Dec 042014
Wendy Parmley Shares Hope after Suicide

Author Wendy Parmley shares her story of finding Hope after Suicide — here in this post as well as in her recently released book.

I’m excited to have author Wendy Parmley share her insight with Treasure Chest of Memories readers. Wendy is an advocate for suicide prevention as well as for the support of loved ones left behind after a suicide. In this post, along with sharing her story of finding hope after suicide, she also opens up about the roles of her faith and sharing her story had in her physical and emotional healing.

I began writing my book nearly three years ago following a bicycle accident which left me unable to return to my nursing career because of the continued effects of a traumatic brain injury. During those dark days when I couldn’t get my brain to work, God spoke to my heart. I knew what my new work would be. My new work would be to tell the story of my angel mom – the story of her life, the story of her death, and the story of my healing journey.

Accompanied by my angel mom, I picked up a pencil and began the slow and painful telling of this story – slow and painful because my brain wouldn’t work, I told my friends and family. I reminded them I had already done the hard work of therapy and I was simply returning to my journals to compile my story in the book God asked me to write.

I turned first to my 1976 diary. How grateful I was to have recorded my simple twelve year old thoughts. “Mom died today,” I wrote. “I keep trying to tell myself that life is made up of the little things that happen, not the big things. . . I loved mom, I still do.”

I was immediately propelled back to that tragic day nearly thirty-seven years earlier and I felt again the raw sting I felt when I first learned my mom had died. It wasn’t until the next day that I learned she had taken her own life. As I wrote, I remembered.

And tears came.

But this book was for others. Not for me. And it certainly wasn’t part of my therapy, I reminded my friends and family when they surmised that it must be healing to write. “Heck, no, it is painful!” I exclaimed. “This isn’t for me. I’m writing because God told me to write!”

God told me to write and he sent my mom to accompany me on my journey.

Hope after suicide by Wendy Parmley

Hope after Suicide: One Woman’s Journey from Darkness into Light

Because of my brain injury, when I closed my eyes, all I saw was darkness. Nevertheless, my heart was filled with light. And ever so slowly, that light found its way to words on a page, then to sentences, and paragraphs, and pages.

Two years later, there was nothing more to write. God had healed my heart. My Savior had taken my now unburied heart and held it in His hands and filled it with light. Filled it with love.

My once shattered heart was made new. The sting of Mom’s death was removed, and in its place was a connection with Mom I had never before felt – an eternal bond of love. Darkness was turned to light.

 “We all have a story – hidden secrets buried in dark and rocky earth. Our journey is to unearth the pain and discover the good, discover the healing, and discover the love—to uncover the darkness and make space for the light.” (Hope after Suicide, page 189)

Author Bio: Prior to her bike accident, Wendy worked in nursing leadership for 14 years, earning her nursing degree from UVU in 1991 and her MBA degree from Brigham Young University in 2007.  Despite her continued limitations, Wendy is grateful to spend more time with the love of her life, her husband Mark.  She is ever grateful for his support and the support of their three married sons and their wives, their amazing daughter, and their two beautiful grandchildren who fill their life with sunshine.

Her book is available at · Barnes and Noble

Connect with Wendy:   Facebook   Twitter

Dec 012014
Tethered to the past

Tethered to the past: the ropes can keep us safe or tie us in knots

Tethers or connections? The past is an integral part of our future. When we write memoirs, memories, or histories that create a positive connection with the past, it grounds us. When the past colors our existence to the point that the present and future are drained of reason, it’s a tether to be broken–or at least loosened up a bit.

How are You Tethered to the Past?

There’s an apt German expressions for those times when you are torn about an event: “One eye laughs; the other cries.” When we reminisce and remember the events and stories of the past, we often experience that dichotomy. It’s hard to say whether we’re tethered to the past by fond memories or ghosts of better times.

Even the painful memories can be tough to let go of. Added up, they account for a huge chunk of life.

My dear friend and across-the-street neighbor recently decided to sell her house. She agonized over whether or not to leave her home of 27 years. Her house is full of comforting memories. But, it also has a lot of reminders of happier times.

Let’s face it. Looking back isn’t always a joyful sojourn in yesteryear. There are times when we look back and long for the people who are no longer with us, the innocence we possessed, not to mention rolling back the ravages that time has inflicted on our appearances.

I know. I sometimes look at pictures of my parents and feel a tug in my gut. I still miss them. A lot. I long for their advice and companionship. The past, that Never-Never-Land of What-Could-Have-Been, beckons. The memories that warm me on some days push me into melancholy on others. If I don’t shake myself out of my reverie (or if the dog or the kids don’t do it for me), I find myself tethered to the past—at least in an emotional sense. Sadness creeps in, shrouding my day.

Tethered to the past or anchored

Are you tethered to the past by an anchor that drags you down, or one that keeps you from getting lost at sea?

Anchors and Letting Go

There’s a physical exercise that makes the concept of releasing the past very real. You place one foot firmly on a mark on the floor. That mark is the past, and your foot anchors you there. With the rest of your body, you reach to see how far you can get without moving your foot from that mark. Assuming that there is something tempting out of reach, like a cookie or new job, you quickly realize the importance of letting go of that mark.

As much as I like the exercise, I don’t always.

For one thing, anchors aren’t all bad. Although they can’t still the waters, they keep us from being lost at sea. They remind us where we wanted to stay. They help us from getting lost or unintentionally drifting into danger.

On the other hand, anchors have hoists. They’re not constantly schlepped around. They’re dropped when it’s helpful and raised when you need to move on.

What Lies Ahead Means More if You Know What Lies Behind.

Another German word helps the metaphor. Rücksicht, taken literally, means backward sight. But what it actually means is concern or consideration.

We don’t move forward in a vacuum. We move forward from a starting point. If we completely disconnect ourselves from the past, our journey forward has less meaning. It’s like a silhouette instead of a landscape. It’s missing context.

That’s why, for example, old friends are so comfortable to be around. You don’t have to explain back stories or worry that they’ll misconstrue things. They understand you and your history.

Keeping the Anchor and Losing the Ball and Chain.

It’s a balance isn’t it? We want to be tethered to the past, but not haunted by it. Which will take us to Part 2—When and How to Let Go. Stay tuned….

Nov 202014
Looking at Venus de Milo, do you marvel at her beauty or yearn to hear her story? Source: Wikipedia.

Looking at Venus de Milo, do you marvel at her beauty or yearn to hear her story? Photo source: Wikipedia.

Traditionally, beauty is something flawless and unmarred. However, when it comes to writing your stories, such perfection is boring. (That’s why I avoid it at all costs!) Telling meaningful stories is a process of finding beauty in the scars and sharing it with others.

We have a natural tendency to cover our scars. Perhaps it comes from our need to protect what is precious to us. A scar on our child’s face reminds us of some harm that we failed to shield him from. A chip on the coffee mug that we got on our honeymoon serves as unwelcome reminder that we’re no longer young and unfettered. And, perhaps it’s because we’re hardwired to appreciate symmetry.[1]

However, it’s a curious double standard. We never look at an ancient, craggy tree and think, “Wow, that’s too bad. I bet it was beautiful when it was young.” We wonder about the scars and admire the tree’s survival. Continue reading »

Nov 172014
Conversations that matter

Family gatherings aren’t just great opportunities for bonding. It’s also a great time to have conversations that matter.

Family gatherings are the perfect time to start conversations that matter —and to collect stories. After the bird or ham has been carved and the casserole dishes scraped empty, we loosen our belts. And, often, we loosen our tongues.

This holiday, as Aunt Ida and Grandpa start to exchange familiar stories, make the most of the time with your loved ones. Jump (calmly and unobtrusively) into action.

Draw out New Information

Instead of simply laughing, nodding, and adding stories of your own, draw out new information by asking questions and listening carefully.

Getting the Details

Often, we know the gist of the stories. What we don’t know is the exactly where and the approximate when. As stories come out, ask follow-up questions. This isn’t just to nail down the story and convert an oral history into a somewhat more accurate written one. Those details often lead to new stories or sub-plots, and greater context.

Collect New Stories

The familiar stories cover a lot of ground, but not everything. Ask questions to ferret out new information and little known stories.’s 30 Family History Questions You Need to Ask Your Older Relatives is a great place to start.

Caveat: It always helps to go in with a plan. Jot yourself some notes so you know the questions you want to ask.

Take Notes

Pull that notepad out of your back pocket—or use the one on your smart phone, and record the details.

Start Conversations that Matter

Having meaningful conversations will allow you write stories that forge bonds. Go beyond the who, what, and where. Ask your loved ones deeper questions and start conversations that matter. Later, when you record their stories and memories, in addition to passing down information about relatives, you’ll be extending connections to those individuals.

For example, you could ask older relatives:

  • When you were a little girl/boy, what did you dream of being when you grew up?
  • When you look at your grandchildren (great-grandchildren), what are your hopes and dreams for them?
  • What worries you about youth in today’s society?
  • What do youth today have that you wish you’d had?
  • When you look back at your life, how do you think your values differed from those of your parents or grandparents?
  • When was the first time you knew you wanted to marry your future spouse?
  • If you had one do-over, what would you redo?
  • What was your proudest moment?

Keep it going:

Help for recording conversations that Matter

Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life has further tips and resources for preserving memories and stories that matter

Don’t limit these conversations to the dinner table. They can happen anytime you’re spending time with loved one–cooking, fishing, looking through old photos, or just watching TV.

Give a gift that gives back. Give your loved ones a fill-in book memory book or a guide to collecting memories like Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life. (Hint: You can combine the guide book with a journal or inexpensive digital recorder.)

Oct 102014
Aiming and putting down roots

Putting down roots isn’t a random decision.

The place we choose to settle and put down roots has far reaching (no pun intended) consequences. It’s the community our children call home. It’s the environment in which they form their worldviews. Frequently, it becomes the place children and grandchildren choose to start putting down roots. In other words, it’s something that will matter to future generations. But it’s often a story left untold—especially when it comes to our ancestors. Continue reading »

Oct 022014

forgetful personal historian For someone who is all about preserving stories, my memory sucks.

Just the other week my mother-in-law told me a story about a family ring. Apparently, my husband found the ring in the summer cottage and, assuming it wasn’t valuable, gave it to me to wear. My mother-in-law had to have an awkward conversation with my then boyfriend, telling him that she wanted the ring back.

I was appalled at the fact that this episode rang zero bells of familiarity. However, it never occurred to me to doubt the veracity of her story. She simply wouldn’t make up that type of thing—especially as she was in the process of re-gifting the ring to me. Continue reading »

Sep 302014
Lists are not just for Santa

Lists aren’t just for the big guy with presents. Start making your own.

My scattered brain loves lists. They calm and organize my distractible why-did-I-come-into-this-room brain. When my brain isn’t preoccupied with finding my glasses or coffee cup, lists feed my creativity.

Lists can be the memory-collector’s best friend. To illustrate this point, I found myself making a list about making lists.

Lists help you remember

Lists, if you don’t forget where you put them, are more permanent than memory. They can become an Idea Bank to store your ideas. (Hmmm… That’s a section of Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life. ) Continue reading »

Aug 142014
where to start telling your stories

Where to start is a personal question–the answer varies from person to person.

Interviewers frequently ask me, “Where should people start if they want to write down their memories?” Although I sense a little disappointment with my “It depends…” there’s no pat answer on where to start. It is—and should be in my opinion—a personal decision.

That said, it’s easier to start some places than others. Here’s a list of good ways to start

Start with what comes easy.

This is actually the underlying logic of my book, Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life. It progresses from the easy to more difficult. Continue reading »

Jul 222014
Writing about bullies of childhood

Writing about bullies is a way to open up your past to your readers.

Writing about bullies doesn’t come easily. We want to put that behind us. We wonder, “Who wants to read that?”

Probably most people.

Whenever we get together and share memories and stories, encounters with belligerence, arrogance, or outright bullying invariably come up. It’s always a compelling story.

Our listeners commiserate. They respond with their own stories. This happens when we write too. When we write about bullies and persecutors, we connect with readers and start conversations. We see new facets of each other’s personality. Continue reading »

Jul 152014
A typical day in your life

Describing a typical day can deepen connections.

Your story does not have to be extraordinary to be worthy of the written word. In fact, memorializing a typical day can be the key to connecting with loved ones.

I remember my younger son’s fourth grade teacher pulling me aside to describe my son’s “spacy” behavior. “Welcome to my world,” I told her. Although I sympathized with her, a part of me was grateful for someone who understood—viscerally understood—life with my son.

We hear “Walk a mile in my shoes!” with good reason. Experiencing the dust around another’s feet and the rhythms of their daily life promotes understanding and empathy. Continue reading »