by Karen Keller Capuciati
If one of your parents died, which would you prefer: To inherit their wealth or receive a letter saying how much they loved you?
This question was posed in an independent study performed by Gemini Adams, grief expert and author of the award-winning book, Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye. Of the 250 respondents, more than 90% chose the letter.
Gemini was only 21 when her mother, BBC broadcaster and journalist Andrea Adams, died of ovarian cancer in 1995, at the age of 49. Gemini believes that overcoming her subsequent grief was more difficult than the people around her ever realized. In her book she claims that she faltered for many years after her mother’s passing because she lacked the support and encouragement her mom had typically provided her. “It was a time when I should have been starting my adult life, independently carving out my own unique path,” she writes. “But, unlike my peers — who were making confident progress in their lives and careers — I bounced hopelessly between bewilderment and deep despair.”
Gemini felt that something as simple as a letter from her mom, “a message that said she was proud of me, that she loved me or believed in me,” would have helped support, encourage and inspire her in those needy times and might well have laid the groundwork for a healthier and less protracted grieving process.
A decade after her mom’s death, Gemini finally found her life’s direction as a bereavement expert and lifestyle counselor. And with Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye, which received the Mom’s Choice Gold Award 2010, the Dad’s Seal of Approval, the National Best Book Award 2009 and came in as a finalist in the International Book Awards 2010, Gemini is passionately pursuing her goal of making legacy letters — what she refers to as the legacy of love — as automatic and commonplace as the act of passing along financial estates from one generation to the next. Gemini offers practical ideas for creating this legacy, such as recording your life story, passing along your wisdom and values and affection through letters to loved ones, leaving future surprises, even planning your own life celebration (a.k.a. your funeral).
I admit that planning for a time when I’m not here did not seem relevant or necessary for me when I started reading this book. I’m healthy, relatively young and I don’t have children, so my feeling was, I don’t have to think about this for a while. However, by the end of Your Legacy of Love, I had become enthusiastic about Gemini’s ideas, so I came up with a plan inspired by Gemini’s passion for sharing love and affection.
Collecting beach glass and stones is something our family likes to do, so for my sister-in-law Patty’s 50th birthday, I asked everyone in the family to think about the qualities that they love and admire in Patty, distill it to a single word and then paint it on a rock. At her birthday dinner, Patty was presented with one stone after another with words like, “caring,” “beauty,” “benevolent,” all lovingly painted on separate rocks by each family member. By the end of dinner, Patty had an impressive pile of sentiment stones stacked all around her plate. The gift had the intended effect: she was surprised and extremely touched by the outpouring of love. My husband Peter noted, quite correctly, that painted rocks were a far more powerful gift than anything we could have purchased.
As a writer, Gemini Adams has a way of bringing this potentially difficult topic around to something we can be creative with and enjoy. Sitting down to determine to whom I would write and what I would say was truly an exercise in self-examination and self-awareness. It put into perspective what means most to me. Gemini encourages us all to do this now, because we really never know when we might not be here, and we shouldn’t wait for a doctor to give us an artificial deadline for sharing our love.
That is what the book comes down to — teaching us how to live our lives more lovingly now.
In Care of Dad would love to hear about what kind of values and wisdom you might want to pass on to those you love, or what kind of guidance and comfort you’d like to receive from others. Let’s help Gemini get the legacy-of-love ball rolling!
Karen Keller Capuciati is the Co-Founder of In Care of Dad.