Recalling and Recording your Life’s Story

Grandma was Quite a GirlTwo questions popped into my mind last week.

  1. What do we remember about our parents or grandparents years after their passing? AND
  2. What do we want to be remembered about ourselves?

The questions surfaced after meeting Lindsay Patterson last week. She’s a young lady fresh out of college who was promoting her new business, ReflectAndRecord.com. It’s a personal history business that specializes in multimedia memoirs, and it made me think back on the memories my mom left for me in a hand-written book, “Grandma was Quite a Girl.”

Mom never got into computers like I did. She worked her as a secretary with the British Navy in Washington, D.C. without ever touching a computer, so it seems fitting that she’d leave her legacy in that little book that prompted her to write her story in fill-in-the-blanks style, with photos added. In modern times she might have used a service to create a multimedia memoir that could be passed down electronically on CD or stored on a perpetual memory website.

Still, I have that little book in my box of keepsakes in case we need to evacuate from Texas wild fires. I also have a commemorative book about dad on the U.S.S. Minneapolis during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It’s my only written memory of dad, and as I think back on what these two small books mean to me, I can’t help but recommend that you or your loved one capture and record your life memories now while you still can.

While talking with Lindsay about her personal history business, I tried to think of the term used to describe online services that would fit into her business model with similar recorded information, but I was having a senior moment and couldn’t grasp the right word until later. Actually, there are several keywords you can use in a Google search for more information. Start with Legacy, Memorial, Online, Perpetual, Virtual and Website.

I discovered a related story today on NPR: For The Dying, A Chance To Rewrite Life. It describes life recordings as a tool to help people cope with end of life. Harvey Chochinov developed the concept over 10 years ago and called it dignity therapy. The idea was to ask the dying to tell the story of their life.

The idea came after a powerful moment he had while counseling a man with an inoperable brain tumor. “One of the last times that I went into his room to meet with him, on his bedside table was a photograph of him when he had indeed been young and healthy and a bodybuilder, and it was this incredible juxtaposition of these two images,” says Chochinov.

Clearly, the patient wanted to be remembered for what he was before his illness, not the skeleton of a man he had become.

Memories versus Legacy

Reflecting and recording can be done on your own or with help from a service, and it doesn’t just apply to end of life. Any important event that invokes strong feelings can be recorded, such as the proud moments of a graduation or wedding or the horrific moments of the terrorist attacks on 9/01/2011. And it doesn’t have to be done with multimedia. One of my favorite stories is the one I wrote after my son Adrian was born, when memories were fresh and emotions high.

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