The gifts that I have received from my Mom following her death have been of immeasurable value, but no more so than the ones I received from her while she was alive. The true value of her gifts have come from the knowledge that she was considering me and my future years before I was. The intentionality that she displayed as a mother is something I intend to replicate, whether or not I am diagnosed with a terminal cancer.
October 26th marks the seventh anniversary of when Inheritance of Hope Co-Founder Kristen Milligan passed away. In those seven years, her children have reached milestone birthdays, high school rites of passage, started driving, and two have gone off to college. Through changes and achievements, growing pains and successes, they have never felt far from their mother’s love, all because of the notes, gifts, videos and more that Kristen prepared while living with a terminal illness.
There’s something irreplaceable about intentionality, no matter how small the gesture. I, for one, would prefer a thoughtful, handwritten note over a lavish gift of my own choosing. However, it can be very difficult to find the time and energy to go out of your way emotionally. But, because I believe in the value of intentionality, I’ve found a few fun things to do that make it feel like less of an endeavor and more of a creative activity. The list is quite standard, but I have added a personal twist to make it a little more fun. As a huge bonus, the recipient of your gift will recognize the extra effort put into their gift, and feel all the more loved as a result!
Erica Chase-Salerno was a gifted writer who graciously shared her thoughts and words with the larger Inheritance of Hope family. Erica attended the January 2018 IoH retreat, and wrote this for us the following October, in celebration of Holley Day. Erica passed away in February 2019, and we are honored to continue sharing her legacy.
Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.
And go on an IoH retreat. Or help another family go.
Because this is an organization that walks the talk, excels at creating legacy experiences, and “gets it” about cancer challenges for families.
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Recently, my family and I went on a trip up to our favorite place, Hume Lake. It’s a beautiful lake, in Sequoia National Park, and it’s where Brian and I met as campers one summer, so it holds a special place in our hearts. My middlest -- as she likes to call herself -- Charlotte, really wanted a milkshake. Not just a portion, an entire milkshake to herself. Now, these are HUGE milkshakes. And, we don’t really give our kids sugar, so this was a giant ask. So, like any kind parent would do, I gave her a giant goal, thinking that, surely, she wouldn’t actually complete it.
The giant goal: run the lake without stopping. A few things to keep in mind: we are at 5,500 feet elevation, running the lake is a 5k, and she’s 7. “No problem, Mom. I got it.” That is what she tells me.
Holley Kitchen battled metastatic breast cancer before losing her fight in 2016. She put her family first. She adored her two sons, Bryson and Colby, and made the most of her time with them. She learned to live intentionally and inspired those around her to do the same. Holley’s sister and friends share some things for the boys to know about who their mom was.
When I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at 28 years old with three very young children, the only thing I ever thought about or wanted was to make meaningful and fun memories with my children and husband that were full of joy. During my year of very hard cancer treatment, I would sit in the infusion chair and think “all I want to do is be with my kids.” It felt impossible to ever think I would be able to go to Orlando with my family. The Legacy RetreatⓇ was a dream come true for me, my husband, and our three kids. We spent that time focused on each other…not scary cancer, not worrying about money or all the other hard things cancer brings on for a young metastatic breast cancer patient. We had the most wonderful and magical time. When I think about our retreat, those who served us, and everyone that made it possible for our family to be there, it makes me cry and feel so much gratitude for angels on earth.