Legacy Idea Book

Rainbow’s Legacy Idea Book is for hospice and palliative patients, those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, their families and friends, and anyone wishing to celebrate life and their legacy.  This book is an inspirational resource for creating legacy projects that provide shared, beautiful moments for patients, family, and friends even at times when joyful moments may seem scarce.


For Patients and Their Families

Creating legacy projects can provide shared, beautiful moments for patients, family, and friends even at times when joyful moments may seem scarce. This was the case of a couple I interviewed on their anniversary. John, a hospice patient, was bedbound and having difficulty even speaking. His wife Claire was focused on his care. The audio interview I recorded for John and Claire allowed them the opportunity to relive wonderful memories, have a special anniversary, and together, create a priceless gift for their five children. Legacy projects can alleviate anxiety in caregivers. Claire showed me a gratitude bowl that she kept at her front door. Each day she wrote down something she was grateful for and placed the note in her bowl. She said it helped her get through John’s illness to remember all the good she had in her life. Legacy projects can remind patients that they are more than just the illness they battle. My friend Laura battled cancer for years. She had to change her tendency to care for others to focus on saving herself, a focus on the illness. Laura told me that she felt that she had ‘turned into the cancer’. As her friend, I set out to remind her that all that she had always loved about herself was still there. I sent her something in the mail every day…a legacy scrapbook celebrating her life, stuffed animals with picket signs protesting her cancer, and more. These items served to initiate meaningful and fun conversations between us and with her loved ones. Legacy projects can serve as an expression of love or parting gift to those you love. A month after her death, I received a loving note from Laura with a bracelet she had made for me. Another friend had helped her make and send out her legacy bracelets. The bracelet has a locket holding her photo and a lock of her hair.

For the Bereaved

For the bereaved, legacy objects can be a way to physically hold onto the memory of a lost loved one. Joey, a four-year-old child in Rainbow’s Good Mourning Children and Family program, was unable to sleep and combative after his father died. A Rainbow staff member made Joey a pillow from his father’s shirt and he slept for the first time in days holding on to that legacy pillow. Marlene, a widow, felt a sense of peace, or closure when she made her memory pillows. She finally had a place to keep her husband’s personal items. She put his keys, wallet, and other items in pockets sewed on to the pillows. As a child, my son Rocky made a memory bottle when his grandfather died to celebrate Grandpa’s life. We opened his special bottle at the funeral luncheon to toast his grandfather. As an adult, he still proudly displays that bottle and the love it represents. I made a hope tree for my neighbor Joette who was dying of cancer. Joette loved Christmas trees, and it was August. I walked the gift over to give it to her only to meet her husband Chuck in front of their house. He told me she had just passed. I gave him the tree and told him the hope was for him. Chuck kept the tree lit in his window at night, a special vigil to the love they shared.

For Everyone

This book strives to provide a wide range of affordable legacy ideas so that each person wanting to tell their story, create a lasting moment, or celebrate someone else’s story, can do so in their own way. Legacy projects can take many different forms. Projects can be an individual effort, something shared with one or two loved ones or you might even involve a group. Children and adults can make legacy projects. Even the memories you make while creating your project are a shared legacy. You may choose to use an idea as displayed in the book or you may be inspired to come up with your own idea. However you choose to celebrate life, we at Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care hope you will find the joy, peace or meaning you are looking for as your legacy idea becomes a reality.




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Handcrafted Legacy Projects

Idea 1 - Scrapbook or Life Calendar

Make a Scrapbook. Choose the subject of your book. You might choose yourself, loved ones, or even a special place like a family cabin. Purchase a scrapbook, plain or with various graphics, and add thoughts and memories. Possibilities include: drawings from adults or children in the family, stickers, postcards, photos, stories, poems, cards, magazine pictures, pressed flowers, recipes, hopes, dreams, favorite quotes, important beliefs or lists of things like favorite places, songs, movies. Mod Podge, rubber cement, staples or tape all work well to attach items to the pages.

Idea 2 - Letters and Poetry

Write a poem or letter to someone you love. You do not have to be a professional writer or poet. Just write from the heart and your loved one will cherish it.  Another option is to include a favorite poem or song of your loved one.  You can choose to handwrite it or type it up on a computer.

Idea 3 - Cookbook

Pass on recipes and the memories connected to the special times you shared those great foods. Pass on the wonderful smell of grandma’s home baked bread! To begin, find a three-ring binder at your local office supply store. It can be any size, however, if you want to type up the recipes on your computer, you might want to choose a binder that fits 8.5” x 11” pages. You can find a decorative binder or decorate the cover and interior pages yourself.  Make copies of the original recipes, hand write the recipes yourself or type the recipes on your computer. Place the recipes onto the interior pages and add divider sheets with tabs. Feel free to add comments, photos, or memories related to each recipe on the pages.

Idea 4 - Pocket Message Cards or Quote Postcards

Place a special message or drawing on a blank business card (use both sides) or on the back of a wallet size photo. Laminate the card/photo to ensure your message is protected. Give the card to your loved one (husband, wife, child, grandchild) to carry with them always. You can also make a favorite quote card or bookmark. For this project, you will use an index card (3.5” x 5”) or bookmark size card stock (2” x 6”). Cut out letters, words or pictures from newspapers or magazines to glue to your cardstock base or use markers to draw on the card or bookmark. One creative way of adding your quote is to find each letter that is in your quote from printed paper material. Put together the letters and paste them on one side of the paper to make the quote. Use shapes and colors that you like and create a collage on the other side. It can be abstract or images related to your quote. Laminate the quote card or bookmark when finished. For a quote book, make multiple cards, punch a hole in the corner of each card and attach them to a big metal ring.

Idea 5 - Memory Lantern

Use Mod Podge to glue tissue paper onto a mason jar or other glass vase. You can draw or write on the tissue paper before attaching it to the jar. Add a lit candle or battery operated candle to the jar to light up the design on the lantern.  You could also add a photo of your loved one to the front of the mason jar.

Idea 6 - Memory Bottle, Box, or Coasters

Select a bottle, perhaps a bottle containing the favorite drink of the person you’d like to honor or memorialize. Use Mod Podge to glue a collage of paper items onto the bottle. These items should remind you of the special person you are honoring. You can use photos, drawings or messages, magazine pictures and words, poems, stickers, and more. Give the special bottle to your loved one as a gift and have a special toast in their honor.

Idea 7 - Hope Rope

To create your Hope Rope, simply cut a piece of rope, tie ribbons or special pieces of clothing to the rope and then clip or pin photos, letters or other important keepsakes onto the rope, ribbons or cloth. Use small clips, staples, pins or clothes pins to attach items.

Idea 8 - Hope Tree

Add miniature lights to a small grapevine, or other pre-made trees (available at your local craft store). Then, add ornaments, charms, jewelry, or tags with special messages that are meaningful to the person it honors/memorializes. If you use battery-operated lights you can hide the battery under the tree.

Idea 9 - Windchime, Dream Chandelier or Lamp Shade

Make a wind chime, dream chandelier or special lamp shade by attaching jewelry or other items that represent the person you love to an interesting base. Hang keepsake items on the base with fishing line or ribbon and display indoors or outside depending on the durability of the materials you’ve used. The base can be any item that allows you to tie fishing line or ribbon to it. Add a hook to the top of your project for hanging. Create holes in a small painted can, upside down wooden bowl, piece of driftwood, watering can or other base. Tie charms, keys, jewelry, notes on gift tags or other keepsakes to an old bicycle wheel or chandelier using ribbon or fishing line. Write special phrases on the ribbons.

Idea 10 - Portrait

Make a real life or abstract portrait of yourself or loved one. Paint on canvas or add your image to a window screen. If you aren’t comfortable with drawing or painting, just add photos or magazine pictures representing yourself or your loved one to your base and paint on and around the image. Or just paint how you feel. It doesn’t have to look like anything in particular. Placing your finished image on a window screen allows you to attach mementos (like small charms). Attach your charm or memento to one end of an ornament hook or a thin piece of wire and then attach the other end of the wire into the screen.

Idea 11 - Memory Garden

Use interesting objects like a person’s work boots, shoes or purses as planters, find or create signs that honor your loved one, create a limestone sand path and add special stepping stones to the sand, and/or add a bench or chair to your garden.  To create a limestone sand path, dig 4-5 inches or more and create a 4-5 inch edge using bricks or rocks.  Place weed resistant paper down on your path, place rocks or bricks on the path’s edge, pour limestone sand into the path area (at least 4-5 inches thick), even out the sand, and finally, use a garden hand trowel to dig the spaces where you want to place your stepping stones or other items.  The sand will harden slightly but not so hard that you can’t change the items if you want to do so. Limestone sand is affordable and can be purchased at garden centers.

Idea 12 - Thought Rocks

Paint or draw with markers on stones.  Add images or words.  Place your stones in small jewelry bags or fancy boxes and give the stones to your loved ones.  You can also add these stones to a memory garden.

Idea 13 - Legacy Ornament

Craft stores have many kinds of Christmas ornaments that open and allow you to add pieces of clothing, small notes or keepsake items inside.  Tie a gift tag onto the ornament with a meaningful message.   This can be a lovely activity to do with a patient.  Both the ornaments and the making of the ornaments hold special memories when you take the ornaments out each year.

Idea 14 - Spirit Sculpture

Do you or your loved one have an animal you consider your spirit animal or some other thing that represents you? Maybe a flower?  If so, you can purchase modeling clay and create a sculpture of your spirit image. Spray a protective glaze or surface onto your finished sculpture.  Depending on the clay you use, the store clerk should be able to direct you to an appropriate product to use.

Idea 15 - Legacy and Gratitude Bowls

Make a legacy bowl representing yourself, the bereaved or a patient.  The inside of the bowl will represent who you are inside or how you view yourself, and the exterior of the bowl will represent how the outside world sees you. Select a ceramic or wooden bowl, preferably a bowl that is somewhat porous. Spray 3 coats of white gesso on the bowl. When completely dry, use watercolor or markers to decorate the bowl. Finish the bowl by painting over your artwork with Mod Podge or use a high shine spray glaze.  Be sure to follow safety instructions on the product as some glaze products should be used outside due to fumes. These bowls are decorative only and should not be used with food.

Idea 16 - Memory Pillows

Make a memory pillow or blanket from the clothing of a loved one.  You can even add pockets to hold important tokens or relics from the person it honors.

Idea 17 - Bracelet

Make bracelets or necklaces for loved ones you will leave behind with simple elastic and beads.  Add a locket or tiny cylinder. Tiny key chain “pill containers” worked well for one patient.  Add a tiny photo to the locket and a tiny note or lock of hair to the container.  Even easier, you could purchase chains and add just the lockets and/or tiny containers.

Idea 18 - Message under Crystal Ball

Be a Fortune Teller. Purchase a crystal ball, 4” in diameter or larger, online (Amazon or Ebay are good sites). Place the crystal ball on an interesting bracelet or round base. On one side of the bracelet or base, glue a piece of white cardboard cut to size and decorate the circular cardboard base with pretty wrapping paper or by adding an illustration with markers.  Place the ball on the base.  When you look through the crystal ball, you should see your design on the cardboard base. Then, place one or more special notes under the crystal ball in the base area.  To change the “fortune”, just lift the crystal ball off its base and add additional notes. Tell your special person to peer through the top of the crystal ball to view your secret message and artwork.

Idea 19 - Bobbleheads

If you are looking for a whimsical, funny project to complete with or for loved ones, purchase unfinished bobblehead dolls online (from Oriental Trading Company).  Use markers to decorate the bobbleheads to look like your loved ones.  Use Mod Podge to add small photos of the loved one’s face onto each bobblehead.  You can also hot glue miniatures to each bobblehead to symbolize their interests. For instance, add a miniature guitar to the bobblehead representing the family guitar player.  As they say, laughter is the best medicine!

Idea 20 - Memento in Shadow Box

Frame something of significance.  Use a shadow box frame to display a special item such as a teacup used at all the family gatherings, a beloved stuffed animal, a favorite piece of jewelry, tokens from a favorite trip together. Give to a loved one or keep as a remembrance of someone you have lost.

Idea 21 - Music Box or Music Collection

Purchase a music box with a song you and your loved one shared, decorate it if you like, and give it to your significant other to remind them of all the moments connected to that music. Make a CD or download a song collection on an electronic or portable device. There are too many ways to do this to list them, but most electronics stores can suggest the best option for your needs.

Idea 22 - Legacy Game: Create your own Land

Get loved ones together and create a new land, a whimsical world where anything is possible.  Answer questions about who would live in your land, where would your kingdom be, what would it look like, what jobs would your loved ones have in this new world, what special powers would you all have, what would be different from this earth, what would be the same?  This will be a powerful means of learning more about each other and a wonderful memory for those involved.  If you want to take it one step further, you could record the discussion, have someone illustrate your newly invented world, or just write the discussion down in story form.

Idea 23 - Bucket List

Make a patient’s “Bucket List” item come true. Be creative.  If a person is unable to travel but wants to visit Hawaii, perhaps you can get a virtual tour of Hawaii for them to view or create a space to feel a bit like Hawaii with music, posters, food, and plants.



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Audio Legacy Projects

The StoryCorps APP provides the user with a sound recording and one photo. This free mobile app puts the StoryCorps experience entirely in your hands so that you can record and archive a meaningful conversation with anyone, anywhere.  For instructions on interviewing a loved one using the StoryCorps app on your phone, please click here.


Memory Book with Newlywords

Creating your own book is surprisingly easy as everyone shares in the creation and the page layouts are already created for each page contributor!  There are so many ways you can design your special page in your group book.  For instruction on using Newlywords to create a memory book online, please click here.

Need Help With Your Legacy Project?

If you are a Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care patient or patient’s family member, volunteers may be available to assist you with your legacy project. If you would like to request a volunteer, please tell a  member of your care team. For more information, call 847-685-9900 and ask for the volunteer services manager.  if you would like to view the entire Legacy Idea Book, please click here.