Write Your Wise Elder Memoir
Summer is a great time to get some memories down on paper to share with your loved ones.
There is nothing like kicking back in a comfortable chair with your favorite summer beverage close at hand. A light breeze wafts over your body while you read someone’s memoirs—true to life stories and observations. Everyone has a story of value and I am fascinated by the myriad expressions of human experiences. We have all learned so many things over our lifetimes and memoirs are an opportunity to share that knowledge with those who come after us. Moreover, they are a way others can relate to and learn from similar hurdles in life.
One of the many things I have done in my life is to write brief biographies—mostly through an advertising company contract with a funeral home chain. Most of my subjects were deceased and it fascinated me to hear friends and family members reminisce and tell their favorite stories about their loved one. There was a process to my work. Family members and friends were interviewed and recorded. Questionnaires were answered revealing different perspectives. I was spurred to research in order to understand every detail and cushion a life story in fact and interesting tidbits. What I discovered is that what is most important to cherish in a written memoir is not a litany of chronological facts but more a revealing of themes, feelings, and impressions. I like to think of a biography as exploring and capturing the essence of a person through how they lived their lives.
When I was a museum curator, I was often asked to research the history of an individual or family, usually by ancestors who were curious to know details—as much as possible. People are so thirsty to become familiar with their roots, not just births, deaths and marriages but what type of person, what were their habits, their favorite foods, what did they wear, and what were they thinking. It brings to mind the English, Victorian writer, George Meredith’s quote “Memoirs are the backstairs of history."
Sometimes I would research while designing an exhibit. Intimate details of certain periods of time are not always readily available—unless someone kept a diary or told their story to someone who could write. I loved discovering a new crumb of information through my research—it was almost like panning for gold— sifting through pages and pages of the written word in the museum collections and pulling out information that could be interpreted into part of a themed exhibit.
Summer Project: Write Your Memoir
This summer would be a great time to search your memories in order to write your memoirs. Remember that does not mean writing your whole life story—whew! Instead, memoirs capture a snapshot of moments in time around a particular theme. It’s like looking in a window to view a scene in one room unfolding after taking a ride in a time machine.
Did you know there is even a book called Memoir Writing for Dummies? It’s been around for about six years now. Perhaps you want to share a healing journey so others could benefit in a positive way. Even the process of writing is a powerful part of the healing journey for many—so therapeutic. I challenge you this month to put your memories down on paper or on your laptop and massage your story until it is ready to share.
If you happen to be intimidated by writing but you would like to have your memoir written down, then perhaps help from a Life-Cycle Celebrant® is the way to go. Graduates from the Celebrant Foundation & Institute or (973) 746-1792 have been trained to assist you in exploring your memories and would be happy to help you leave your memoir in black and white—a legacy for your family to savor for generations to come. Be creative this summer and pass on some wisdom to your family, friends, kids, or grandkids. Connect in this meaningful, significant way and you will ensure your story is never forgotten.
Another thought is to engage a professional Celebrant in your area via the Celebrant Institute’s website, to co-create a “Wise elder ceremony” for yourself or for someone you love. The ceremony would incorporate the honoree’s history, wisdom and living legacy to pass on or share with others and even future generations.