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Writing Our Memoirs: Gems From Your Own Life to Pass Along to Your Descendants

Writing Our Memoirs: Gems From Your Own Life to Pass Along to Your Descendants
By Beverlee McIntosh

Have you ever wished that you had some stories from the lives or your grandparents or great grandparents? Sometimes we have a few anecdotes passed down during family gatherings but what was life really like for Great-Grandmother Agnes or Great-Grandfather Edwin or Great-Aunt Sophie? What was it like for your ancestors living a century ago? What were their values? What were their joys and achievements? What made them laugh and what grief did they carry in their hearts?

There’s no time like the present to preserve the gift of your own memories for your grandchildren, great grandchildren, and grand nieces and nephews who will want to know about you, their ancestor, and what it was like to grow up in the 20th century.

To make the task manageable you need not write an autobiography or edit a journal of all the events of our lives. The best gift for those curious scions is a booklet of little gems which speak to the times you made important decisions or experienced something unusual or fun. These are the stories and anecdotes that will be great fun to share at a future family gathering and to ensure your place in the family’s tapestry of memories from generations past. And don’t be surprised if some of these little gems become a loving addition to your own eulogy.

So where do you start? There are programs which you can purchase to guide you through the process and these make a great gift for the older person who has everything including rich memories to share. Story worth and Story Terrace are examples of companies which provide packages to walk you through the process of writing. As well, you can scroll through “tips for writing memoirs” in your search engine and decide which strategy would work best for you to get you started.

My strongest suggestion, before you sit down to write an autobiography, is to take the time to write a few one-page stories about an aspect of your life that you can easily share. You can start by choosing three topics from this list and pick up your pen during the next week and start writing! Some suggestions:

  • An amazing co-incidence in your life that changed you or changed someone else.
  • Your fist trip overseas or a memorable family vacation.
  • What were your chores as a kid and how did you wrangle out of them?
  • Memories of your own father/mother which you would like to save for posterity.
  • Dad was a vet [any profession]. What stories of did he share with you that I you can pass on?
  • Your brush with the law or a school detention or other mischief you got into and remember well.
  • What was a typical day at school for you? Describe different grades and some memorable teachers.
  • How you met your spouse and when and where the proposal took place.
  • Buying the house that became the family home.
  • How you got your nickname.
  • How you chose your career/profession, including some special accomplishments.
  • Going to a high school prom or a hootenanny in the 1960s. What did you wear and who were your favourite bands or artists?
  • How you learned to drive a car. This will be interesting for future generations as cars may be as esoteric then as owning a horse is today!

These are a just a few ideas to get you started. Remember, you are writing for loved ones who will want to hear your ‘voice’ in the stories so keep it informal and funny or poignant. Keep the stories short enough to be read one at a time after a thanksgiving dinner or around a campfire in 2121 when those yet unborn scions get together to talk about where they came from.

Beverlee McIntosh is a retired social worker and volunteer member of the Board of the Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa.

Tagged in: Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa Published by: Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa Inc.