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LEAVING LASTING MEMORIES FOR CHILDREN

Written by Lindsey Kovecke, an incredible woman and mum while she was receiving end-of-life care for ovarian cancer – in the hope her ideas could help other families.

Ideas to prepare for when you are gone

Tackling these things when you’re nearing the end is time-consuming and overwhelming, so starting to think about these things early can make the tasks more manageable.

Letters and cards

Preparing cards for future birthdays and special occasions is a beautiful way of being there for your loved ones when you can’t be there in person.

Start by buying or making cards for milestone birthdays (like ages 13, 16, 18, 21, 25, 30), and remember to include cards for sentiments such as first heartbreak, first baby, graduations, or buying a house – milestones you will miss that you’d like to celebrate with them.

Sometimes, writing all birthday cards at once is easier so you don’t repeat what you’ve written in other cards; make a plan and tackle it bit by bit; writing the cards can be emotional, so take it slow and go at your own pace.

What do I write on the cards?

Thinking of what to write can be daunting, but careful planning can help.

When writing cards to your children, consider their likes and preferences and remember they may change in the future; I was given this advice by an adult who lost their mother at a young age.

Focus on the feelings behind the sentiment, such as “I’m proud of the person I know you are today” instead of “I know you are a successful young man” as this can create pressure you don’t intend to put on them. Make sure to keep the tone neutral – saying “I know your wife is amazing” can be upsetting to a young gay man, thinking that they are disappointing their mother.

Try to phrase things like “I hope you find the love of your life” and “I’m proud of the person I know you are today.”

For cards other than birthdays or special occasions, imagine times in your life when your mother was there with kind or wise words (or times you wish she had been), and write cards that allow you to provide a similar sentiment to your children.

Videos

Making videos is easy with your cell phone; here is a list of question prompts to get you started. 

Create one video per day and set a time when you are alone and not distracted. You can organise your videos by topic and by age group so it’s easy for the children to access the appropriate video for their age; watching a video about your thoughts on tattoos won’t help an 8-year-old but may mean a lot to your 21-year-old.

Treasure chest

Keeping a box or chest with mementoes or heirlooms can be particularly meaningful; start collecting these early. Include things like baby bracelets, booties, books and blankets; jewellery or other valuable heirlooms may need to be kept in a safe, so be sure to communicate with others where you’d like things to go. Other things to include are things you’ve created (art, poetry, etc.).

Storage

Store items someplace safe and have backups when possible. Share digital files with loved ones so they can access them anytime they like.

Final notes

Don’t make it a chore – make it fun! Buying fun coloured pens, listening to a podcast or music while writing, buying stickers or drawing pictures can help it feel less like a job and will remind you of the joy you will bring to your child in the future.