Thanksgiving, Channukah, Christmas, New Years, Eid, and other holidays and holy days are often times when families gather from far and wide. If you will be seeing members of your family or friends in the coming days or weeks, consider taking the time to harvest memories by listening to each others’ stories and recording them.
What you need to harvest memories:
- a quiet space (turn off the television or radio to eliminate competing background noise)
- set aside time to listen and share memories, whether one-on-one, or in a group
Especially if there will be an elder or elders present (and that elder may be you!), this opportunity to share memories should be regarded as a priority for the holidays. It may not come again soon, or may not come again, ever. In my own life, I have taken for granted that there would be another time in which to ask my grandmother, my father, and my mother to tell their stories and name the people in the photographs from long ago.
The truth is that we never know when someone may lose their ability to speak, or lose their ability to remember events and people from the past.
I am thankful that I did harvest some memories. The one video in which my 96 year old grandmother baked a pie while talking to my sister and my cousin and me, is a very precious possession that will be passed along to the next generations. And, the notes that I took while caring for her at the end of her life have also been passed along to others in the family. I do regret that I never did take out the shoeboxes full of photographs until my father had died and my mother’s stroke had suddenly removed her ability to remember many of the names and places in those sepia-toned images.
I hope that my regret will be a gift to encourage you to act now, while you can still do so.
You don’t need to have sophisticated or expensive equipment with which to harvest memories. Whether you choose to take hand-written notes, record a video with a smart phone, or tape stories with a hand-held digital recorder (smaller than a cell phone and available for less than $40), however you harvest memories you will have something precious to enjoy in the coming years and hand on to others.
Some of the questions you might ask (or answer yourself) are:
- When did you leave “the old country” and why? Where did you live when you were growing up?
- What was it like growing up during (the Depression, WWII, etc.)?
- How close were you to your brothers/sisters?
- What did you enjoy doing as a child?
- Who were your closest friends?
- What were the traditions or cultures shared in your family (or in your neighborhood)?
- When and how did you meet (dad, mom, etc.)?
- What music did you like listening to earlier in your life (and now)?
- Where did you work and what did you do for work?
- What are you most proud of, or satisfied about, having done in your life?
- If you had the ability to live your life over again, what would you do the same, and what would you do differently?
- What do you want future generations in our family to know about you?
- What advice do you have for them about how to live a good life?
Not only will these memories be precious to you now, but you will be able to hand down to the next generations the history, culture, and traditions of your family. And, when the time comes to do so, out of them you will be able to create a meaningful obituary, eulogy, or tribute video that will honor them and touch the hearts of many.
Go and harvest some memories!