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Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy Endures - Will Yours?

Published: January 10, 2020

As we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthdate, we are reminded of the man, an American hero who led our nation’s movement toward a more perfect union where all men/women are created equal regardless of their race, religion, politics or station in life. The innumerable books, articles, theatrical performances, parades, museum exhibits and memorial sites about his role in the civil rights movement provide a robust picture of a life well-lived and tragically ended far too soon. And, just as the granite Stone of Hope statue of his likeness which stands tall in Washington D.C., he too has become larger than life, someone whom we will undoubtedly never forget for generations to come.

One of the resounding themes in many of MLK’s speeches, sermons and letters was to remind us of our humanity and the importance of every individual to realize his/her full potential. He inspired us to establish our own legacy no matter how seemingly humble or grandiose our lives may be, we are an integral thread in the fabric of mankind. We all have something to contribute to this world. Every life should be celebrated and remembered when we are no longer here. Which prompts the question, “What is our legacy?”

Now, no doubt for most of us, there will be no biographers or journalist clambering to write our life story, so who will know what our legacy should include when we are gone? What would we want people to remember about us? Here at J.F. Goode funeral home during our management of funeral arrangements we have witnessed many families struggle with how to write their loved one’s obituary as they try to remember important dates, relationships, accomplishments and extraordinary events that their loved one’s experienced. It has been our observation that a loved one transition is a really tough time for families to try to capture all that they would want folks to know and remember about their loved one. After all it is their life not yours! Shouldn’t each one of us, perhaps as one of the many rites of passage into adulthood, have a sacred responsibility to try and make this easier on our loved ones? Here are a few tips that will help to get this underway:

• Create file folders/binder – One to three folders should do it. Create one that will hold all of your milestone papers, such as your birth certificate, your baptismal certificate, copies of your school diplomas, professional certifications, veteran’s honorable discharge papers (DD214), marriage certificate and if applicable, divorce decree. In a second folder file all of those training course completion certificates, awards/special recognition received, such as, work milestone certificates for years of service, newspaper articles about you, fraternal/club memberships, volunteer work, leadership awards, etc. and in the third folder include your insurance papers, financial benefit award letters, deeds and summaries of all of your financial holdings as well as a copy of your will. Another alternative to file folders is to put all of this information into a single binder with separators/tabs for each of the three sections noted above.

• Secure your files – Because identity theft has become such a big issue it will be important to secure the folders/binder that you create. You will want to make it convenient for your designated person(s) to have access to this information not a burglar/intruder. A locked, fireproof metal file cabinet or one of those small home safes can be great places to store these items. Make sure you designate someone who knows where the key is stored (NOT IN THE LOCK OF THE STORAGE UNIT!). It is not advisable to store these items in a bank security box unless you have shared full access to another signatory on the account. Banks must adhere to strict guidelines to freeze accounts of deceased persons’ assets in their institutions. This can hinder access to important information when your loved ones are trying to make arrangements over the weekend or holidays when banks are closed. This presents an even bigger problem if there is a tight time frame that needs to be met in the event that funeral plans call for direct cremation or transport to another state/country.

• Write your own obituary – We know that most of us have been taught to be humble and not brag about ourselves and yet we have no qualms about taking selfies of every activity we are engaged in right down to the meal we are about to partake. Why not redirect some of that self-energy into writing your own obituary? Who knows your life story better than you? Even better you can include what you want folks to know about you and not include what you want to keep private. This is the one-time that you get a pass on bragging about yourself without fear of any recrimination, after all it’s your legacy.

• Keep all your information current – Our lives are dynamic and if we are blessed to still be here as the years pass, it will be important to keep your files/obituary up to date. Make a commitment to revisit these documents at least every seven years or sooner if life-changing events have occurred.

• Talk to your loved ones – The most precious gift you can give before you transition is to share your stories with your loved ones so they know what is most important to you. Click Here to find out more about how to talk about your life with your loved ones.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is indeed an important one that we will continue to lift up and celebrate, however, given his view of our shared humanity would he not say to us that our own is equally important!

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