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Man In The Maze From the Tohono Odham Tribe of Southern Arizona

The Legacy Project Parts

The legacy project has several parts:

1.   Creation of an ethical will, which is a personal written or dictated record of your family stories, philosophic thoughts, legacy, and goals. Ethical wills are a way to share your values, achievements, blessings, life's lessons, hopes and dreams for the future, love, and forgiveness with your family, friends, and community.

Ethical wills are not new. Initially, ethical wills were transmitted orally. Over time, they evolved into written documents.

The Hebrew Bible first described ethical wills 3000 years ago (Genesis Ch. 49). References to this tradition are also found in the Christian Bible (John Ch. 15-18) and in other cultures. Written for succeeding generations, the ethical will offers an opportunity to add to personal family knowledge and history to express one's life accomplishments, values, and legacy wishes for the family. Appendix A

An ethical will is not considered a legal document as compared to a living will or last will and testament which are legal documents.

2.   Creation of a Family Tree with pictures of family members. An organized family tree provides a basic family history outline that can help prompt memories of early years, ancestors, and family stories. This has been made easier with the use of a personal computer, the internet and commercial genealogy programs.

A diagram of a family tree is illustrated below followed by an example of the basic types of information to record. Your family's experience may include additional events, history and information that you want to include such as dates of marriage or migration from one country to another.

Sample Family Tree
Sample family tree showing with 4 generations
sample of tree with personal information about Maternal Grandparents and Mother
By including any medical history you know of for ancestors and family members, you provide very valuable familial hereditary information and potential future guidance for prevention of medical illnesses (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and cancer) and/or help make a genetic reconstruction of your family's heredity.

In collaboration with other health agencies, the U.S. Surgeon General has created the Family Health Initiative to provide tools for families to enter and organize their family's health history to share with their physicians. Appendix B contains details about this program, website information, and a copy of the Surgeon General's Family Health Portrait forms.

3.   Create and maintain your own electronic medical history record in a portable format to share with your doctors. Appendix C.

4.   Information on Family Tree construction is available in Appendix D.

5.   Record the Family History with stories and examples of past and current generations using the family tree as a guide ((instructions for the Legacy Tape interview are available in Appendix F).). The family stories can be linked to various persons on the family tree, describing their relationship to the storytellers and their family. A guide sheet is provided so that the family history interviews follow a similar pattern, including, for example, name, age, relationship, birthplace, marriage (wife or husband or partner), birth day, where they lived, list of parents, grandparents and children and stories about each.

6.   Organized audio and video recordings on DVDs for family members. Videocamera recordings of current family members can be combined with photographs of ancestors and relations, and edited to reflect the family growing up. Older movie films and recordings can be retrieved and added to future films and video recording segments can be converted to DVDs as the generations continue to grow and mature.

Photographic stores, copy stores, and many pharmacies provide reproduction services for those wishing to make multiple copies of family photographs. Walgreens® for example, will transfer videotape, movie film, slides and photographs or other printed documents to digital files on DVDs.

7.   Creation of a Scrapbook with pictures, literature, documents and articles about the family history and important events. All pictures, documents and articles can thus be saved by digital photo scanning as memories for future generations which otherwise might be lost. Separate albums can be created for individual family segments, for instance, by generation or specific branch of the family line. Appendix E

8.   A Legacy of Love for your family and friends can be created to provide clear decisions and planned social, legal, financial, and end-of-life arrangements to spare your survivors an inheritance of scattered papers and countless confusing details. Appendix G   Preparing a legal will is one of the most important responsibilities you have.

Completion of the Advance Directives (Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care) form with treatments you might choose or reject such as:

       CPR (cardiac chest compressions)
       Mechanical breathing machines
       Feeding and hydration, kidney dialysis
       Medical or surgical therapy to help guide your medical team's decisions.

Other helpful forms include: benefits from life insurance, pension and profit- sharing plans including Keogh plans, IRAs, social security, Medicare and supplemental medical insurance; include information about bank and savings assets, loans assets, liabilities, insurance policy information, a home and personal property inventory, and to whom personal items should be given. Talk to your lawyer and/or your executor about your estate.

Some people may also wish to choose to complete end-of-life forms: funeral arrangements, obituary instructions, and a list of persons to notify when deceased.

By completing these important matters (forms) as a part of your legacy plan, you will help reduce family decision conflicts as they can more easily follow your instructions and you will have the knowledge that your wishes will be carried out.

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