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8 Ways to Keep the Memory of Your Parent Alive

Recommendations for families from the author of 'Inheriting Clutter'


(Julie Hall, who calls herself “The Estate Lady” has helped thousands of people with the challenging process of managing their deceased loved one’s possessions. In this excerpt from her new book, Inheriting Clutter: How to Calm the Chaos Your Parents Leave Behind, Hall offers recommendations for a few ways to keep your late parent’s memory alive.)

Even after their passing, your parents will always be Mom and Dad to you. Physically, they have left this earth, but I believe their memory will live on forever. Just as you were blessed to have them with you through all those years, you will be blessed to keep them alive in your heart.

Over the years, I have heard of many special ways that families keep the memories of their parents alive and would like to share eight of them with you.

She kept a bottle of Old Spice around, and every now and then, it would remind her of her father.

Do yourself and your family a favor by coming up with a way to continue to enjoy your parents forever. Honor them always.

8 Ideas to Keep a Parent’s Memory Alive

1. Plant a tree. Shortly after the interment service, one family I know gathered in front of the assisted-living center where both parents spent their final years together. One of the sons brought a shovel, and everyone — siblings, nephews and nieces, grandkids and even great-grandkids, took a turn at digging a hole.

"Inheriting Clutter" by Julie Hall

Then, a lovely silver maple — their mom’s favorite tree — was lifted into the hole and everyone took a turn shoveling the dirt back into it. By the time they were done, a crowd of nurses and residents had gathered and began clapping.

That tree will not only remind everyone at the facility how much they enjoyed knowing that couple, but every time family members visit the gravesite, they can drive a few blocks to the assisted-living center and see the tree they planted in memory of their loved one.

2. Distribute cuttings. Sally loved her African violets and took great pride in caring for them in their colorful pots on the ledge of the big bay window in her living room. After she passed away, one of her daughters pulled off several dozen cuttings from the plants and started them in a bowl of water.

Once the cuttings developed roots, the daughter planted each in a little clay pot with Mom or Grandma hand-painted on the side and gave them to all her siblings and their children.

As far as I know, to this day — several years after Sally died — her memory lives on in homes, dorm rooms, and apartments all over the country.

3. Share favorite recipes. Another creative daughter went through her mother’s recipe box and picked out about a dozen signature recipes her mom was known for. The daughter used her computer to create a small recipe book and gave it to everyone in the family.

4. Keep the fishing trip alive. Harold used to take his two sons on a fishing trip in remote Ontario every spring. The spring after his death, those sons planned a fishing trip with their own sons and daughters and spent at least one evening around the campfire, telling fish stories about their dad. It has now become an annual tradition.

5. Create a memory book. One enterprising son selected several dozen pictures of his late parents — from their wedding picture through various stages and memorable events of their lives — scanned them onto his computer and put together a lovely memory book that gets circulated among his siblings.

In another family, old home movies were transferred to DVDs and copies were given to family members. This makes so much more sense than just carting your parents’ boxes into your own attic where no one will ever get to enjoy the photos.

6. Give a lifelong gift. Many families contribute to charities and causes in memory of their parents. Often, those charities provide a visible way to display these gifts.

And you don’t have to be extremely wealthy and have a building named after your parents. One family pays for a scholarship for one underprivileged child to be able to go to a YMCA day camp in their city — with the name of the parent attached to the scholarship.

7. Make a family DVD. If your parents are still alive, local video companies can document and film them talking about their lives and then make copies for everyone after their deaths.

Take the DVD out once a year and review it to remember your parents’ own words and feelings.

8. Recreate your parents’ presence. There are a lot of ways to do this. One daughter remembered that every time she was around her dad, she loved the smell of his Old Spice aftershave lotion. So, she kept a bottle of Old Spice around, and every now and then, it would remind her of her father.

One son recalled how his mom loved listening to big-band trombonist and bandleader Glenn Miller. So, he collected enough songs to burn CDs for his family members to remember what it was like to walk into Mom’s house.

Julie Hall
By Julie Hall
Julie Hall, author of 'Inheriting Clutter,' is known as The Estate Lady. She's a personal property expert who has assisted thousands of people managing their deceased loved one's possessions. Since 2007, she has directed the American Society of Estate Liquidators.

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