Geneology. Family History. Life Story. Legacy. Memories. They’re a part of who we are, yet we rarely take the time to document them. One of the things on our list of things to consider when you become a caregiver is to document a loved one’s legacy. Not only will you learn about the life of your loved one, you will learn about your own life, because where we came from helps define who we are.
We study history in school. Why not learn about our own family history. Chances are, you already do this informally at big family dinners. Why not take the extra step and record it. There are many resources out there to draw from:
StoryCorps: They have a list of questions that can get you started. Pick whichever ones you think apply, or pick them all. Hospice has the Hospice Legacy Project – an off-shoot of StoryCorps.
- To Our Children’s Children- Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come: Book by Bob Greene (journalist). This is a book of questions about a persons life, grouped into chapters covering different aspects of their life.
- Family Tree program: By simply identifying members of the family, you will provoke stories about each. Some programs will have space for those stories to be included. If you don’t know where to start, or which of the countless programs to choose from, maybe start with a free template. Here are some, available at: https://www.template.net/business/family-tree-templates/family-tree/
- Digital Recorder/Video Recorder: Recording, instead of trying to write everything down, can make the story telling more natural. Digital recorders can be relatively cheap and some even take a mini SD card to expand the recording space. Not only is it easier, but you also have their voice on record. Of course, you can videotape as well. If the person is ill, they may prefer to stick with the voice recording.
Memory/Photobooks: Photobooks are a great way to put together a life story. You’ll probably have to scan in the photos to create the book, but if you don’t want to do this, there are companies that will professionally scan your photos onto a DVD for you. (Costco is one example of a company that will transfer photos, film and slides.) Some senior care service companies, like EverPresent, provide the full service of compiling your photos and film and creating the memory book for you. But by doing it yourself you can include the stories that go with the pictures. Want some motivation? Check out this fabulous book at Creative “Try” Als (these book images are just a few from that site).
Whether you want to capture your family history, or just want to a way to pass the time as you sit together, document a loved one’s history and you’ll not only get to know your loved one but you’ll also make them feel valued.
Don’t wait. Start now. I recently sat down with my parents using the StoryCorps questions. Though I heard many stories I had heard before, as we continued to talk I learned something knew. (I knew my grandparents escaped Turkey during the massacres, I didn’t know my one grandmother got to Greece on a raft her brother built.)
Take the journey with your loved one. You never know what you might discover.