Everyone Has A Story to Tell
Many who have gone before us say that the greatest gift a parent or grandparent can give to their descendants is recollections of their life and family. We all have a richness in our living that needs to be shared with the generations that follow. From birth to death, life is a journey. Will the the triumphs, the tribulations, and the wisdom gained along that journey be lost to those we leave behind? Memoirist, Patricia Hampl bluntly warns, “Refuse to write your life and you have no life.” Where there is no record, persons are quickly forgotten. The Association of Personal Historians uses an appropriate catch phrase, “Saving lives one story at a time.” Many people take up the fascinating study of genealogy, but how much do we know about the ancestors whose names appear on the lines of family trees?
Journeynotes came into being when I suddenly realized after the death of my parents that the memory of their generation would be lost unless an effort was made to preserve it. I felt compelled to take it on. Through the boxes of inherited photos and records and the memories they stirred, a collection of stories came together over the course of a year. The task was daunting because that generation contained 34 aunts and uncles and 56 first cousins that needed to be included in a Collection of Family Remembrances. The importance of this work became so apparent that by the time it was finished, I resolved to aid and encourage others to write their stories. This idea was nurtured farther when I met Marianne at a writing workshop last summer. It proved to be an interesting coincidence. Marianne shared her work as a personal historian living in center city Philadelphia. I realized that this type of service was right down my alley! After surprising my family at Christmas with the Collection of Family Remembrances and receiving their affirmations, I was ready to proclaim:
Everyone’s story matters. The personal memoir is so important not only because it shares noteworthy moments in one’s life, but it also preserves the legacy of people who have impacted that life. In recent years, the writing of the memoir is becoming a vital part of our culture. We are coming to realize that it is not only rich and famous people who deserve to be remembered but ordinary persons as well. Ordinary may be a word we use for the general population, but on closer examination, it’s amazing to realize that ordinary is quite possibly extraordinary! Too often we find ourselves putting off the work of recording life’s passages thinking there is nothing significant to share. But one’s children may not see it that way. Nothing is more exciting to read than a true life story.
A new self-awareness is often an additional by-product of story-writing. Mark Twain wrote in the introduction to his autobiography, “You will never know how much enjoyment you have lost until you get to dictating your autobiography.” When one becomes involved in this holy endeavor, it can become a pathway to self-discovery. Twain also remarked that his autobiography would be remembered because of the form he used. He would write his collection of stories – not in chronological order, but as they came into his mind and as he was reminded of them by the everyday experiences of his life. When memories bubbled up into consciousness, he felt they did so for a reason.