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A Walk in the Woods

By: Donald Calhoun, CM

Monument Builders of North America

Walking through the heavy snow, my breathing was heavy and my mouth dry.  The trees were draped with a glistening thick layer of snow, hanging like tantalizing frosting on a Christmas cupcake. The woods were densely populated with tall white pines, maple and several mighty oak trees.  I was following a single set of footprints. I wondered who they belonged too? I had the intention of this being a peaceful, sacred walk. I wanted to find a greater sense of self. My best friend strongly encourages me to try this deeper meditation crap. To be honest, I sucked at it. My life often seemed like a kaleidoscope of chaotic forces of energy.  Daily, I faced a constant bombardment of drama, trauma and sheer volumes of information. I often felt like my life was akin to being in a blizzard, and I was always navigating in whiteout conditions. The crazy reality was that for the most part, I enjoyed a fast-paced, crazy lifestyle. I had rarely been a dude to sit on the beach, meditate or even pray.  My form of spirituality and serenity was akin to the halftime show at the Super Bowl.  Who knows, I wanted to surprise myself and find peace, tranquility and understanding on this walk.   About a mile into the woods, the path had split.  The footprints lead to the right where there were more rolling hills and thick brush. To the left there was an unexpected, hidden and yet inviting little path.  It was inviting because of a little cross on top of a chapel peaked through the window of the forest, and it was visible off in the distance.  I questioned if I should have taken the path less traveled or follow the footprints?

The writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson jumped into my conscious mind, and I decided I had to go with the path less traveled.  I had always loved the unexpected and the adventures of discovery.  My journey had led me through a few sloughs and even some relatively steep hills.  After about 2 miles, a little stone chapel revealed its historic stone beauty.  The chapel must have been easily over a century old.  I walked quietly up to the front of the chapel and slowly peaked inside.  I said: “Hello God?  Are you in here?”

A rush of warmth had hit my face.  The sun peaked through the clouds and danced its radiance upon my face. I felt that I was no longer alone.  I had walked into a sacred space of souls.  I felt the love of my mother in my heart.  I heard my father saying: “My My Mercy Mercy”.  I felt the emotion of love as a dear friend played the piano. I remember thinking it was odd that a Lutheran played the song: “Mary, have you heard”.  Then there was the horrible smell of my Grandmother’s raisin cookies, that I loathed.  I heard my brother say: “Why be good, when you can be great”.

Do you believe in Heaven?  Can you imagine the souls of centuries surrounding, hugging and embracing you? Our subconscious minds allow us to dream.  Faith tells us it is possible.  We have it with our imagination and belief system to experience the greatest reunion ever experienced.  We can have immense and intense feelings of love, joy and connection that fill our hearts.  Our soul can become radiant and bursting with connection to our spiritual friends and family.

Grief is a necessary and painful part of our earthly journey. Let’s face it, it really sucks to lose someone we love.  When someone we love dies we will never get to manifest their physical being again. We won’t be able hug, touch, smell, feel, laugh, cry, or hold them again.  But guess what, at least for me, they can fully remain alive in our hearts, spirit and soul.  For example, my mother died in 1979, however, I fully believe she is with me in an emotional, intellectual and spiritual way.  I can still honor and celebrate her memory when I incorporate her spirit into my life, act in harmony with her belief system, manifest her teachings and lessons into my life.  I consider it an act of honor, privilege, and conscious choice.

We may not fully understand Heaven.  Faith is the belief in something that is not immediately provable.  However, I can’t imagine a life without faith.  We have to have faith in each other and in God.  Without faith it would be like a meaningless walk in the woods.

Let’s all take a moment to remember those who have impacted our life’s journey.  Remember to Have the Talk of a Life Time with those you love and care about. Thank you for joining me on our walk.  It was so wonderful to share this time together.

By the way, who was the most influential person in your life? Mine was my mommy!

Have the Talk in 2018

So what are you hoping to accomplish in 2018? While some vow to work out more or eat healthier, there are plenty of other ways to make a significant change that will benefit both you and your loved ones. How? We encourage you to Have the Talk of a Lifetime as a New Year’s resolution. Read on to discover just what is the Talk of a Lifetime, and find out how you can strike up a conversation with your friends and family.  

What is the Talk of a Lifetime?

The Talk of a Lifetime is a deep conversation that challenges you to really think about your life’s priorities. What are your goals? What are your proudest moments in life? How do you want to be remembered after you are gone? As you speak about these important questions with your loved ones, you develop a deeper sense of their legacy – and your own as well!  

How Will This Benefit Me and My Family?

While some people feel uncomfortable thinking about life and death, the Talk of a Lifetime is a stress-free way to discuss your legacy. Speaking about these issues openly and honestly can be a huge asset for your family. Plus, you can go at your own pace. Maybe you’d like to share a story about your favorite role model, so you can pass their advice to the next generation. Maybe you have specific wishes for memorialization after you are gone. No matter what you hope to express, the Talk of a Lifetime is the perfect venue for communication.

Why Should This Be My Family Resolution?

When you make the Talk of a Lifetime a New Year’s Resolution, you benefit both yourself and your loved ones. Setting a family resolution encourages bonding through a shared experience and commitment. When you have the Talk of a Lifetime, it’s a two-way street. Not only can you express your thoughts and feelings, but you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your family as well.  

How Do I Learn More?

There are plenty of resources available to learn how to have the Talk of a Lifetime. From conversation cards to free workbooks, it’s easy to find the tools you need to communicate effectively! Do you still have questions? Feel free to Contact Us for any advice!

Why Do We Establish Memorials?

People around the world have created memorials to honor those who have departed. While there has been a noticeable evolution of memorials over time, this ritual has persisted for centuries. So, why do we establish memorials in the present day? Some create memorials to grieve their own loss, others create memorials to honor the life of the deceased. No matter the reason, establishing these tributes can be an immensely healing process.

Importance of Memorials

While it’s true that memorials represent a life lost, they also represent the importance of that individual to the living. Memorials highlight the bonds that that tied this person to society, and cement that person’s place in history. Think of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. or Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. Though these memorials were created generations ago, they remain relevant even to the present day. Memorials can help share a legacy, however big or small, for decades to come.

Choosing a Memorial

Just as every life is different, every memorial is a little bit different as well. Consider the personality of the person that you want to remember. Did they have a favorite hobby, like fishing or gardening? Did they give to a particular charity or cause? As you go through your favorite memories, consider reaching out to friends and family for extra ideas. You may be surprised by what inspiration you find when you combine minds.

And while you’re investigating the legacy of your loved one, you might want to take the time to think about your own. What motivates you in life? What lessons do you hope to pass onto the next generation? Consider having the Talk of a Lifetime with those close to you, so you can express how you want to be remembered in the future.

Types of Memorials

Memorials come in many forms. Ancient civilizations created grand monuments for the deceased, while modern memorials may be smaller, or even completely virtual. Here are just a few examples of modern memorials:

●Planting a tree or creating a small memorial garden is a wonderful way to honor a nature lover.

●Online memorials can be shared with friends and family all over the world. Add images, videos, and words of remembrance with just a click.

●Public spaces, like universities and parks, often offer tributes for those departed. Speak with the organizers about purchasing an engraved bench, brick, or plaque to celebrate your loved one.

●Visit the Monument Builders of North America website for inspiring ideas for beautiful monuments to memorialize your loved ones.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime Today

How do you want your life to be honored? Have the Talk of a Lifetime today and let your family know how you want to be remembered. Visit the resources page and download free materials such as the Activity Guide and Workbook which will help you begin your conversations!

Creating Meaningful Gifts For the People You Love

Artwork

There’s nothing like giving or receiving a truly special gift. While gift cards may be nice sometimes, they just can’t compare to something that’s been designed especially for someone. A meaningful keepsake can be almost anything – something to wear or display, or maybe just something to keep in a special place. And, a unique gift is exactly the kind of conversation piece that can help you Have the Talk of a Lifetime. Consider one of these creative ideas:

Annual Letters

Every year at the same time, write a letter to your child and include some money in the envelope. Stow them all away until he or she turns 18, and then give them as a gift. What a fun surprise to read these notes from the past! You could even do them for other family members.

Unique Quilts

You can create a quilt out of all sorts of memorabilia – baby clothes, athletic jerseys, t-shirts – whatever you want. The end result is a creative way to show off cherished memories. Websites like Project Repat, Campus Quilt, and others can make the process a snap.

Photo Collages

Grab up some old photos and cut out the best parts for a framed collage. The larger the better! Or maybe you have some polaroid pictures that you can arrange in a heart shape on a white background to frame. Be as creative as you’d like!

Shadow Boxes

Collect ticket stubs or other papers to display inside a shadow box, a beautiful way to hang onto them in an organized fashion. You could write a letter on the backing for an extra sentimental touch.

Personalized Jewelry

Thanks to the power of the internet, you can easily find lockets and other personalized pieces that are perfect for moms, grandmothers, and sisters. Whether it’s with pictures, poetry, or names, jewelry will always be worn proudly.

Remember When? Box

Think about writing down some of your favorite memories on beautiful scrolled paper and placing them inside a box titled, Remember When? This gift will keep on giving, because you can keep adding memories down the road.

Don’t Wait to Make a Meaningful Gift

The sooner you make a loved one a creative, meaningful gift, the more time there is to enjoy it. These kinds of gifts spark memories, and memories make it easy to start the Talk of a Lifetime. To find out more about Have the Talk of a Lifetime, Contact Us today.

5 Ways to Honor a Loved One During the Holidays

Burning Candle

When you and your family are grieving a loss, the holiday season can be especially challenging. But, the holidays can also mark a wonderful opportunity to remember those who have passed. In this guide, we go through 5 ways to honor a loved one during the holidays. These new traditions serve as a way to cherish those memories of the past, while sharing those moments with future generations.

1. Light a Candle

Many cultures around the world use the lighting of candles to pay respects to the departed. The shining light can represent the spirit of those you love, so you can include them in your celebrations long after they are gone. Consider picking up a special candle in a favorite color or scent, or pick up an LED candle as a flameless alternative.

2. Prepare a Special Meal

Many holidays, like Hanukkah and Christmas, involve a festive feast that’s full of recipes handed down for generations. This is a great chance to dig out those old family recipe cards. Gather the family to make grandma’s prize-winning pie, or take turns preparing your father’s beloved roast recipe. While gathered, encourage your family to reflect on their own lives and the impact of loved ones. We call this “The Talk of a Lifetime.” Learn more about having this conversation here.

3. Volunteer for a Cause

The holidays are a wonderful time to spread good cheer to all, so think about volunteering for a cause that was important to your loved one. You can help out a community food bank or create holiday cards for a local hospital. The goodwill that you receive from volunteering with your family can make any holiday brighter and more meaningful.

4. Create a Display

If you and your family are creative, you can create a holiday display about favorite memories of your loved one. Dedicate a small space of a room to photographs, letters, artwork, and other mementos that remind you of our favorite times with family. Tech-savvy thinkers can also make memorial videos or multimedia projects to share during the holidays.

5. Decorate the Gravestone

Many families gather at the gravestones of their loved ones over the holidays to pay respects as a group. While you can gather in silence or rehash your favorite stories, some people enjoy the process of decorating the gravesite. Flowers, paper cutouts, painted stones, or even small ornaments can bring festivity to the final resting place.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime Today

How will you want to be honored? Have the Talk of a Lifetime today and let your family know how you want to be remembered. Visit the resources page and download free materials such as the Activity Guide and Workbook which will help you begin your conversations!

Learn the Top Three Family Activities that Spark the Talk of a Lifetime

Family Picnic Whenever you get together with loved ones, your day gets a little bit brighter. Whether grabbing a coffee or talking on the phone, a friendly chat is always a welcomed treat. But, the holiday season marks the perfect opportunity to do something extra special. We’ve compiled a list of fun family activities that spark the Talk of a Lifetime. Feel free to round up your friends and family to create new memories while having a blast.

What is the Talk of a Lifetime?

Life is full of casual conversations and small talk, but the Talk of a Lifetime provides a unique opportunity to dig deeper. When you have the Talk of a Lifetime with family, you ask open-ended questions that encourage self-reflection. You’ll learn about your family’s wishes and dreams, and what they hope to leave as a legacy. Ask your grandmother about her favorite memories from childhood, or ask your father about the one piece of advice that he’s carried with him for life. These simple questions can reveal a great deal about your loved ones. You can find more information by visiting the Have the Talk of a Lifetime website.

What Activities Will Spur Conversation?

We’re glad you asked! Here are our favorite hands-on activities that are suitable for the whole family. Consider adding a few to the schedule for your next holiday celebration!
  1. A Gratitude Tree is a simple activity that can make a big impact. Gather fallen twigs from the yard with your family, or make your own colorful stems with pipe cleaners. Attach a small piece of construction paper at the top of each branch and instruct each guest to write something that makes them grateful. Arrange all of the contributions in a vase or other container.
  2. Make a Holiday Time Capsule to keep a record of all your favorite family memories. Get a sealed container and load it up with family recipes, newspaper clippings, photographs, and anything else you’d like. Seal the capsule and tuck it away in a safe spot until you’re ready to relive the past.
  3. Create a Holiday Memories Tablecloth to brighten up your holiday feast. Pick up a plain white tablecloth or runner, and set out a bin of multicolored pens. Guests can take turns writing down favorite memories from the year and sharing these memories with others.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime

Activities are a great way to spark the Talk of a Lifetime. Have the Talk of a Lifetime provides several great tools to help families have their Talk of a Lifetime. Visit www.talkofalifetime.org/resoures for resources including a Holiday Guide that will help you and your family Have the Talk over the holidays!

Find Out How to Preserve Memories on the National Day of Listening

group of guys The National Day of Listening was created in 2008 to celebrate the unique and valuable stories that every individual possesses. Over time, this event has grown in popularity and everyone from presidents to celebrities have broadcast their personal histories to commemorate the occasion. So, how will you preserve memories on the National Day of Listening this November? We’ve got a list of tips and tricks to make this day truly memorable for you and yours!

History

StoryCorps, a national non-profit organization, created the National Day of Listening to encourage people to share their stories with the world. The event falls on the Friday following Thanksgiving, acting as an alternative to “Black Friday.” Families are encouraged to take an extra day to reflect on what’s important to them, and record those thoughts with those they love. Over time, this creates a personal timeline of family history.

Capturing Memories

Some people love to share their memories, while others tend to be a little shy. That’s why it’s important to create an open and welcoming environment to communicate freely. There are many ways to spur conversation organically. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Browse through a photo album with your loved ones and ask them to describe a few pictures. When was it taken? What was happening at the time?
  • Look through the books or artwork at your loved one’s home. Ask about the significance behind their favorite works, and when they picked each piece up.
  • Kick back and chit-chat! Get a deck of the Conversation Cards and start your conversation in a unique way!

Recording History

After generating great discussion, it’s time to get those thoughts on paper! But, there are many ways to preserve memories for the National Day of Listening. Think about which method feels the most personal, so you can create a fitting tribute to your loved one.
  • Build a scrapbook with images and captions describing favorite moments.
  • Record an oral history with a microphone and tape recorder, computer, or even a smartphone.
  • Make a video recording of your interview and share it at a family reunion.
  • Create a blog with stories from your entire family, so everyone can access the interviews from all over the world.
  • Download the Have the Talk of a Lifetime Workbook and jot down your discussions in the notes section.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime with Your Loved Ones

The National Day of Listening is a fantastic occasion to have important conversations with the ones you love. While you are all gathered after Thanksgiving, take the time to record your Talk of a Lifetime. Not sure where to start? Visit www.talkofalifetime.org, or feel free to email us at HaveTheTalkOfALifetime@gmail.com with any questions.

Thanksgiving Dinner is the Perfect Time for Sharing Memories

Pumpkin

Thanksgiving is one of the few times when our relatives gather for much-needed time together and to honor our family traditions. It’s also the perfect time to delve into the mine of our collective memories, especially those of our grandmothers and grandfathers. There’s nothing better than lighting up our children’s faces with stories of our own childhood escapades, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if they shared those stories someday with their own children?

Celebrate With Have the Talk of a Lifetime

Have the Talk of a Lifetime brings families together to talk about important memories and a loved one’s life story. These details can be important later, when it’s time to memorialize that person. What better way to honor our loved one than sharing their life events and experiences that were the most meaningful to them? These memories will also provide deep comfort in times of grief and healing. Thanksgiving provides an ideal setting for asking questions and sharing information in a way that’s natural, surrounded by family of all ages.

How Do I Initiate the Talk of a Lifetime?

People tend to open up more easily about their lives if something sparks a memory, so it might be a good idea to have each member of the family bring a few old photos or mementos to Thanksgiving dinner. These things could be passed around the table, used in a guessing game, or maybe hung on a bulletin board for everyone to see. One person can take notes, so important names and dates can be documented. Even better, make audio or video recordings of stories and conversations. You can also hold a question and answer session, asking everyone, or perhaps the eldest people there, things like:

  • What achievement in your life are you most proud of?

  • Tell me about what summers were like for you growing up?

  • If you could go anywhere you wanted tomorrow, where would it be?

  • What advice from your parents or grandparents was important to you?

  • You could even have each person at the table write a question!

Hold Onto the Memories

Once you’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with some insights from your Talk of a Lifetime, organize them in a way that preserves everything so you can find it again. If someone in your family is tech-savvy, creating a blog or family website to post information, photos, videos, and audio recordings are an easy way to store everything without taking up a lot of space. Handwritten notes and photos albums work, too. This doesn’t have to be a chore! Connecting generations of your family and keeping memories alive is fun, and it brings everyone closer together. It also makes memorializing someone’s life more meaningful and less overwhelming.

If you have any questions, please visit www.talkofalifetime.org to find a Have the Talk of a Lifetime expert near you! 73% of people who have used the Have the Talk of a Lifetime materials would recommend a funeral professional associated with the program. These funeral professionals are the best resource when it comes to planning a meaningful memorial service.

Get Conversations Flowing With These Tips

People Chatting

Isn’t it funny how sometimes conversations just take off with no effort, and other times it’s like pulling teeth to talk to someone? This can happen whether someone is a stranger or a member of your own family. When you Have the Talk of a Lifetime, conversations about the things that matter most to your loved ones and how they can be remembered and honored in a meaningful way, it’s helpful to have some tips to get that conversation flowing. Try these suggestions to get the information you’re looking for:

Keep the Tone Friendly

No one is receptive to a frown or somber tone, so make sure you’re relaxed and smiling when you start the Talk of a Lifetime. Make eye contact and respond to the other person to show that you’re listening, with a laugh, a nod, or an empathetic comment. If your overall body language is open – no crossed arms or staring off into space – then the other person will feel important and heard.

Stay Positive

It’s no fun to have conversations with people who are always complaining. Though some of the memories and discussions you have during the Talk of a Lifetime may be painful, get off to a good start with a joke or a family story that’s going to get a laugh. Even when you get to more serious topics, a positive attitude can go a long way toward understanding and coping with memories and other issues.

Small Talk is Good

Many people get impatient with small talk, but it’s an important step in communication. You may need to fill some awkward silences with comments about the weather or what you had for breakfast, but these are things anyone can relate to. Small talk is a good way to bond and move toward deeper conversations. Plus, small talk is a more natural way of starting a conversation, rather than just abruptly jumping right into a big topic like funerals and cremation.

Questions, Questions

The heart of Have the Talk of a Lifetime is engaging your loved one and asking questions about his or her life. You don’t want to come off as aggressive, so let the topics lead you along the path. Questions are a normal part of conversations, and if you’re keeping things positive and the tone friendly, then information will start coming. Comments that affirm and reinforce the information someone is sharing are important, too. “Wow,” “I didn’t know that,” “Tell me more,” are the kinds of things you can say to encourage someone to keep talking.

Keep Your Mouth Closed and Your Ears Open

You’re really there to listen, so let the other person do all the talking. It’s easy, especially if you’re relating to what someone is telling you, to jump in with your own personal story or anecdote. You don’t want to take over the conversation, so try to focus on the other person and consciously try not to dominate. If the talk stalls, that’s a good time to relate something from your life experiences to get the conversation going again.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime

Now you’re ready to have the Talk of a Lifetime! These conversation tips can get you going, and our free workbook can help, too. 60% of people who used the Have the Talk of a Lifetime materials learned something new about a loved one! Visit www.talkofalifetime.org today and find out how to get your talk started today.

Celebrate “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” Month

Tree While it’s always a great time to chat with your friends and family, November marks a special occasion. As you gather with loved ones this Fall, take time to celebrate “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” month with special activities and events designed to bring you and yours closer. Just what is this monthly celebration all about? Find out more with our guide, and start planning!

What is the Talk of a Lifetime?

The Talk of a Lifetime is one of the most important conversations that you can have. These discussions allow you and your loved ones to express what your life has meant and how you’d want to be remembered. While this may sound overwhelming at first glance, the Talk of a Lifetime can be a deeply uplifting and transformative experience that brings people together. Ask your grandparents about their favorite childhood memories or their wedding day. Ask your best friend about the greatest lessons they’ve learned in life. You’re bound to gain a deeper understanding of your loved ones, while learning how they would like to be memorialized in the future.

How do I Have the Talk of a Lifetime?

There are no strict guidelines or precise rules when it comes to the having Talk of a Lifetime. The important thing is that everyone is comfortable. Maybe you’d like to start a conversation while looking through an old photo album, or perhaps you’d like to take a day trip to a special location to reminisce on past vacations with the family. Once you are situated, ask a few questions. Here are a few examples to get you started:
  •  What was your biggest obstacle and your proudest achievement?
  •  What was the best advice that you ever received?
  •  What was your favorite vacation and why was it so special?
  •  Who is your biggest inspiration?
  • If you need more help, consider visiting the Have the Talk of a Lifetime site for free resources like activity guides and downloadable workbooks, or you can purchase a deck of Conversation Cards to help get things started.

What events can I attend?

November is full of special events to commemorate Have the Talk of a Lifetime Month. Feel free to search for activities on our event website. You and your loved ones will have a blast while attending events such as the following:
  •  Genealogy 101
  •  Scrapbooking Lessons
  •  Remembrance Services
  •  Family Tree Construction
  •  Fall Festivities
  •  And much more!
Contact us at havethetalkofalifetime@gmail.com for any questions you may have. Visit www.talkofalifetime.org today to get started.