Whether they’re sitting across the kitchen table from us or have been “late” for decades, writing memorials and tributes about loved ones can be hard. It’s easier to tell stories than try to encapsulate everything we feel about a person in a single essay or speech.
Pulling together memorials and tributes has been on my mind the last couple of weeks as I lost two friends in the span of two days: one to a bicycle/automobile accident, another to cancer.
In the case of my friend who died from cancer, I was lucky. I had written about her in My Personal Hero and Why post, although I didn’t write it as a memorial. Still, it was good to have something that expressed how I felt about her in the wake of her death. I was also glad that she’d known how I felt.
Memorials and Tributes are wonderful to include in a memory or family story collection. They’re poignant reminders not just of the people you’re writing about, but also of the relationships you enjoyed.
A Fitting Tribute
Words aren’t the only way to pay tribute to someone we cherished or still cherish. (We don’t have to wait until we lose someone to think about what they mean to us!)
After Frank, the avid bicyclist, died, friends got to experience a fitting tribute first hand. A buddy of his organized a memorial bike—a simple afternoon jaunt through the subdivisions Frank like to ride through, ending at his house.
As we followed the leader on bikes which varied from garage-sale bargains to top of the line equipment, it occurred to me how pleased Frank would be with the memorial ride. Friends not giving up a sport—but proceeding carefully. All helmeted, with wary eyes watching out for on-coming traffic, but enjoying a beautiful Michigan summer afternoon—together, in his honor. We posed together in front of his garage, knowing he’d be smiling down on us. (Criticizing our photographic endeavor, because he was an excellent portrait photographer, but smiling nevertheless.)
How to Write Memorials and Tributes
Go for the tribute. Don’t wait until someone dies to think about and express what that person means to you. Also remember, you can write multiple stories or essays about a person. You don’t have to get everything you feel on one sheet of paper or in one ten-minute speech.
Spend time brainstorming about what the person means to you before you get started. It goes without saying that Memorials and Tributes need to come from the heart. A little time engaging your emotions before you engage your cerebral cortex will help find words that convey how you feel.
Consider what type of tribute your loved one would appreciate. Eloquent words are certainly welcome, but is there a philosophy or ideal you could embrace or perpetuate? A love for nature or art or a show of honor? Charles Colton was right when he said, “Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery.”
If you’re writing a memorial or tribute for a funeral service, think about what will resonate with the audience. What did you love most about the deceased? What will you miss the most?
Write first, wait, then edit. No matter how great the writer, thoughts bloom with time, as does our ability to express them well.
It always takes me by surprise how much people like reading about a mutual friend or relative. Sharing your own feelings sparks conversations and shares the love.
When were you able to write a meaningful memorial or tribute? What makes them hard to write? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Finding your tribe, the group of people that supports you, or supports a cause you’re invested in, can make all the difference. Knowing you can let your hair down and be yourself is comforting and exhilarating. When it happens, it’s worth writing about.
I experienced this during the last two weeks. A group of family historians came together, interested in maintaining the blogging resources at Geneabloggers.com as curator Thomas MacEntee moved on to other endeavors. Continue reading »
In the hyper-awareness that comes with loss, quite a few bittersweet moments have embossed themselves on my heart and memory. Snapshots of love, grief, and faith, gathered over the last two weeks.
Our minds record touching, bittersweet moments more vividly than a camera could.
I thought the dearly departed would have enjoyed some of them, were he watching. Perhaps he was. My insights aren’t unique, I’m sure. Such bittersweet moments happen in families all the time. But I found comfort in writing them down. Considering them together, I realize that they tell a story that is as much about the departed as those he left behind.
Though poignant, stories of forgiveness can be difficult to write. They call for us to reveal the dark times of our relationships with our family, friends, or even faith. Telling heartfelt stories of forgiveness push us even further than the proverbial long honest look in the mirror. They require us to admit to the world what the reflection revealed.
Stories of Forgiveness
Perhaps because of forgiveness’ elusiveness or our own limited ability to harness its power, stories of forgiveness make for compelling reading. If you doubt their popularity, just do a Google search. Readers’ Digest, Real Simple, and The Huffington Post all offer compilations of stories of forgiveness, as does The Forgiveness Project.Continue reading »
As a newly minted Legacy Republic consultant, I seized on the opportunity at RootsTech 2017 to get to know the company’s leadership better. (Disclosure: I’m a Legacy Maker or consultant. As such I receive financial compensation from orders placed through me or my personal Legacy Republic site. That said, I believe in Legacy Republic’s mission and services. They are the reason I joined.)
During Rootstech2016, Legacy Republic’s president Brian Knapp was busy unveiling their new Studio scanner, the 2nd place winner in the Innovator Summit. This year, things were a little less hectic. However, Brian was no less enthusiastic about the company’s mission. In addition, he had time to explain Legacy Republic’s commitment to helping family historians tell stories.
View the interview below to hear more about how Legacy Republic helps family storytellers highlight the moments that matter.
Legacy Republic and Storytelling
Sharleen Reyes, the company’s VP of Marketing impressed me as well. She took time to sit with me and give me insight into how Legacy Republic translates their mission into a marketing strategy. Sharleen isn’t what my former life in international business would have lead me to expect out of a VP of Marketing. She’s unpretentious, open to new ideas, and has a mile-wide creative streak.
She doesn’t believe in scare tactics. Though it’s true that media is degrading, particularly VHS media, Legacy Republic frowns on scaring customers into getting every linear foot of video and film in the house digitized. The mission is to get important memories out of closets and to share them with family.
Which is why, Sharleen explains, Legacy Republic prefers the person-to-person relationship model rather than a traditional sales force. In fact, Legacy Republic trains their Legacy Makers to back away from “selling.” Instead, they are coached to simply help customers and trust that sales opportunities will develop organically—or not—out of trusted relationships.
Choosing the Moments that Matter
A case in point of posed versus un-posed photos. Of course, on the left is the question of why my mom would have cut my bangs so short before a formal portrait. However, the photo on the right portrays a more typical story of how my sister entertained herself sticking her finger in my ear. And why I didn’t seem to mind.
Sharleen and Brian gave a presentation at RootsTech on choosing those moments that matter. In it, they stressed that the moments that matter are not necessarily the ones in which everyone wears in coordinated outfits and stands in front of an attractive backdrop. It might not even be the one with perfect focus and composition. Rather, they’re the ones that express a moment of personalities and relationships. The ones that give rise to stories. That’s a valuable takeaway for storytellers.
There are stories lurking in your closets. Look back at media—still or film or video—and choose a couple of ones that have stories which flow from them. Now go tell those stories!
Who’s your personal hero? Who’s protected you physically? Who inspires you to be a better version of yourself? One of my heroes has never been in a situation to do the former, although I’m sure she would. I can’t count the times my personal hero inspired me and taught me that love always wins.
Gail doing what she does best–making me laugh, although it looks like she was also making my hubby nervous.
I met Gail in 1998, on the day before my parents’ funeral. The daughter-in-law of my mom’s best friend, she didn’t know my parents well, but wanted to help. Her two boys were the same ages as my boys, two and four. She offered to provide childcare, whenever we needed it.Continue reading »
Many times, taking a step back from stories allows us to truly understand them. Until we separate ourselves from events, we see them only through our own eyes. We know what happened, but we don’t know what it really means. We don’t realize all the implications.
Taking a step back can also help us see how our stories connect to each other and how they continue to influence our lives.Continue reading »
Genealogy resources for memorists help bring history to life
If you didn’t read Do Memoir and Research Belong Together? you might wonder why’d I compile a list of genealogy resources for memoirists and memory writers. Before you yell, “BAHHHH Research” and run (or click) away, stay with me. This list of genealogy resources for memoirists will help you incorporate historical details that bring your memories to life. The facts you gleam make a great way to “show, not tell” the settings of your stories, increasing your readers’ understanding of your past.