The Important Gift: Ideas for Making Memories

Making memories as a family

Every family makes memories, either intentionally or unintentionally as they move though life together. When someone in the family is diagnosed with cancer, it’s especially important to become intentional in this memory making process.

Your life as a family is much like an orchestra.

You all have a part to play. As parents, you conduct, moving your family through the music, through the high notes, the low notes, and the rests.

All too often, families put their lives on hold, with the intention of resuming once the cancer is under control or out of the picture. The reality is that cancer has a mind of its own. Putting your life on hold only ensures that you miss out on those years that you could have been experiencing in a more positive way, together. And, should this cancer journey end in death, this time is all the more important.

You don’t need to take a big trip to make a memory. And you don’t need to spend a lot of money, either.

Check out these memory making ideas:

  • Google, “free things to do

in .” You’ll find a wealth of things to do with your family. There are things from beaches to museums, to local festivals that are free of charge. If finances aren’t an issue, omit the word, “free,” and there will be even more things that you can do.

  • Rent a mobility scooter

if walking is difficult and you want to go to a state fair or some other event requiring more mobility. They can be delivered and picked up, wherever and whenever is convenient for you. We did rented a scooter for my husband, during a trip to Washington DC. It made a big difference in our ability to do things.

  • Routines in your home can become a special memories.

During our cold Minnesota winters, I often choose a full length novels or biography and read a chapter each night to the entire family.

  • Have a special breakfast

one day of the week, either at home, or out at a restaurant.

  • Choose a binge-able TV show

to watch on a streaming service such as Netflix. Even though TV shouldn’t take up all of your time, it’s sometimes the perfect way to spend time together when someone doesn’t feel well. It gives everyone something else to think about. Just being together is a gift.

  • Have a housecleaning day,

where everyone pitches in. If your family is reluctant, you could add some prizes to the day for things like doing a job the fastest, or doing a job most thoroughly. Add in some music, and it won’t feel like work.

  • Take pictures

of your memorable experiences.

  • Keep a scrapbook.

It needn’t be fancy. It’s fun to add things like ticket stubs and stickers to your photos.

  • At the end of each day,

ask each member of the family what their favorite part of the day was. You might be surprised.

  • Keep a gratitude jar for a year.

Whenever someone is thankful for something, they can write it down with their name and the date. On December 31st, you can read them out loud, remembering the year. Type these up in a word document to keep for years to come.

  • Make a Memory Ornament for your Christmas tree.

Ask each family member what their favorite memory was from the year. Then, write each one down in only a few words, on a clear glass or plastic ornament, along with the year. It is fun to read the memories years later.

  • Have family pictures taken.

Make it casual and be yourselves. It’s a fun way to capture that place in time.

When Cancer Progresses

Making these memories will take on another dimension if the cancer your family is facing, progresses to the point that you know it will result in death. Everyone in the family will know that at some time, these memories will be all you have left of your family as you know it. This can stir a lot of emotions up. Be patient with one another as you each experience these feelings.

Keeping physical records of various types will help ensure that your children have a better coping experience after a parent dies. It’s helpful for a child to know the truth of what is happening and to have some of those last opportunities with the parent. Plaster molds of hands, inked hand prints, and photography, experiences are all some of the best things that you can do to preserve a special part of their mom or dad.

Too many adults who lost a parent at a young age say, “I regret not being able to say goodbye.” All too often they were kept out of the loop and weren’t able to say goodbye or visit. Sometimes these experiences enable families to continue to communicate at a time when it’s hard to know what to say. They can talk about the experience of the photography session or making molds of someone’s hands. It’s important not to make subjects taboo. But rather to celebrate as a family what you had.

Aside from memory making experiences, you can also give your children your memories. You can do this by journaling, making videos of yourself, and other tangible ways of sharing your thoughts and feelings with your children in the future. Some people write cards for future birthdays, marriages, and grandchildren. However you are comfortable expression yourself, not only for now, but into the future, it will greatly bless your family.


About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since 2012, when my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.

My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who Has Cancer, is available on

Also, check out my newly released Memory Maker’s Journal, in 5 different cover options! #MemoryMakers