When a loved one dies, you might wish to remember the person by writing about your experience in your journal, writing about the deceased and keeping mementos.
Here are a few things that I have done with a journal during Aunt C’s recent illness and death:
1. Print Text Messages
These days, some are irritated if you call them on the phone without advance notice. Instead, we send short text messages on our cell phones or other mobile devices when it is more convenient than voice-to-voice or face-to-face communication.
I’m so glad that this is the case, because text messages from loved ones who are now deceased become written (or, rather, typed) keepsakes.
I have texts from Aunt C that I will print out and place in my journal, including her last one in which she thanked me for sending a book about cancer and hope – not know the deceased very well, the speech tends to be an impersonal lecture. However, he or she might still have a few words worth worth your time; take notes. I do not put too much pressure on myself to summarize the eulogy if the person did not know the deceased; I just grab one concept from the whole speech, then write about something else.
At some funerals, there is a point in the service when audience members may go to a microphone for a couple of minutes and reflect on the life of the person who has died. Usually, the audience member tells a story about one moment in time when the deceased was kind, or entertaining, or a welcome presence, etc. These are often stories that I’ve never heard before, so I take notes. I summarized these 2-minute reflections about Aunt C in my journal during her funeral.
You may decide to do all of this in your journal later at home. However, I have found that I tend to forget some of the things I want to record unless I’m taking notes in the moment, as if it is an important class.
(Actually, a funeral can be an important class in life. Everyone is thinking about death and what is important to them. It’s a time of reflection.)
5. Consider an heirloom journal
Let’s say that the deceased did not leave much of a personal record of themselves – their opinions, their thoughts on life, their thoughts on the family, etc. There’s little you can do about that.
However, you can consider leaving YOUR journals behind so that your relatives have a keepsake from you. The heirlooms might be your daily journals or a separate journal specifically dedicated to what you want your relatives to know about you, about life, about concepts that you find important.
Aunt C did not keep a journal (at least, not that we know of); she was a private individual. However, after her death, a few relatives perused her papers to get a better sense of who she was, that which she never really told us about herself. It was a bit impersonal since the papers were diplomas, certificates, office papers, bills, etc., but they still told a story. It would have been nice to have something a little more personal from her.
Give the gift of your personal story to your loved ones by leaving your journals in your will.
P.S. If you are worried about what can happen to your journal after you die, read this article to consider your options: Journaling Q and A, Part 1.