Every life has a story. Have you ever considered how you will pass the story of your life on to your loved ones? How will they learn about your childhood influences and your unique upbringing? What will they understand about your school years, war service, courtship, career, and the friends and experiences that most shaped you? What will they know about your dreams, your beliefs, your particular interests and contributions?
There is a unique project that aims to assist people in telling their life stories. It is called Story Corps. Over 90,000 participants have sat down in a Story Corps booth with a friend or family member to recollect and record experiences from their life story. The recordings become part of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and the participants receive a quality CD to keep. Many of these stories have been featured in book collections (Listening is an Act of Love) and radio segments, and they are powerful! Some are hilarious, some touching, some deeply enlightening to some aspect of the American experience. Here is an example of a WWII veteran sharing a powerful memory with his grandson:
Some Story Corps stories have become so treasured that they have been animated and preserved for a wider audience. One that has been viewed by over a million people is a touchingly honest interview between a child with Asperger’s and his mother. You can view it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO7sKVKMO2s
In addition to Story Corps opportunities, there are local writers who will assist a family in listening to a loved one’s story and writing it down. One such writer, Ken Hammond, has a unique list of “firestarter questions” that he uses to get the wheels of memory turning. He then gathers all the answers into a final written narrative, rounded out with photographs and other mementos for a priceless keepsake. You can see his approach at http://www.hammondscribe.com/hammondscribe.com/home.html
Other families have purchased special legacy scrapbooks that prompt a senior to share memories from different periods of life. The senior might fill out the scrapbook independently, or a family member may help them complete each section in an enjoyable give and take of discovery. There are many versions available. Here are some samples from the Amazon website: http://www.amazon.com/Grandparent-Memory-Books/lm/R1DEE9E3CUKVEA
The simplest way to capture the wonderful memories and life experiences of someone we love is to sit down with a tape or video recorder and ask some simple, open-ended questions! Especially when the person we love is affected with memory loss, finding opportunities to capture their wisdom, humor and personal perspectives for future generations is a labor of love.