As a writer I spend a lot of time writing and revising stories. Many of my stories are fictional, but some of the stories are not. My first published book was a memoir of my time in ministry (Musing of a Pastor’s Heart). The root of almost everything I write, including poetry, begins with an oral or written narrative. I am convinced everyone regardless of their station in life has a deeper broader history. Beyond the easily seen surface knowledge is a story. Their lineage, their career choices, their relationships, and their personal worldview are just chapters to their life story. The question is will we ever know those stories, and if so, who will tell them or write them? Yet, no story ever goes completely untold because we leave parts of our story with everyone we love and invest our time in.
I have a relative on my husband’s side of the family that I have known since my childhood. We grew up together. We went to the same elementary school, and we had the same babysitter. He and I were talking about those days when he mentioned how mean he thought his father was when he was a child, but now he realizes his dad was only trying to teach him how to be a man. The story the son tells is much different from the story I would tell. His father was retired military and a disabled veteran when I first met him. He seemed very family oriented. He was kind and jolly around me and my family. His wife and my mom were good friends. I always thought he was in pain. He walked with a steady limp. Of course, I never asked him about the braces on his legs because it wasn’t my place. I admired how he worked every day and always had time to cook for family gatherings. Looking back, I realize I really don’t know much about him as a person at all; his impact on my life was small but kind. He organized and catered my engagement party after my husband, his nephew, proposed. It also strikes me that his son may not know much about his dad either. He said his dad never talked about his time in the service, and he really didn’t ask him questions about it. Now the father is gone along with his wife, siblings and peers. There is no one left to tell his story.
Why did he join the army at a young age? How did he feel about missing the first five years of his son’s life and leaving his wife to handle life her own? What happened to his legs? Why did he continue to work? How did he end up working at the VA after his 20 plus years of service? Where did he learn to cook? Why was he strict with his son? Did he have hobbies? Did he see the world? Was he treated fairly in his family, in the military, or on his job? There is no place to go for these answers. We can only look at the picture albums and make assumptions. His valuable life story remains incomplete for his son, his grandchildren, and his family friends.
The ancestry search engines are all the rage today, but wouldn’t it be great to have detailed stories to go with documents and pictures? First and secondhand accounts of events would make your ancestors stories completer and more interesting. The same can be said for your story.
I have cousins on my paternal grandfather’s side of the family who have worked diligently to verify our family history. We have birth certificates, death certificates, census reports, photographs, and obituaries. They wanted to verify the history that had been written and passed down through the oral tradition. It was a lot of work and research. I appreciate all of their efforts. It has truly enriched my life. Yet, I must say I am also grateful for the firsthand stories I heard from my great grandparents, my great aunts and uncles, my grandparents and my 90-year-old mother – stories I have shared with my children and grandchildren along with pictures and documents. I also have information written by my maternal grandmother about her parents and grandparents. She recorded the names, dates of birth and death, and the occupations of her parents, grandparents, and their siblings. Next to each name she wrote a verse of scripture. How I wish I knew why she added these verses. I believe there is some significance and insight there, but I can only guess. At any rate, I laminated the pages and included them in my cherished family history box. For me it is a blessing to have items written in the handwriting of my ancestors.
I’d like to think that parts of our stories are written on the hearts of our children and others who shared the path of our lives – each person carrying a chapter or two. More often than not, we get to hear part of these chapters in the eulogy or remarks from family and friends at the funeral. Perhaps a retirement party, awards’ ceremony, or a family reunion will bring out a few paragraphs. But what if we were more intentional about writing these stories; how would that affect the next generation?
Last year, my godson’s girlfriend (now wife) created a wealth book for him for his birthday. She contacted his family and friends asking each to give her a memory or a comment about him along with pictures. The book also included his own words about his wealth. It’s a beautiful cross section of his life and his influence. (To understand how wealth is defined in this case click this blog link: What is Your Net Worth?) I can imagine this book becoming a family treasure and being passed down to his children. They will be afforded a part of their dad’s story that they were not alive to witness. I am so thankful that I have a copy to cherish and share.
My children and grandchildren (and perhaps someday, great grandchildren) as well as extended family and friends will have several sources of my story. They will have the books I’ve written, my personal journals, my photo albums, my family history box and a mountain of notebooks. They will have my collection of teacher and preacher ceramic figurines. They will have my cherished library as well as all the cards and letters I have saved through the years. Hopefully, they will have the testimonials of friends and colleagues with their funny, adventurous, and embarrassing chapters of the life we shared. Perhaps some of my students will share a paragraph or two, but I hope they all will have a portion of my story written their hearts as I have the stories of my ancestors written in my heart.
The fact is we don’t know who will write our stories or who will share our legacy, but we can be sure someone will tell our story if we live a life worth remembering. I love this quote from Billy Graham, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” (There’s that wealth again.)
May your life and mine be worthy of an oral or written story sharing from one generation to the next. Be Safe. Be Intentional. You are a recipient of a legacy, pass it on!
These books also have a grandparent version. Click the book to be directed to Amazon.
One thought on “Who Is Writing Your Story”
Great Read!!! Love it!!!