When Verna Scott-Culkin’s father and mother-in-law passed away, her family was left with a huge void to fill.
It was then that Verna, a swimming teacher from Cambridgeshire, created a book which enables people to leave a legacy of sorts to their family members and friends.
The book, called ‘Before I Go’, not only helps family members grieve by enabling them to read their late relative’s fondest memories, but it also allows the writer to feel content in the knowledge that they’re leaving a little piece of them behind.
Its front page reads: ‘A little guide to going on without me, filled with love and advice, so I’ll always be there if you need me.’
The journal, which costs £19.99, lets people record wishes for their family. They can also jot down their favourite memories and recipes, share words of wisdom for future generations and leave specific wishes, for example funeral ideas and requests for what happens after.
They can even share the occasions they’d like people to continue celebrating, such as birthdays, milestones and anniversaries. This particular section is Verna’s favourite.
“The idea for this book had been on my mind for years,” said the mum-of-two. “After losing my father to cancer and mother-in-law to Alzheimer’s, I wanted to create a book that could help people.
“It allows anyone to plan how they’d like to be remembered.”
Around the same time of her parents’ deaths, one of Verna’s close friends was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“She’s a busy mum of two young kids, working, running the house and I wondered what would happen if she wasn’t there anymore,” Verna said.
“Yes, life would go on, her husband would cope, people would help, the kids would grow up - but what if there was a guide to ‘her’ that she could leave behind?”
Thankfully, her friend made a full recovery. But Verna knew that there were other people out there - mums, dads, daughters, sons - that weren’t so lucky.
The teacher-turned-author hopes her book will gently lead people to think about their own mortality and lasting legacy, without feeling morbid about it.
“The book should be full of love, memories and happy times to comfort your loved ones left behind,” she added.
“So many people, when they leave this world, take all their thoughts, hopes, sayings and wishes with them – maybe we should all have THAT conversation and start putting pen to paper.”
Responses to the book have been overwhelmingly positive, with many saying they wished the book had been created sooner.
“The most common thing I hear is ‘I wish I’d had something like this when my mum, dad or loved one died’,” said Verna.
“This book will give people the chance to write down all those special thoughts and memories, so they’ll never be forgotten.”