How to Honor a Star in Your Family: A Ralph Idea

My brother Ralph is famous in our family. Born on the 4th of July, he’s a a “Yankee Doodle Dandy.†He was a teacher, counselor, and for just about 40 years, husband to Joyce. He is loved by many for his ideas. Joyce, is also a bit of a star to us—especially now that her life on earth is a sweet memory.

Ralph’a newest idea fascinates me. He and Joyce had a full life, and her only regret was that her grandchildren would not remember her. So Ralph’s idea: ask those who love her to write a short story of something she said, or of how she affected them in a positive way. This fall, he’ll create a book to present to the grandchildren.

I’ve worked with authors for the past ten years. Some write genealogies, while others stick to memoirs and life knowledge. This is the first time I’ve worked with stories written by loved ones, paying tribute to just one person. After reading about a hundred responses, I’ve come to understand four things: 

  1. I have a new understanding of the question: What is a life?
  2. When the same quality is mentioned repeatedly, we’re looking at a life habit.
  3. Our actions and words affect those around us. 
  4. Our values, through our actions, create our legacy.

Here’ what I mean:

I have a new understanding of the question: What is a life?

What I realize most is that people cherish Joyce for the small and simple things she did. “She had a hardy laugh.†“She listened to me.†“She told the truth.â€Â  A life is made from a million small actions, many are gifts to those around us. 

When the same quality is mentioned repeatedly, we’re looking at a life habit.

Several people mentioned the same things about Joyce: she welcomed new people into her home, she took every opportunity to stand up for women, she gave gifts of a handmade quilts and cards, she got a kick out of the silly things she and Ralph did. The patterns of our lives create the pieces of our life’s puzzle, making it a work of art. 

Our actions and words affect those around us. 

Many stories about Joyce end with words like, “I’ve lived my life using hers as a road map,†or  “And I think of her when life hands me a challenge and I am called to be stronger than I believe I can be,†or “She served as a beacon and a measure for me of what is right and good.†People are watching. Not just children, but everyone. The way we face the challenges of the everyday serve as a living motivator of what it means to be a human. 

Our values, through our actions, create our legacy.

The kind of legacy I’m referring to has nothing to do with money. The most valuable legacy is a gift of the self. What see and admire in someone else, is a quality we want to practice in our own lives. Some who knew Joyce intend to be more honest in expressing themselves. I, for one, will entertain more. And why not? Hospitality is one of my highest values. What better way to honor Joyce and be myself to the full!

My intention in sharing this great “RALPH IDEA†is for you to copy it or adapt it to honor someone in your family—either while they are living their “Perfect Age,†or they are a memory to cherish. 

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