Personal reflections on legacy making
Previous research on legacy making includes Chochi- nov et al.’s (2005) work on dignity therapy, during which older adults with end-stage malignancies dis- cussed issues that mattered most to them or that they most wanted remembered about themselves. Coyle (2006) reported that adults living with ad- vanced cancer were concerned about how they would be remembered, and the creation of a legacy was uni- versal to all participants. Bereaved parents and sib- lings reported that children living with cancer created legacies that were both intentional and ser- endipitous in nature (Foster et al., 2009). These studies suggest that it is important for many dying individuals to create a legacy and know they will be remembered.
As a nursing scientist studying continuing bonds and legacy making at the end-of-life since 2004, I found that this phenomenon appeared very different to me after it recently and suddenly became a very personal part of my own life. A 33-year-old loved one was diagnosed with squamous cell oral cancer, quickly deteriorated, and died just 6 months later. I was suddenly living within my own research phenomenon of interest and observing legacy making through a different lens. During the last few weeks of Henry’s life (real name not used to maintain privacy), it struck me that I should write about my obser- vations, and he agreed for me to write and share this small part of his life and death. This article reflects what I wrote in the waiting room just weeks before his death.