Palatine woman pays tribute to late mother with 'Legacy Letters'

When anything good or bad happens, Kera Sanchez wants to call her mom.

It's a feeling the Palatine resident carried with her even after her mother's sudden death last year. She wishes she had something she could hold onto, something that could bring her back for just a bit.

"I felt like there were so many things left unsaid," said Sanchez, whose mother, Laura Jacobson, taught at Cary-Grove High School. "I just realized I can never ask my mom another question. I can't ask her for advice."

That's when "Legacy Letters" was born.

Sanchez, a Spanish teacher at Round Lake High School, recently published a self-guided journal designed help people create a personal legacy for their loved ones to cherish after they're gone.

It prompts users to reflect on their life experiences, values and beliefs, as well as to record those thoughts and memories in writing. Broken down in themes, the journal asks users about favorite books, movies, food and memories.

"When I watch a movie I know my mom loved, it's almost a way I can still spend time with her," Sanchez said. "I think things like that are important. ... Reading things about somebody in some way keeps them alive and brings them with you as you move forward in life."

Laura Jacobson, known as "Mrs. J" or simply "J" at Cary-Grove High School, was beloved by many, as reflected in the hundreds of students, faculty and staff who attended her public memorial service.

"She truly was the spirit of Cary-Grove," said Donna Ganshaw, an administrative assistant at the school who regularly sold tickets alongside Jacobson at the home football games. The pair called themselves the "Queen Bees."

"All the kids, whether she had them or didn't have them, everybody knew J," Ganshaw said. "She was a lot of support for many people. She was just a part of Cary-Grove, a bright star."

Jacobson spent countless hours backstage helping with costumes for high school musicals and planned numerous trips for the Cary-Grove International Travel Club. She also mentored new teachers on "Love and Logic" behavior management as part of an adult learning community in Community High School District 155.

"Everybody she met received a piece of her heart," Ganshaw said. "You met her, and you instantly had a connection."

At the memorial, many wrote letters about Jacobson for her family. Sanchez took so much comfort in those letters.

"Legacy Letters" grew out of conversations she had with friends and her husband, Mike, whose mother had died a year before her own. Both wished they could seek advice from their mothers, especially while raising children.

The couple had just welcomed their second child five days before Jacobson died.

"While it's too late for my mom to fill these pages with advice, memories and letters of love, it's not too late for me to leave 'Legacy Letters' to my own, hopefully providing them a sense of relief and a ticket for a journey back in time where they could still hear the words of someone they love," Sanchez said.

The journal, in many ways, also provides a way for people to give their loved ones sort of permission to move on after death, she said.

"You kind of sit in that grief, and you almost feel guilty for smiling again or not feeling sad," she said.

"I feel if you have that written down and a loved one is telling you to continue following your dreams and follow in my footsteps, it will help you move forward with that grieving process."

For more on "Legacy Letters," visit

A young Kera Sanchez with her mother, Laura Jacobson. Her mother's unexpected death last year prompted Sanchez to create "Legacy Letters," a self-guided journal. Courtesy of Kera Sanchez
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