How do you know what makes a difference?
Mum’s chair is empty now. It no longer is the place where Mum sits waiting for me to ring or to walk through her door. The chair does not have the same smiling face and caring eyes that once occupied its space and its arms do not reach out to me as it once seemed they did. It does not ask me how I am or what is really happening with me. The chair no longer looks inviting. It is just a chair.
I took the time to write Mum’s life stories a few years ago when she was healthy, and I am so glad I did. I tried to capture her spirit, her soul and the wisdom of her life messages as I knew one day, I would need them. Friends try to support me – but it’s not the same. They don’t know me as well as Mum did, and they don’t care as much as Mum did and they don’t love me as much as Mum did.
‘It takes a while’ they told me, and some days are better than others. On those other days I sit with my books on Mum’s life – Mum’s ordinary life that was so extraordinary. I hear Mum telling me her stories as if she is sitting next to me. I laugh at the funny one-liners she continually offered to all she met – ‘come to lunch’, ‘a little drink won’t hurt’, ‘all things pass’, ‘cherish the moment’.
So many people ring me wanting to record their loved one’s life story but many don’t ring back, not until it is too late. Perhaps it is the cost as it is a labour intensive job. Perhaps it is the work as it is a lot of work and takes time. Perhaps they are just too busy with all the importantthings that make life busy today.
Life stories are so much more than facts. They are a legacy of understanding, support and personal identity. They enable the soul of the person to live on and family history to be preserved. They facilitate family connectedness through the generations and give insight into a person’s perspective on their life journey and context on the social fabric of their environment.
A Life Story is inspirational and transforming for the narrator as well as for the reader. It’s not about the accuracy of the facts and it is not about shaming or blaming someone who has been a burden. A Life Story is about the truth of a person’s perception and interpretation of their life. Some people use their life story to heal or become reconciled to a trauma; others will use it to validate their experiences and self-esteem, while others just want to record the memories.
That’s what I wanted to do when I recorded Mum’s life story. I wanted to preserve her memory and give reference for the family and the future family to sit and reflect on the love she gave to all. How do you know what difference you will make to a family member in the future? But perhaps you just will.
I was at an extended family reunion recently and one excited relative thanked me for a family album I did that included maternal and paternal great grandparents. I searched old records, Trove, anyone’s memory I thought would have some knowledge of the old times and brought it all together into some sort of historical story. Some relatives objected at the time, and others hung onto the old photos as if they were exclusively theirs.
Imagine my excitement with this excited relative shared with me the fact that the book sat on his coffee table. “But it’s not much” I humbly mumbled. “No, but its all we have and thank you so much for giving us that.”
Rose Osborne www.writemyjourney.com