Imagine receiving an unexpected parcel in the mail. Inside are several sheets of thick, study and slightly faded crinkled paper covered with handwriting. As you quickly leaf through the sheets, the words focus. It slowly dawns on you that this parcel contains the writings of your great-great- grandmother. She is sharing her memoirs, snippets of life moments.
As you continue to read through this legacy of memories, how would you feel?
November is Life Writing Month. Life writing is sharing memories, glimpses into an irreplaceable lived-life. There are many avenues to writing memory vignettes. In fact, several personal blogs are life writing narratives.
But, thoughtful memoirs have an element of hindsight, a reflection on past life events which are still remembered today for their significance.
Writing snippets of a life story preserves legacy, a life heritage for future descendants. A memoir embedded with life, love, and wisdom conveys universal truths. It not only bridges the gap between generations and family members but fosters an appreciation of the common human experience.
Everyone is both a repository and a primary part of family history.
But forwarding family heritage must begin with someone.
I recently stood in front of a mirror adjusting my grandmother’s heirloom necklace for an upcoming family photo.
Sadly, when my grandfather clasped these pearls around my neck, as a token of my late grandmother’s love, the necklace was an heirloom gift without a memory legacy.
My grandmother had never proudly displayed this necklace to me nor had I ever seen her wear it. I knew nothing of its existence. I’d never been told in her gentle voice that this necklace mattered to her; nor that it was the only valuable gift she’d ever received from her sons. I’d never heard her reminisce and tell stories about the memorable events she’d attended wearing this necklace. Nor had I ever heard that as the only granddaughter to be born in ten generations, it would one day belong to me.
Which is why I wore this necklace for the family photo to be taken of my husband and me, with my first-born granddaughter. It has fallen to me to begin a memory legacy for this necklace that will become a family legacy. My granddaughter will have a picture of her paternal grandma proudly wearing the pearl necklace that will someday be bequeathed to her. Throughout her life, I’ll wear them to every special occasion that I attend with her. She will hear the story of how her great-great-uncle specialty ordered them for her great-great grandmother and why each shimmering pearl is incrementally larger than the one that precedes it.
When this pearl necklace is clasped around my granddaughter’s neck, after I am gone, she will smile in fond remembrance and with understanding.
She will be able to share its life story when she bequeaths this heirloom pearl necklace, to her first-born granddaughter.
This memoir snippet is an excerpt written for my memoir writing club. Many of the writers are over seventy-five and inspire me. One couple has traveled throughout their retirement creating a massive binder of brief family memoirs, heirloom pieces, ancestral roots and heritage venues, all accompanied by valuable photos.
Each and every life memoir I’ve listened to affirms our common human experiences. Yet, each life story is unique in and of itself, especially to family members.
One online writer hopes her descendants will experience the same fascination with touching and reading her life writing as she has holding and reading her great-grandmother’s dairy detailing her crossing of the Atlantic.
Everyone has a life story to tell.
It is never too late nor too early to become a memory legacy keeper.
If you are interested in memoir life writing, there are many books available, including The Memoir Project (Marion Roach Smith), Your life, Your Story (Cherry Gilchrist), and Shimmering Images (Linda Chapman).
There are also online aids including: http://thememoirnetwork.com/, and http://womensmemoirs.com/
- How to Write a Memoir (redvinylchair.com)
- Does A Memoir Have to Mark the End of Your Life? (thewritersadvice.com)
- FB pages: Dusty Old Thing, Reminisce Magazine