Remembering and Reflecting: Creating a Keepsake for your Family

As one faces a terminal illness, such as ALS, it can be rewarding and fulfilling to review one’s life journey and reminisce about favorite people, experiences, and events, for remembering and reflecting on your life, in order to help you celebrate your successes, cherish your loved ones, and honor your journey.  It is also important to reconcile or accommodate difficult or painful memories or events, providing an opportunity to forgive yourself and others if appropriate.  Especially during this time of year when we are celebrating holidays and are with family and friends, projects such as the ones below can make very meaningful gifts, not only to those you love, but also as a gift to yourself.

Life Review Timeline:  Place the major events of your life on a timeline. You may need several pieces of paper taped together or a large poster board to accommodate the length of your timeline. Include your successes, special dates, important events, and favorite memories. If you are willing, allow other family members and friends to contribute their memories of you, too. This activity allows you to acknowledge your accomplishments, reflect on troublesome or painful events, and recognize special people or times throughout your life. This timeline, created by you, will also serve as a wonderful keepsake for your family.

Count Your Blessings:  Make a list of all the things you are thankful for. such as loved ones, friends, possessions, special events, honors, successes, and abilities. Whenever you need a “pick me up,” read through your list and reflect on all the things that you are thankful for. Another option is to keep a “Blessings Journal” by writing five things you are thankful for at the end of each day. Some days your lists may look the same; other days you may find new treasures to be thankful for. By focusing and considering all these positive influences, you are celebrating the life you have created and honoring the blessings that have been given to you.

Messages to Loved Ones:  This activity can take several forms, all of which provide your loved ones with tangible messages from you for the future.

  • Video taped messages: Have someone video tape you as you record messages to your loved ones, to be viewed at a later date. These messages could be your thoughts and wishes on special occasions, such as birthdays, graduations, or weddings, or they could be general communications that you would like your loved ones to be able to replay and share in the future.
  • Voice recorded messages: You can also record a verbal message, without the visuals of the video, for your loved ones under the same guidelines as above.
  • Written letters: Write or type letters to loved ones expressing your thoughts and wishes. You can also dictate your letter to a trusted friend or family member, if you are unable to write. These letters can be sealed and dated to be opened at a time of your designation.

All About Me:  Record answers to questions. That can be used as queries or for a starting point for discussing your life, your dreams, your ambitions, and your reflections with your loved ones. Have someone record or write down your responses to create a treasured collection of your responses.

  • Who was your best friend in childhood?
  • Where did you live when you first moved out of your parents’ house on your own?
  • Of all the cars you have owned, which was your favorite and why?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • What is your favorite song?
  • What is your favorite movie?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • How did you meet your spouse/partner
    • Talk about your dating/courtship.
    • Who proposed to whom and how?
  • What was your first job
  • If you could have been in any occupation, what would it have been and why?
  • When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • What quality do you think is most important in a friend?
  • What is your favorite attribute or ability in yourself?
  • What was the scariest moment in your life?
  • What was the funniest thing to ever happen to you?
  • What was the saddest moment or event in your life?
  • What was the most unusual thing that ever happened to you?
  • If you were stranded on a desert island, which three things or people would you want to have with you?
  • If you could change one thing that you did in your life, what would it be?
  • What are you proudest of?
  • What is your favorite hobby and why?
  • What was your favorite subject in school and why?
  • Name three people who influenced your life the most
  • Which teacher had the biggest impact on you and why?
  • If your life story was made into a movie, who would portray you?
  • If a genie could grant you three wishes, what would they be?
  • What is your lucky number?
  • Describe your greatest adventure
  • Talk about a time when you were awestruck
  • What was your favorite thing about your mother?
  • What was your favorite thing about your father?
  • What was the nicest thing someone ever did for you?
  • What makes you laugh?
  • Name three people who you admire and why

Journaling:  Keep a journal of your thoughts, concerns, wishes, and feelings. Journaling can be a cathartic way of expressing emotions and releasing pent-up feelings. It can also serve as a process of self-reflection, soul-searching, and life celebration. Don’t over think what you are writing; allow your thoughts to flow onto the paper without editing or critiquing yourself. This process will allow you to address issues that are concerning you and work through difficult or unknown problems. It will also allow you to document what is important and meaningful to you.

We want to know what has helped you.  Please let us know in the comments if you have tried any of these ideas for reflecting or if you have found something else that helps you.

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