Create something that will live beyond your time on Earth


Last week, we celebrated Memorial Day honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in protecting the liberties and freedom of the United States. Since I was a young child, I have helped my mom’s 4-H club plant geraniums on the graves of the men and women in New Lyme Township as a small token of remembrance and appreciation.

Each year, as we plant the geraniums, it offers me an opportunity to reminisce about a field trip led by my junior high school English teacher, Ms. Schaefer, to a cemetery where we made etchings of the tombstones belonging to veterans. During this solemn experience, Ms. Schaefer asked us all to share what we thought was the most important item on a headstone.

Our class was quick to respond the person’s name or how long they lived. Most of us were confused when she said, “No, the dash is the most important part.”

Ms. Schaefer challenged us to think of the legacy which each dash represented. If all the dashes could speak, what would our ancestors want them to say?

So, what can we do today to ensure that our dash has a voice? I encourage you to be intentional in creating a voice for your legacy. Here are a few suggestions:

Leverage the “Time on the Hip”

A significant portion of a farm family’s heritage is transmitted through the invaluable “time on the hip.” This age-old adage speaks to the hours spent working and learning side by side with our parents and grandparents.

I remember the hours of fixing fence with my dad and grandpa. However, it was more than fixing fence. All was quiet except the sound of the maul being used to drive in fence posts. It was during these quiet times that they would talk about the farm’s history. My favorite was the story of Wags, the farm dog, swimming across the swamp to stretch fence into the remote corners of our heifer pasture.

So, think about how you can make the most of “time on the hip” to pass down your family’s history?


I have the pleasure of knowing a farm family in Pandora, Ohio, whose ancestors arrived from Germany in 1866. In their endeavor to share the legacy of their farm, the family has crafted a private website which has multiple pages chronicling the farm’s history.

Among these pages, one stands out as truly captivating: the journal of Aunt Lizzie. Through her journal, Aunt Lizzie offers a glimpse into the realities of farm life in the early 1900s. Her journal and the entire website serve as a testament to the family’s dedication to preserving their legacy.

Pictures are worth a thousand words. Many of us share our history through pictures thoughtfully preserved in photo albums. However, in the age of digital technology, it is easy to be inundated with an abundance of images, presenting a new challenge of managing them all. Online book making programs such as Shutterfly, Snapfish and several drugstore websites can be used to create photo books to preserve and to share the farm’s history.

Use your words

A retired colleague of mine, Dr. John Foltz, is recording his legacy through a book which he is creating through an online platform. Each week, a question is sent to him to write a response.

At the end of this year, the company will print a book of his writings. What an incredible way to share your insights for future generations. Of course, you do not have to use an online company to do this; it could be as simple as handwriting a journal on different subjects.

Capture it with video

If you are not good at writing, video options are also available. I know of one family where the grandson is videotaping short clips of his grandparents’ answering questions about the farm. They are also taping short videos of the many family collectibles in the farmhouse. Once completed, a video montage will be created to share with the family.

Video projects like these not only create lasting memories but can also help to bridge the generational divide.

So, what will your dash say? I urge you to consider what you can do today to create a dash which will speak for generations. And remember some wise advice from Chuck Palahniuk who stated, “We all die.

The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” Have a good and safe day!

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