Preserving Memories into Family Treasures: No Time Like the Present

From easy conversations to timeless treasures

Dad was a born storyteller. Raised during the Great Depression, serving as a combat soldier in Germany during WWII, and landing in a 40-year career in public speaking, the man certainly had stories to tell! Ten years before he died, Dad began writing short stories of his life and faith to pass on to his grandchildren and future generations he would never know. I am so grateful he did, though at the time, it didn’t occur to me to ask him to record anything. Frankly, I had heard him tell every story several times, and that seemed enough. I was wrong.

Most of us don’t feel driven to write an autobiography, but we do have things to talk about. We have opinions and precious memories that stick in our minds from former days. We have lessons learned along the way, holiday traditions, family histories. And considering how quickly society evolves from one generation to the next, even the most seemingly mundane things now might one day prove intriguing to others.

This is also true for the one you are caring for. Wouldn’t it be sad to lose priceless information that Grandma could provide, if asked? How can we help preserve those memories that may one day become family treasures?

Collecting stories from a family member has never been easier

Eliciting and documenting a loved one’s memories has never been more convenient, efficient and fast! For example:

  1. Do-it-yourself photo books (produced electronically from old, scanned photos) are widely available through Shutterfly, or at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, chain pharmacies, etc.  Find a supplier that permits captions with the photos. 
  2. Self-publishing firms, e.g. Lulu, will publish a book of your loved one’s stories, with photos.
  3. Video recordings—produced informally with your own smart phone or by a professional—are great for interviewing your loved one as many times as desired, then combining them onto a DVD. Transcripts of interviews can be produced in print form, as well. 
  4. StoryWorth is one of the best opportunities I’ve seen for eliciting and saving stories. A $99 one-year gift membership enables you to ask a family member one question at a time for a year. The individual then writes his or her answer to the question on the website for private family viewing.  Benefits of this service abound:
    • StoryWorth has hundreds of questions to choose from that are guaranteed to get those storytelling juices flowing. You also can ask your own questions.
    • If your family member is unable to use the internet, simply work together: Ask a question interview-style and type the answer as your loved one speaks. Even easier, if you have Microsoft Windows 10 or later, you can use the dictation feature in Word. As you speak, Word will capture the text on the page, which you can proofread and finalize.
    • With only one new question at a time, the project is not overwhelming. 
    • A published keepsake book is provided at the end of the membership (or earlier, if the task is complete.)
    • Don’t worry if your family member is verbose—the book’s 480-page limit will accommodate many memories!

Better than heirlooms

Eventually we all lose the ability to share our stories with those we leave behind. Although tangible assets may remain, they pale in comparison with irreplaceable words from the heart. So whether the final product is a series of video recordings, a published book or a handwritten three-ring binder, the important thing is to capture those memories while we can.

When Dad was about half-finished with his collection of stories, I asked why he was working so hard to get them done. He looked up at me from his 1980s electric typewriter and replied, “Because I don’t know how much time I have left.” 

Poignant words for all of us.

Whether you’re taking care of aging parents, grandparents, a spouse or partner, or a child or adult with disabilities, we provide coaching to help you on your caregiving journey.

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