should probably capture more things like that, and on less-transient media than my phone …

  22. My dad has been really sick recently–3 cancers in 2 years–and so we’ve been thinking about this a lot in our family. It seems like he’s going to be okay for now but I know that he’s been thinking about all this. I bought a flip video camera (pretty cheap) and just recorded him doing a lot of everyday stuff–like I’d just leave it on during dinner. I think that when he does die it will nice for me to have not just pictures but recordings of him talking. For what it’s worth.I’m so sorry all this is happening.

  23. Also, regarding the letter thing – there is a this american life episode about the president of the Ohio State University, whose wife died when their daughter was youngish. She wrote a letter for every year, and one for her wedding.It turns out it was sort of guilt inducing for the daughter, if I recall correctly, because the mom focused on what she thought the woman would be doing at various ages, and I think there was some religious stuff in there, too. You can listen here:
    it’s worth doing – I think about these things differently now.

  24. @Enu, I love your post. Yes, yes, yes.I honestly don’t think I can get it together enough to write specific letters to my kids. But there is my blog. Not the same, I know, but probably all I will actually do.
    But the idea of not delaying the gratification of fun things with your kids, that I totally agree with. I’ve been talking to Hubby about it lately, actually. We’re spending too much time on chores and not enough time on fun, in my opinion.

  25. @enu, this is great:”A note that says I love you is a wonderful thing because a bereaved child can carry it always and look at it again and again when needed. But having that message firmly installed in the child’s heart – that’s vital whether you die tomorrow or live to be 103.”
    A while ago I came across some artwork that was just a textured background and had ‘i love you’ written in script. I thought I’d like to replicate something like that for our living room – it’s such a warm and welcoming and heartwarming statement. Who couldn’t use a little more love in their daily lives?
    Beyond wills and such, what I’m concretely doing now is regularly taking photos of DS and I together as well as some of he and DH and some of DH & I together – we have so little of us together! Most of the time it’s just phone photos. But we’ve gotten some great ones and I think DS will like to have them down the road (as will I).
    I also started regularly videoing casual moments or when the mood strikes. DS already at 2.75 loves watching them. And I’m glad he’ll have voice and experience memories as well as photographic ones. I decided to put a focus on the video memories of DS & DH due to DH’s health situation (15 years with a heart transplant – at the same time woot! and how long can this go on?). I want DS to be able to see he & his dad interact and to hear his dad’s voice, should the worst come to be.
    On the to-do list is to make a quilt using DS’ and DH’s old shirts. Will try for this father’s day… I love @Snickollet’s comment yesterday about having loveys made from clothing. May try to sneak a bit of that in too. And as @Enu says above, even if everyone lives a long time, these are nice things to have.
    And, I will add the writing letters to DS. I think I’ll do it for his birthday. I love the idea of this every time I read about it here, but I think I get overwhelmed by the idea of needing to write something that conveys love and hope and acceptance, but doesn’t put expectations on DS. I guess I should just start and take it from there.

  26. Hey M–Nope, not the only one. A colleague’s sister-in-law died suddenly and I was tearing up listening to her descriptions of the deceased woman’s teenagers’ speeches at the funeral.I’ll be breaking out the pen and paper tonight for letters…

  27. The first year that my husband and I were together I did a Christmas letter that had 12 (one for each month) pictures and 4 very very brief descriptions written as a quarterly updates (just enough so people got what was going on in the pictures. To be funny I made it sound like a corporate newsletter.The next year I was pressed for time so I grabbed the file changed out the pictures and the text. After the third or fourth one it dawned on me to put them in a binder. I love flipping through it now, especially since I highlight everyday things if I don’t have something to represent a particular month. It really gives a cool snapshot of what that year was like. Whether we went camping or skiing that year. I also have included things like a picture of my husband standing next to a stack 9-10 cereal boxes to represent his bargain-hunting exploits or a picture of myself in safety glasses during a DIY project.
    Since I had my son at 38, I worry about how much time he’ll get with us (my parents were almost 20 years younger). I think the Christmas newsletter binder will be a treasured memento and a great insight into my quirky sense of humor and random family traits.

  28. I was going to mention the same show as @Catherine did. It made me revise some of my thoughts.I have copious journals so there’s that.
    But I think @enu nailed it. Fill ’em up now. Once you’re dead, you cannot control the action from the grave. My addition to her wisdom would be to cultivate strong ties to family and friends now because they are the ultimate safety net later.

  29. Crying now as I head home to my boy. I have written him letters, but they are all typed. And not printed. Must get that together I guess.I take lots of photos, and do small short videos on the flip. I make sure to take photos of him with his peeps (mostly my mom, who is his nanny too) so he knows us and him as a unit later, when we won’t be around to remind him.
    It makes me sob to think of him in the world without me. He’s my only child, and gah, it’s the only real reason I consider a sibling for him. To be his hand holder should he find himself without us.

  30. I make quilts as a hobby, and that’s one thing I kinda love about it — if I were to die tomorrow the quilts would remain as something I made with love for her (and the others I’ve given one to). I love it that every single night she sleeps snuggled up under a quilt I made.I keep a journal and have since she was born, and I address it to her — that is, I write, “Today was your first day of kindergarten,” etc.

  31. When it’s age appropriate, take the time to open up to them about various topics, especially anything about your childhood that you may want them to know. My own mother died when I was in my 20s, but it wasn’t until I read one of her journals (where she had written down some fun stories she always told us growing up, and told us that she would) that I learned she had once been molested as a toddler and carried that burden silently for her whole life. Since I was an adult, I think that not only could I have handled hearing this, I wished I would have been able to somehow comfort her. So, the lesson to me is that it’s not always the best thing to hide any and all baggage. It was so difficult for me to read that after she was gone, not even being able to hold her hand or hug her anymore.

  32. My mother died when I was 9. There wasn’t a lot left that really told me who she was or how she felt about motherhood and me. My baby photo album was very precious to me as it had every photo carefully annotated (unfortunately my younger brother as the second child missed didn’t have such a careful record).Over the years I have found some additional messages from the past. When my father’s mother died we found an album of photos that my mother had sent her of us over the years and many had little notes about us on them written by my mother.
    The most precious was when my mother’s mother gave me a note that she had saved that mum had written me from hospital. It wasn’t a note for the future just wishing that she could be at my ballet concert and hoping that I was being a good girl while she was away. But it contained the magic words “I love you”. I was in my early 20s when I got this and I had longed to hear those words for many years. I am sure she told me many times when I was young but I had no recollection of it. It is one of my most treasured possessions.
    So yes write a letter about your love for your kids. A record of their early years is great too. I have so few memories of the time with my mother, I wish she had kept some notes (my father never spoke of my mother). Plus make sure you don’t just take the photos but get in them too. And lastly I would love to know more about my mother as a young girl, a woman and a mother. I wish she had left some record of that too.
    Time for me to start a bit more writing as I await the birth of my 3rd child and steadily approach the age that she died. Thank you for the reminder.

  33. I was 30 when my mother died, but she was my world. The thing I am most grateful for is a collection of her recipes. What I miss the most and always weep for every year is how she used to tell me the “story of the day you were born” on my birthday. If you could audio or video record this for your children, it is priceless.

  34. Because I’m not as well organized as I’d like to be (and therefore know I won’t necessarily remember where I stash the notes, photos, etc.), and because I have a tendency to want to do things so. very. well. (and therefore not end up doing them at all), I’ve started emailing my son. I’ve written him notes since before he was born that are stored on my computer or tucked into an album here or there (back when I did albums).But a few months ago, I started an email account for him (he’s 2.75), and now I send little messages when I think of it. Somehow it’s easier to just dash off a note here and there – when he’s at daycare, for example, and I suddenly miss him terribly, or remember what funny thing he said at breakfast. I also just automatically cc- him with the photos I’ve snapped on my phone that I’m sending faraway family. I periodically open the account, just to keep it active, but mostly I just send things.
    I appreciate what someone said above about the importance of having handwritten notes, and I also think the special occasion, really thoughtful letters are *really* important. But I’ve also found, for me at least, that having this option has been great – something I can do frequently, that I can build into my normal life, and that I hope will be a source of joy for him when he gets older. I also occasionally cc copies of emails I’ve written to my sister or close friends, where I talk about how wonderful he is, what new things he’s been up to, even the travails of parenting (to some extent). I don’t know exactly when I’ll tell him about the email address, and hand it over to him – it’s so hard to imagine him being anything but my precocious toddler right now! But the day will come, and I guess I figure I’ll know it when it does.
    Thanks for the post and the prompt, Moxie, and for all the ideas, everyone. It is such an indescribably devastating subject to think about. I’m off to go kiss those sweet cheeks now, and snuggle next to my ever-lankier, ever-bigger, but still baby, boy.

  35. A wise mother once told me, back when my almost-4-year-old was 6 weeks old, to keep a diary of her life. I initially scoffed at the idea, but–thank goodness–I listened and did it anyway. I have recorded at least a few paragraphs every month for her entire life in a Word document. (Sadly, I haven’t been quite as thorough with her younger brothers). My dh and I took many, many pictures, as well.FINALLY, in the past 6 months or so, I am starting to compile the text and pictures into a photobook (Shutterfly, My Publisher, etc). I guess it is the modern version of the baby book. I am hoping to make one book for each year of each child’s life, though I still have a long way to go. After reading all of these wonderful ideas I am going to be sure to add some handwritten notes in the books.
    I also realized I don’t have a single framed picture of me and/or dad with the kids anywhere in the house. All of our pictures are digital and make nice screen savers, but they are not the same as a framed picture.
    Another thing I am glad I did was to record, on video, an oral history of my grandparents. My daughter knew my grandmother, but she died last year and I’m sure my daughter’s memories of her will fade. I am glad I can show her the video when she’s older, so she can remember her great-grandmother and learn more about her and her life. My parents are 70, so I’m thinking it is time to do an oral history of them now, too. If I’m blessed enough to have them around 20 years from now, we can make another video.
    For those of you who grew up without your parents, I am so very sorry. My heart hurts for you. I hope you have found peace.

  36. I have kept journals for both of my kids (my son is now 24 and my daughter is now 21)until they went off to college. I am now getting around to putting them online and adding some of the pictures I have taken over the years that correspond to the journals. It has been such a blessing to me to relive their childhoods. Also, since the kids are older now, they are enjoying reading through these journals online and looking at the pictures – something they didn’t do when the journals were only in books and the pictures were only in albums. I had to buy a scanner to scan the photos so I could put them online but it was worth it. I used the blank books that you can find in the bookstore. Each child had a total of 17 books when I finished the journaling. My sister inspired me when her children were small and she would take the little calendar books from Hallmark and mark down the milestones in their lives – walking, first tooth, etc. I just took it a bit further. I really enjoyed sitting down at the end of the day to write what had happened with each kid during the day.

  37. My dad died almost 5 years ago at age 74. By no means was he young, but I had just turned 25 and realized I didn’t know much about him from his life before me. I would love to ask him about his childhood and growing up. Just stories in general since I believe we all don’t really change after a certain age. Also, things we might have in common, like ‘favorites’. Those are easy ways your children can feel closer to you. My dad’s favorite color was orange, so at my wedding in a couple months, orange is one of my colors. Just an example 🙂 I think it’s great that you’re taking the time to do this. Having lost a parent, this has always been really important to me- that my son (and future children) know about their mom…

  38. My mom loves to cook, and always uses cookbooks. She started coding her recipes to remind herself of which ones she liked, when she made it, adjustments to the recipes. Since she wrote in the books, all these notes are in her own handwriting. The notes include things like Christmas dinner, birthdays, right after my babies were born, etc. Food and eating are important to my family, so these are like journals to me. I can flip through the pages and remember the events that went with the notes. I feel closer to her when I see her handwriting, turn the pages she turned, cook what she cooked. I do the same thing in my own books. So it’s possible to do little things even if you don’t have time to write a journal or you’re not good at writing/ self-expression.

  39. My mom died when I was 22. I got a lot of time with her but it still wasn’t enough. I do wish she’d written me the kinds of letters you’re talking about; she did write one, but it was for a school assignment and the only reason I know about it is that I found it in the fireplace before it burned. I kept it, of course.She made a lot of tapes of herself reading stories and singing songs when I was little. I wish I’d kept those.
    But the thing I most wish I had was her memories of having me, and caring for me during my newborn and toddler years. My dad doesn’t remember many details of that time. My aunt remembers some, but has dragged her feet on sharing. I want to know what my birth was like for her, how she felt with a newborn baby (her first), what nursing challenges she had, what she did when I wouldn’t eat, what she did when I threw tantrums, what made me laugh, what I liked to wear, all those little things. I’d love to swap stories with her now that I have a toddler (and had a newborn, two years ago) of my own. I never realized how much I wanted to know all that stuff until I had a child.

  40. Shelley, my mom made quilts and I have a few of hers. They’re wonderful to have. The one she made for my bed is getting a little worn — she used some decorative thread that hasn’t held up well — so I’m not using it. But I can wrap up in it anytime I want.

  41. For a high school english class, I had to write a letter to myself that the teacher would then mail to us 5 years later. She invited parents to send in notes to include ad well. My dad died that summer. I received my letter to myself a few years ago, and had totally forgot that he had written me a letter. While I know how lucky I am to have this letter, I wish he would have written it as if he might not be around when I got it (he died suddenly). I think you can always do this- write letters to mail in the future even before anyone dies! It was wonderful to read my mom’s letter as well.

  42. My mother died right before I turned two. She was sick for a long time and knew she was going to die, so she kept a diary for me of her thoughts. Some stuff just about her day, some poems, some drawings, some advice. It’s priceless. Also I have some things she made for me, and a stuffed animal she got me.Also, REALLY don’t neglect the life insurance and stuff. In particular, think hard about who will raise your kids when you are gone, and make financial arrangements that are watertight. You will save so much pain and confusion if you think clearly about this stuff now.

  43. @Shandra wrote eloquently in one sentence the cardinal truth borne out by the aftermath of my father’s death when I was 9. The deceased does not control the action from the grave.My father never said he loved me, and he never wrote it. However from the few photos I have from when I was a baby and from eye witness accounts from the time I was born and he was beside himself with joy there’s no doubt he was happy to have me. He was my only source of physical affection when I was little, as in the baby and toddler years and I do remember that.
    My father was fiercely protective about dangers from outside- outside the family. He wasn’t about things in the family and lived ( and died) in full flagrant denial of them. Not just a river in Egypt.
    My father talked to me a lot when I was little, and not all that appropriately really, so I do have detailed memories. And I have peace, and I do love him and know he loved me.
    And that is because of the memories of the things we did together and had together. In that sense I got what I badly needed. I don’t mourn not having a note to say I love you.
    I do think it’s a great idea to write loving letters, and what I want for my daughter is to always love herself dearly as I love her. That I am inordinately proud of her. Rather than for her to be Zeppelin pilot or whatever.
    My family split into two factions of ” worthless and useless and just like her useless father” and ” worthless and malicious and not at all like her sainted father” and those were very literal quotes.
    Which frankly was all about him and their feelings towards him. And in the end the love remains, so please don’t think that the parenting we do is lost after death. Even in adversity the good stuff endures.
    My father had good life insurance and good provisions financially. And that matters.
    He did have simmering conflicts all around. In that sense I feel it is important for DD to know the good, the bad and the ugly about my childhood. And the good outcome, the second chances grabbed with both hands.
    And although estranged the remaining family members and myself parted on good enough terms.
    I know nothing about that really, but it seems to me that if parents are divorced it is important to stress how happy they were to become parents and how they’re absolutely the right parents bound together to be parents for the child(ren) although they were not good life-partners.
    Because you don’t control the action from beyond the grave and whatever cauldrons you have bubbling don’t cool off. Be careful what your child inherits in that sense.
    But in the end the love remains if it was there. It writes white on the page, like happiness. A picture is worth a thousand words.

  44. I think that one thing to remember, is that it doesn’t matter if you have a perfect looking scrapbook, or if your handwriting looks just so, or if you have a beautiful journal, or your camera is not the most updated. It’s important for you to write something down – sloppy writing is fine; that you have photos – phone cameras still capture the snap shot; that you’ve written in a regular ole notebook. My dad died when I was 12, and my mom died when I was 26 – both before I was married or had kids. I love seeing old recipes written by my dad on scraps of paper – spattered with bbq sauce because they were used so often. I wish that I had more photos of me WITH my parents – both with my sisters, and also just one on one. I wish that I had more information about what I was like as a child – I’ve made baby books and written journals about my pregnancies so that my kids will get little snippets of information. Sometimes I get caught up in the little things-I look fat in that photo! I don’t have the cutest embellishment for my scrapbook! My hand is tired and I’m writing too sloppy. But in the end, those things don’t matter.Remember, it’s wonderful to have tangible things after some one is gone. However, you can’t forget that MAKING the memories is even more important – my dad always drying our hair by the fireplace while we watched Sunday night Disney movies; my mom taking us to the library each week and letting us buy books from the school book clubs; my dad making me certain foods “just for me;” my mom having faith in me to follow my dreams.
    Right now, my sisters and I are trying to put together a scrapbook of our parents’ lives – piecing together their lives, and some of the stories we know of them. I’ve started doing bits and pieces of this about myself recently. I would love to have known more about my parents’ religious and political beliefs, more about how and why they chose to raise us the way they did, more about WHO they were outside of just being our mom and dad.

  45. Five short years after my birth, and only 27 years after his own, my dad took his life. He grew up in foster care because his parents were alcoholics, at times abusive and others grossly negligent. Due to the unending intricacies of HIPPA, I was not able to locate my any of my father’s family until both of his parents had already died. His two sisters and brother are completely averse to speaking with me.SO… here’s my suggestion: include your medical history. This information, along with esoteric ideas like preferences, hopes and dreams, are forever lost to me.
    I truly think it’s wonderful that so many people are considering the import of bequeathing a life’s narrative to one’s children. It’s in those stories we can lose and find ourselves.

  46. My father died suddenly at 57 just 2 months ago. I would give my right arm to have video of him, to hear his voice. I myself hate being photographed – but am planning on making some videos for my boys. The hard part is figuring out in what format to make them and where to store them.

  47. My father died when I was five and I definitely still have scars; I don’t know if I will ever fully find peace. I agree with whoever pointed out that children are most affected by how the surviving adults handle the loss. My mother was devastated and always had a hard time discussing my father or his death, in addition to really struggling with loneliness and depression as a single mother of three. So I grew up with the sense that it was taboo, feeling a bit ashamed and a bit perplexed, and a lot wanting to make everything okay for my mom.As for what I’d want: I wish I knew more about our interactions. I want some record of how we played together, what he found funny or adorable or even annoying about me as a little girl. Trips we took together or little rituals we had. I do have some isolated memories of him, but not enough. I wish I knew what his sense of humor was like.
    And, yes, more about what he wanted for me, as well as some expression of his love for me. I know he did love me, I have a vague memory of it, and can see it in some of the pictures, but I wish I could see it written in his hand, or hear it in his voice. And, I’d want to hear about his love for my mother as well, so that I could understand a bit better who she was before she was changed so much by his death.
    I think there are different needs at different times. When I was a child, it would have helped most to have something expressing his love and pride, somehow telling me that, on some level, I would always have him. Now that I’m grown up with my own kids, and my husband is the age my father was when he died, I naturally want to know more about his own inner life and history.

  48. I don’t want nothing from them, the simply fact that they give me birth and took care of me, they give me an education and good advices to face up all the problems that came into my life is enough, I can’t ask them for more. I only hope and pray that they be beside me for long time, but only God knows what He reserved for them and for us.

  49. Make absolutely SURE that in addition to a will and life insurance, you have guardianships and emergency contacts set up to be legally enforceable. A will does NOT necessarily protect your kids from being placed in social services — in most states, the police are required to place your children in social services custody while they figure out who the guardians are, etc, short or long term. A will also does NOT ensure that your childrens’ caregivers have immediate access to money to care for them. You need a temporary/emergency guardian (“first responder”), a contingency guardian, and you should document anyone that you do NOT want caring for your children under any circumstances. All of this information should be reviewed by a lawyer and copies of the information/contact info should be on file with your childrens’ schools, with caregivers, with the guardians, and an easily-accessed copy in your own home. You should also carry the contact information on your person, with a clear description of the contact as your childrens’ guardian of choice. This isn’t the more emotional or sentimental side of planning for a crisis, but it’s probably the most important.

  50. i’m sorry to say i don’t have time to read through all of the comments, but i think that the “letter” part of this TAL story is really appropriate to this subject and a warning to us all…. keep a journal just for my daughter (now 22-months) separate from the public blog i keep for far-flung family, not about what i want for her future, but about what’s going on right now. if i were to go, i think she would learn a lot about what is important to me from reading the journal, but what’s important to me might not be important to her.

  51. I read this post a couple of days ago and I just wanted to come back to say how much it had made me think about what I would leave for my daughter. To be honest, I find it hard terrifying to consider – I don’t want to die, I don’t want to miss a second of her life. But having read all the comments I feel motivated to do something. I’m going to start printing out her photos and writing my thoughts of her down on paper. And if I don’t die, it makes a nice 21st birthday present!!Thank you for this.

  52. Two things I want to know from my mom, but she died when I was 18 after years of drinking- about her and about me. I wish I knew her as a person- the way people get to know their parents when they are old and grown, and hopefully less disfunctional. I feel like I didn’t really KNOW her, you know? And that’s too bad. I also wish I knew what I was like as a baby, or a kid. Or how she KNEW me. It’s such a gift to really get to know someone, and it’s such a gift to feel known. Journal. Not just for them, but for you too.

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