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Living Through a Legacy

We are honored to feature Kaila Hayden as a guest blogger this month in recognition of ALS awareness month.  Kaila and her family were served on the August 2014 Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreat in Orlando.  Kaila has since volunteered on four retreats, and brings a special compassion to the families she serves.

When you lose a loved one, you find yourself clinging to that which reminds you most of them. Their belongings, their hobbies, their interests, whatever was left to you as a memory of their life. After my mom passed, I found myself surrounded by her in photos, in memories, in the gifts and cards for milestones she would miss. When faced with death, she sought intention to leave behind. 

The Hayden Family making a friend on their IoH Legacy Retreat®
The Hayden Family making a friend on their IoH Legacy Retreat®

But perhaps the biggest gift she left behind was her spirit of giving. In the before, before ALS slowly stole her mobility and independence, my mom was a doer. She organized our carpools, volunteered in our classrooms, and founded our neighborhood’s swim team. This wasn’t something she did for her own personal gain but simply because she found purpose in giving to others. Within the confines of her terminal illness, my mom’s own service slowly became impossible but her passion outlived her physical abilities. 

The Haydens lived life to the fullest both before and after Rebecca’s diagnosis

After my family was served at a Legacy Retreat®, I knew I had to volunteer for Inheritance of Hope. I didn’t know why.  I wasn’t particularly talented in any sense, I wasn’t someone to talk about my feelings–in fact, my only qualification, I believed at the time, was  that I had a dying parent–but I applied to be a volunteer and served at a Legacy Retreat® the week after my 18th birthday. It was there, serving another ALS family, that it finally made sense. This was where I felt closest to my mom, in my own giving and doing. Even now, two years after my mom has passed and 4 years after my first Legacy Retreat®, I am still reminded of her and her servant’s heart at each Legacy Retreat®. 

Kaila serving a family much like her own on an IoH Legacy Retreat® in 2016

We don’t have much say when it comes to the crosses we must bear, but we have a lot of say in how we bear them. For some, the cross is terminal illness and for others, the cross is the grief left behind. Not a day passes that I don’t miss my mom, but through service to others I am reminded of her and feel her closeness.  While I don’t remember my mom’s voice, except for glimpses in old voicemails, I remember what she left behind–a legacy bigger than herself, a legacy of giving of yourself and of your time.

Rebecca Hayden made many memories with her children–ones they will always treasure.