A Legacy: Sharing Your Life Story

by Victoria J. Wolf on Mon, 2004-11-01 07:01

Almost four years ago our granddaughter, Kaity Miller, was born, turning our lives upside down, inside out and all the way around with joy. One year later, I was diagnosed with ALS. As I realized I might not have as many years with my beloved grandchild as I’d dreamed, I began considering how to tell her my life story.

How do you want to be remembered? What memories do you want to pass on to your children and grandchildren? What important lessons in life are worth sharing? What do you wish you had made time to say?

There are many ways to leave a legacy of yourself to future generations. The most important thing is to start right now, organizing your thoughts and deciding how best to communicate the past, present and future. Here are some ideas, based on my experience.

Victoria Wolf

Audiotape

This is perhaps the easiest way to tell your story, especially for those of us with muscle atrophy in our hands and arms.

Several years ago I taped my Grandma Tince talking about her life. I asked questions that took her all the way back to her childhood, and then proceeded forward to the current year. I’ve listened to that tape many times over. It gives me great peace and comfort.

In addition, I learned firsthand information about the time period between the 1900s and 1950s. It was much better than studying it in a history book. I discovered that my family experienced the Great Depression, the “dust bowl” years, scarlet fever and polio, the world wars, and on and on.

Hearing about my grandmother’s joys, failures, losses and loves gave me great faith and assurance that I could get through anything, even ALS, because of those who went before me and what they endured.

Write it out

Since I enjoy writing, this is an ideal approach for me. Of course, writing out your whole life story could take weeks, if not months and years, which our time clocks may not allow.

So, I suggest getting a memory book to help you along. There are many on the market at local bookstores and card shops, geared to both men and women. I enjoy Grandmother’s Memories to Her Grandchild: A Journal of Faith and Love, illustrated by Thomas Kinkade (Tommy Nelson, April 2004).

These books leave no story untold! They prompt you to cover your family, childhood, marriage, all the “firsts” (kiss, birth, home, etc.), goals, special holidays, favorite things, and everything in between. Through your entries, you share valuable information about your views of love, faith and hope. It’s a perfect way to write when you need a little help knowing where to begin.

Keep a journal

A more personal way to write your legacy is to detail your daily life and thoughts, writing them down just as if you were speaking to someone. Journals don’t need to be edited for mistakes or to follow a pattern of time or subjects. Journaling is simply sharing from the heart those things you want future generations to know. You can pick up a journal any time, write down the date, and record as little or as much as you want.

I’ve found journaling to be a useful tool in coping with my ALS. Despite the disease, we have blessings that come in all forms and at all times. Perhaps today you saw a rainbow or a butterfly and you want to express how the beauty touched your soul and gave you hope. Perhaps you had fears today and you need to express them in order to encourage yourself to stay with the fight and not give up.

Journaling allows me to take a deeper look into my heart. That may be where you’ll find the story you need to share.

Videotape

Not many of us like being in front of the camera, but this method allows everyone to see you and read your body language. People can see you enjoying life through your smiles, and sense the sincerity in your voice. Those yet to be born can see the person everyone is talking about.

If you have access to a video or DVD camcorder, this may be the best way to leave your legacy.

Make a scrapbook

Arranging old photos and memorabilia together in a scrapbook is a rewarding and creative way to share your life story.

You can find a wealth of materials for making beautiful scrapbooks at craft stores, online and at home shows. Begin by organizing your pictures chronologically, by event or however you choose. Decide if you want your books to be decorative or simple, serious or funny.

Create professional-looking pages by using precut borders and stickers, or use your imagination and design your own unique backgrounds.

Don’t forget to write about the events shown in your pictures! This will turn your photo collection into a treasured storybook for future generations to read and enjoy. Despite the time and expense of scrapbooking, I’ve found the end product to be a masterpiece that preserves my family’s history.

The most important thing is not how you share your story, but that you take the time to share it. My motivation is my granddaughter. To whom do you want your story to be told?

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