The Most Heartfelt Gift
My journey started with a gift.
On my 34th birthday, my stepmother, Donna Wimberly, gave me the most heartfelt gift I had ever received. It was a beautiful leather-bound album that was filled with the story of my life. The first photo in the book was the very first photo ever taken of me in the hospital at my birth. It chronicled my life from birth, through childhood, adolescence, my time at Kemper Military School, my TCU graduation, and on through the birth of my first child. There were hand-written notes in the margins that told the story of the trips we took as a family and the jokes we told while on those treasured road trips. She included the history of the Wimberly surname and even researched trivia from 1971, the year I was born. I cried when I received it. I thought of how many hours she must have spent digging through boxes of old photos, clipping news articles from small moments of my life, and detailing the story of over 30 years of family history.
Two years after she gave me this incredible gift, Donna was diagnosed with bone cancer. She fought a brave battle, but quickly the cancer spread to her lymph nodes, and we lost her. Today, that leather-bound scrapbook serves as a testament to her thoughtfulness, generosity, and love for her family.
When I became a father, I started thinking about what I could do for my own children to capture the moments as they were happening to one day pass down those memories. I wanted to impact my children as Donna’s gift impacted me.
Eventually, I made a simple commitment that has forever changed my life. I committed to journaling to each child at least once per month. The monthly rhythm seemed like something that was doable without being overwhelming. I started this process when my daughter Grace was just one year old and my son Knox was still in the womb.
I began by writing their stories in a simple Word document. I wrote the date of each entry, along with my age and the age of each child at the time of the entry. The monthly entries started off as simple little love notes and details of the big and little moments that were happening in our lives. Over time, I started adding photos to the entries to give more context and texture to the stories.
As parents, we often have to make decisions that our children don’t necessarily agree with. As a child, I heard the words, “Because I said so,” “That’s the way it is,” or “Because I’m the parent.” Those words never sat well with me. I wanted to hear and understand the logic and reasoning behind my parents’ decisions. As a father, I have ALWAYS explained to my children why I make the decisions I make. This is not always easy, and it often falls on deaf ears. I use my journaling to write about my decisions so that one day my kids can read those entries when they become parents. My hope is it will give them insight and help them on their own parenting journey.
As time went on, the collection of stories grew and grew. I now have hundreds of stories that tell of the highs and lows of our family life. I have documented every family vacation we have ever taken, captured all the major milestone moments of their lives, shared my business success and failures, told the story of my divorce and the story of my re-marriage, shared the wins and struggles of a blended family, documented the birth of their beautiful baby brother Kai, and captured so many little moments of simply laughing, learning, and loving together.
Over the years, I have told hundreds of parents about this process. Many of them have started their own journeys of recording their family’s stories. I eventually created an app to make it easier for parents to save their memories, moments, and milestones, complete with stories, photos, audio files, saved voicemails, and video.
My oldest child Grace is now 17 and will be graduating high school next year. For her graduation gift, I will be giving her the most meaningful and heartfelt gift I can possibly give. She will be receiving 18 years of her life as seen through her father’s loving eyes.
Ken Wimberly is the founder and visionary behind Legacy of Love, LLC. He is married to his soulmate, Amber, and has three children, Grace, Knox, and Kai.