Legacy projects are creations intended to memorialize and honor someone’s life.
In addition to navigating grief and a new solo parenting dynamic, I felt a responsibility to have something tangible for my boys that would make them feel connected to their daddy.
My husband and I had 16 years together. That will never be enough but I will also never forget my physical life with him.
My toddlers....they will.
I was constantly struggling with wanting to savor pieces of my husband for myself and my kids while not throwing it in his face that he was going to die. It felt like asking him to participate in some of these activities was the equivalent of me giving up all hope – which I never wanted him to think I was doing.
Some of these projects can be done before your family is in crisis - by doing that, you can avoid the situation I found myself in.
6 Legacy Project Ideas
I didn't do this until my husband was sick but you can just have some good ol' healthy family craft time to create some meaningful pieces of legacy art. Hopefully it never becomes a memorial piece and just serves as cute wall art for you to look at and cry over how big your kiddo's hands are getting.
Finger prints are so unique and there’s so much you can do with them (i.e. jewelry, tattoos, framed art).
So, save them. You'll be happy you did.
All you need is a canvas, an ink pad or some finger paint.
Ok...it was the best I could do with two toddlers, a dog and approximately 10 seconds of free time but honestly, it's so perfectly imperfect to me.
Think flowers, trees, and hearts made of fingerprints.
This is something else I would suggest doing while you still have an opportunity to. It would have been nice to do this while Mike was still able to sign his name, but I don’t beat myself up over that because Mike’s feelings were my priority at the time.
I bought birthday cards for both boys up until age 18. I sat with Mike in his hospital bed and wrote a little note in each of them. Mike’s speech was impaired but he was still able to communicate and understand what we were doing. He was still able to offer his words.
Since Mike couldn’t use his hands anymore, I pushed his fingers into an ink pad and fingerprinted each card where I signed our names.
I have them stored away in my closet until their birthdays roll around again.
A few years ago I had a blanket made out of my mom's clothing and recently had two blankets made out of Mike's clothing for Dante and Dominic.
It took me 6+ months to start packing Mike's clothes away. Some people do this in the days immediately following their person’s death. Others are years into widowhood and haven’t moved their loved one’s toothbrush out of its holder.
Everyone has a different timeline.
There was about one third of Mike's clothes that were fairly easy to donate as I didn't have much connection to them.
There was another third that brought up so many emotions but I was comfortable enough to have them made into blankets and teddy bears for the boys.
The final third, I couldn't tamper with. Some of them bring me back to a very specific time and place. Those I can't part with. Those I packed away.
Blankets made of Mike's shirts, pants, sweatshirts and bathing suits.
Teddy bears made from old flannels and a pillow made from a sweatshirt.
Voice Recordings: record.record.record
Do the obvious - video tape everything.
After 16 years with Mike, it's honestly the most guilt-filled-bizarre feeling to think that I may need help remembering the sound of his voice one day.
Like, how can his voice ever even begin to fade from my memory? I hope it never does... but I am so grateful to have so many videos of him talking and laughing just incase.
As for projects, there are recordable books that allow you to read and record a book for your child. I couldn't get myself to ask this of Mike - but I think it'd be so nice to have. I wish it was something I did well before Mike got sick - just because.
No one really plans for this at 29 years old though.
What I did do was have the boys record short messages to Mike in build-a-bears for his last Father's Day.
Actually, they made a frog (named daddy-frog) and a monkey (named daddy-monkey).
My intent was for them to give something special to daddy but also for it to become something special for them to keep. I hope that when they get older and their memories fade, hearing their little toddler voices saying "I love you daddy!" reminds them that he is real.
That he was here.
And that even though they don't remember their relationship, they loved him so much.
meet daddy-monkey and daddy-frog!
It's been a very, very slow process but I have been working on a photo album for both of my boys.
I want it to tell their story.
Because my kids are so young and won't remember this time in their lives, it was recommended by my child life specialist to include pictures that show daddy healthy AND daddy sick.
Naturally, I want their image of Mike to be when he was healthy but showing them the reality of this part of their young lives will help them understand it.
Understanding it will help them be able to share this part of their story one day. And it's a big part of it.
Memorial Paver/Bench/Tree Mike and I got married in Ocean City, NJ. My family vacationed there for many years before my parents bought a house. The city has so much significance to me.
We coordinated these personalized pavers through city hall and had them placed at the playground right down the street from us.
It's common for parks, playgrounds and other public spaces to allow this. I also had a personalized bench similar to this one gifted to me that sits in my backyard.
Memorial pavers for Mike and my mom.
Lastly, to support Mike's legacy, we're holding our Inaugural Mikey D Memorial Golf Outing on August 7, 2023. My hope is that this outing becomes a tradition that our boys hold close to their hearts and can participate in as they get older. You can register for the golf outing HERE.