We get asked a lot at Experience Camps about the best ways to honor the memory of someone who died. In fact, the most “Googled” searches that leads people to our website is “honoring a loved one” and “How to honor someone’s legacy.” We’ve shared plenty of ideas over the years – including actions like making a donation to the person’s favorite cause, creating the person’s favorite recipes, expressing your love creatively, having a quilt made from the person’s t-shirts, and visiting their favorite places. While there are endless ways to go about honoring someone, I wanted to share my favorite.
Think about one positive quality or trait you admired about your person who died. Maybe it was their optimism during hard times or their goofy sense of humor or their humility during brag-worthy moments or their generosity with strangers. Remember how good it felt for you to witness this quality or action in real time, and maybe how others responded to it. Then make a point of bringing that quality to the world on behalf of them and for yourself. When you do, enjoy the feeling of connection and the fact that you’re keeping them part of this world.
If it sounds simple, it’s because it is. It’s also extremely meaningful, and I know because I do it myself on behalf of both of my parents.
My mom lived her life assuming she would get exactly what she wanted and just had to work backwards to put the steps into place to get there. If she wanted to score tickets or get into somewhere exclusive or do just about anything, she decided it was a done deal and then got scheming. This was an extremely useful tool when she would go to court as a trial lawyer; it also was a more fun way to live for her. One of the best ways that I honor her legacy is to take on this approach myself when I’m feeling unsteady or unsure whether I can make something happen. Often this attitude works; even when it doesn’t, I feel like she’d appreciate the effort.
I honor the memory of my dad every time I stop to appreciate the simpler things in life. If my mom loved the wilder and more jaw-dropping adventures, many of which happened in New York City where she later lived, my dad enjoyed tinkering with his car while listening to music on the radio. He loved going outside in the sun to read the newspaper with his coffee. He was at his happiest grilling on the deck. He didn’t need grand conditions to “fill his cup,” and when I slow down to soak in simple joys, I feel relaxed and connected with him.
Both my parents had their flaws, just like everyone else, and it’s not about pretending they were perfect. It’s about honing in on the aspects of them that I most appreciated and making sure those qualities and traits remain part of my life, remain in this world, and hopefully get passed onto the next generation.
Michelle Cove is the Director of Communications at Experience Camps. She founded the nonprofit MEDIAGIRLS. She is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, journalist, and national bestselling author whose projects have been featured on numerous national platforms including “The Today Show,” The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times.