“I wish I had known about your service when my ___________(Grandmother, Father, Great Uncle - you fill in the blank) was still alive.” This is by far the most often heard comment when I meet someone new and tell them what I do. And while I appreciate the sentiment, I just want to shake the person and say “this is exactly what is going to be said about you if you don’t record your memories!” It’s easy enough for us to see the value in having something we can’t get back (memories from our dad or grandmother who passed away) but we don’t always see the value in our own memories.
You have a story! A unique and wonderful story that needs to be told. Someone wants to hear from you today and in the future. You hold a unique place in your family history and only you can adequately tell your story. It’s never too early to tell your story but it can easily become too late. Don’t let that happen! You don’t want to be the name in the blank. And if it is too late for one of your ancestors, remember, whatever stories and memories they shared with you now become your responsibility to preserve. Even though you weren’t a firsthand witness to the event, you hold all that’s left. Your recollection is better than no recollection.
Okay, so I’ve put this weighty responsibility on you, what now? Well, you can always reach out to me or another personal historian to help you communicate, share, and preserve the memories and stories you have. We’re happy to help but don’t underestimate the power of the pen. Grab a notebook and a pen and write down the stories you remember that were told to you. In this way, they are documented and preserved today. Memories and stories fade so don’t put it off. If writing is too tedious for you, grab your phone, find the recorder function, and just start talking. It’s not a perfect tool but it’s something. Better to have something than nothing.
Have you ever come across an old card or letter from someone who is deceased? I have several of these from my grandmother and grandfather and they are incredibly precious. Do I wish my grandmother would once again tell me the tale of milking cows and hiding in the cow manager to trick her sister – yes! Do I wish I had recorded the stories of my grandfather’s bootlegger days – yes! But in the absence of that, I’ll cherish their recorded thoughts in these handwritten letters. However, you can do more because you understand the value of memories and stories. You’re in a position to do something about saving those stories and improving your family legacy. Don’t put it off until “someday.” “Someday” has a sneaky way of getting away from us all.
What stories do you wish you could hear one more time?