In going through my dad’s things, I came across an old Pepsi soda can from the 1960s. It had clay surrounding it. Old dried and yellowed bands of once clear tape were barely keeping the brittle shards together. The clay was painted faded hues of what were once bright red, blue, and perhaps green. It was the pencil box I made for my dad when I was in nursery school. That soda can sat on his desk in his office and then at home. The layers of tape were added until the pencil can finally morphed from a pencil holder to a keepsake.
I was deeply touched to find this craft project from when I was a young boy among his things when he died. It was the story of that simple gift that was so valuable and meaningful to both of us.
Each of the things we possess has a story. And it is this narrative that gives the true meaning to the object. For without that story, it is merely a thing. But with that story an object has reach, meaning, depth, and emotional impact that informs the circumstances around getting it and why we continue to hold on to it for so many years.
This understanding helped a group of us brainstorm at the Design Lab of Jefferson Memorial Hospital to create the Legacy Store. In the lab, we conceptualized how we tell our stories and how do we share those stories with loved one? The stories associated with our possessions was the vehicle. These things and their stories were the way to connect others to the intimate memories we carry. We came upon the idea of a store. We give away each and every thing that is valuable to us to our loved ones, the “price” is to learn the recollections we have associated with that object.
I knew my part of the story about my gift to my dad from over 50 years ago. But finding that pencil box among his personal things helped me to understand my dad and our connection more intimately than before. The Legacy Store idea may help others share an enduring connection not of things to people but rather people to people. So, take the things you treasure most and share both them and the stories they carry with your loved ones while you are still alive to bequeath a legacy that goes beyond things to deeper meaning and connection.