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What’s A Life Letter?

Jun 05, 2023

Did you hear that Laura Dern and her mother Diane Ladd have published a book called Honey, Baby, Mine: A Mother and Daughter Talk Life, Death, Love (and Banana Pudding)? I was thrilled to learn about their new endeavor and not just because I love banana pudding. Their book came about after Diane, now 87, was diagnosed with a lung disease after pesticide exposure and given just six months to live. Desperate to help expand her mother’s lungs in hopes that she might defy her death sentence, Laura took her mother on daily walks. The fresh air did wonders for Diane’s health, while also strengthening the bond between mother and daughter on account of the deep conversations they shared. Conversations they wish they’d had earlier.

Too many of us delay self-reflection and intimate conversations with loved ones. We make excuses. We procrastinate. We forget.

Why wait to say what matters most?

Why wait until some unwelcome event jolts our perspective, forcing us to react swiftly so that we can make up for lost time?

If only we could reflect on our lives in a calm and meaningful way, to think about the people and experiences that have shaped us, our regrets, greatest life lessons, the stories we’ve longed to tell, and our wishes for the future. Enter the Life Letter.

What’s a Life Letter? A document inspired by the centuries-old practice of writing ethical wills, or legacy letters. Here’s the easiest way to define it: estate documents are about passing along what you want loved ones to have; the Life Letter is about passing along what you them to know. Because so many people cringe at the words “will” and “legacy” (more on that in another post), I have renamed it the Life Letter. Some people even call it a love letter. No matter the name, it’s the content that matters…the expression of important personal and family history, values, most loved stories, and wishes for the future.

Say it now and share it now! That’s the motto. Unlike typical estate documents, the Life Letter is intended to be presented in one’s lifetime. Which is why sharing it can be a cause for celebration. The greatest gift to oneself, one’s community, to loved ones today, and to connect the generations over time.

If only my late husband Brett knew to write a Life Letter to our twins, Rebecca and Casey, they would come to know him through his words. Brett died of a brain tumor when the twins weren’t even three years of age. They just turned 22. I have done my best to keep Brett’s memory alive, but the gift of him telling them about his favorite foods (donuts and oysters Rockefeller ranked high), funniest college memories, or how he valued humility, humor, and kindness above all else, would have been like gold. 

Most of us wish that we knew more about the people who came before us. The Life Letter is a chance to turn those regrets into positive action. Let me help you get started today.


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