You don’t have to be mourning a loss to want to preserve memories of what he or she said. Capture your memories of voices from the past by writing down short descriptions of what your loved ones say or said.
As years go by, loved ones lack a record of the choices we made. In this post, we’ll focus on identifying important life decisions to write about. In part two, we’ll look at the back stories to these decisions.
The following make great topics for memory narratives or journal prompts:
The lack of explanations of our ancestors’ choices is the genealogist’s bane. We find evidence of family decisions, but have no idea what motivated them. For instance, my husband’s ancestors leave us with unanswerable questions.
Writing about your earliest memory can present a challenge. Often, they’re not coherent. You might only remember a room, a noise, or impressions. However, writing about your earliest memory or memories and explaining why they matter can provide a meaningful glimpse into your childhood.
It’s fun to compare something we all share
It’s fun to compare your own early memory with the earliest memories of loved ones. Most of our earliest memories date back to age three of four, though some people have even earlier memories.
Life isn’t always about winning, so it makes sense that we’d want to write about the agony of defeat as well as about our accomplishments. In fact, these stories of missing the mark are often the ones that connect us to family members, resonating because we all know that agony of defeat.
However, the difference between a simple loss and an epic disappointment isn’t always self-apparent. For example, watching the Olympics it’s clear that for some athletes, making it to Sochi was the victory. For others, “winning” a silver medal is the agony of defeat.
We know writing is therapeutic for the writer. (If you don’t, refer back to Write about Memories: It’s Therapeutic! and Ovarian Cancer: Journaling and Healing). But that’s not the full extent of it. Here are a few of the ways that your writing is therapeutic for your readers.
Your Story is Their Story
Very few stories have only one character. Your stories include other people—
Stories matter. Not just the bare bones stories based on facts, but the rest of the story. Personalities, proclivities, relationships, and experiences are an important part of preserving your family history.
Flynn Coleman makes a good case for this in his article Only Connect: Why Your Story Matters. Huffington Post writers don’t usually need my help in stating their case, but just this once I’ll help Mr. Coleman out with an illustration.
I decided to compare what I know about my second great grandfather from research as opposed to my grandmother’s “Treasure Chest of Memories.” I hope that it will bring home the importance of sharing and documenting family stories. You won’t just be providing the rest of the story. You’ll be facilitating a connection between the family members, past and present.
Getting caught and getting in trouble are childhood memories we all share. Whether our crimes were big or small, numerous or far and few between, we’ve been busted. Don’t just share the times you come off smelling like a rose. Write about those times you got in trouble (or even got away with something).
It’s interesting to look back on our “crimes” and the penalties with both a child’s and an adult’s eye.
Photos of people laughing—especially group shots of people laughing—are jewels for memory keepers. A picture tells a thousand words; we love seeing the happiness and camaraderie. However, many times there’s a story behind the smiles and we still need words to tell the story.
Story behind the Smiles
It annoys me to no end that I can’t remember what we were laughing about in the photo to the left. At the time that I took it (with a remote), I thought I would always remember what the joke was. But I don’t. Although the joke is frozen in time on our faces, the story behind the smiles is currently lost to me.
I admit the prospect of taking dry historical facts and turning them into stories that the rest of the family—much less the rest of the world—will find interesting is intimidating. It sounds like some literary alchemy or magic is called for.
Actually, it’s not really that hard.
Experiencing hurt and anger are a part of life. We all experience it. If we’re honest, we probably all cause it as well. However, few of us want to write about it. If we do, we write when our anger is still red-hot. Though cathartic, that piece of writing may not be something we want to include in a legacy.
When, then, do we want to preserve our feeling of hurt and anger for prosperity?