Thursday, September 27, 2012

Eldercare Q-A: How Can I Help My Aging Parent Build a Legacy?

My short baseball career began--and ended--in second grade.  A fly ball smacked me in the face.  Specifically in the nose.  Years later, though, I found myself editing a book on teaching baseball techniques to children.  How did that happen?  My husband's elderly uncle decided to build a legacy.  And I wanted to help.

Your aging parent is also involved in building legacy, says author David Solie of "How To Say It to Seniors."  It's his or her developmental task.  ""Every day, every hour, whether they mention it or not, the seventy-plus age group is reviewing their lives," Solie says. Consciously and unconsciously, they ponder how and by whom they would like to remembered.

For Uncle Dale, the legacy idea was simple.  He wanted to publish a book that would help children master the fundamentals of baseball.  He also wanted to honor his own grandchildren's accomplishments in the sport.  So he gathered together a team that would help him with the task:  sportswriters, baseball players, a graphic artist and more.  Like all seniors creating a legacy, Uncle Dale is doing this in his time and in his way.  When the product is finished, it will have his indelible stamp on it.

Unfortunately, we adult children can miss the signs when our aging parents are trying to build a legacy.  I know.  My dad was a minister.  After retirement he would "hint" from time to time that parishioners had suggested he publish his sermons.  He suffered from Parkinsons and depression, though, and his inner voice was weak enough that we kids didn't get the message.  His disparaging comments, "Probably no one will read them," didn't help the project to gather steam.  Unfortunately, the sermons never were published.

As I grow older, I'm trying to listen for the sounds of legacy.  For example, my friend Don, in his mid 80s, has been writing letters to his grandchildren for years.  "I write about what is important in life, and I encourage them to make good decisions," he says.  Another friend, Tillman, builds legacy by reviewing slides of his years as a missionary to Zimbabwe, and telling stories of God's work in that land.

When seniors create legacy, they repeat the same stories again and again in great detail, not so much for the facts as the inherent values.  Solie urges us as their children to listen, really listen, and help, if we can.  Even if we know more about commas than baseball.

Have you picked up on your aging parent's desire to create a legacy?  How have you been able to help?

1 comment:

  1. One day several years ago I suggested to my grandfather that he should write a book. I said it in an offhand way (really just as a casual comment after he told a story from his childhood). He took this statement very seriously and indeed spent several months writing down his stories and lessons from life. Luckily, he was very computer savvy (at the ripe old age of 88) and typed his memoirs on his PC. We then printed the 'book' and gave a copy to each member of the family.

    Now that he's passed away I treasure that book- and am so thankful that those family stories can be passed down to my children and future generations.

    If a senior wants to share their lessons in life, try to get them (or someone) to write it down- it will be a keepsake to enjoy for years. In addition, the senior will love being heard and being able to pass down their valuable advice and life lessons.

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