Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Don't Wait Too Long to Write Family Stories

Yesterday, we attended the funeral of a friend. He had been a career military man, served in the reserves after retiring from active duty for several years. In his heart, he never left the service. A longtime friend spoke at the service, standing near the flag-draped casket. 

He told of a friendship that began when the two men were freshman in college, continued through military service days and then living in the same community during their retirement years. There were humorous stories related and heartfelt words, as well. He painted a word picture for all to see.

As I listened, I wondered if the deceased, or any of his family members, had written anything about this patriot's life. Did anyone write about the years he served in Vietnam? Or the number of helicopters he jumped out of? Or the wedding at Ft. Knox when he married 51 years ago? Had the annual Christmas event--the days-long setting up of train and village--been written about? Or the parties this man loved to host along with his wife? Is there a written record of his coffee group friends and chatter--the retired men who met every morning, Monday through Friday? What about his beer group on Monday and Friday afternoons? He and his buddies hashed out the problems of the world.

Has anyone written about the two children this man and his wife adopted and raised with great love and dedication? Or about his weakness for his grandchildren--showering them with love and more Christmas gifts than any child might dream of? 

Did he keep a journal with details of his long life? If he did not and no other family member did not, the question is Why? I can't fault any one person if there is no written record. Many think about it and plan to do it later. But somehow, later gets farther and farther into the future until it is too late and never gets done. 

It's never too late to write about your family members (or yourself). Of course, it's better to begin sooner rather than later but do it! Below is a list of some of the things you might want to include:
  • place and date of birth
  • where he/she grew up
  • what kind of schools attended
  • what kind of student he/she was
  • physical traits and emotional characteristics
  • military record
  • jobs
  • girlfriends/boyfriends
  • childhood friends
  • church attended, if any
  • likes and dislikes
  • siblings
  • political affiliation
  • marriage(s)
  • children/grandchildren
  • travel
  • higher education
  • honors, medals, awards
  • service to the community
It's not necessary to sit down and create a full book length memoir of your family member, or yourself. Do it in bits and pieces, one story at a time. Each of my stories in the Chicken Soup books is about me or some family member. Put them all together and a book has been initiated. I keep a large 3 ring binder of all the things I write (except for these blog posts). Actually, there are now 2 of those big books. One section is labeled Family Stories and that is where those family-related writings go. They extend from me to my immediate family to extended family to my husband and many of his family members. They are a record of the past for those who are young ones now and those yet to come. As many stories as there are, I know that I can write about many other family personalities, events, and happenings.

So many people ask But where do I begin? Start with one story. That's all it takes. Only one. And then write another one and another. They do not have to be in chronological order. Anyone reading the stories later will soon be able to draw a full picture from the many stories. 

Another thing you can do for your own family is to keep a diary or a journal of your memories, your thoughts, present day happenings--anything that comes to mind. If you're 20, 40, 60 or 70, it's not too late to begin. 

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