Our family has always had a memory makers heart. When my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, one of the things we soon realized was that our time on earth was finite. Of course, we knew that already, but until you feel the clock ticking, time is an easy thing to take for granted. It’s like a college student who knows all semester that there will be a final exam but waits until the last week and then in a panic, crams until 2 AM.
Not long after, I read a great article called, The Stories that Bind Us, by Bruce Feiler. I highly suggest giving it a read.
He talked about the theory that children handle great upheavals in life far better if they know the narrative of their family, those stories you hear from your parents and grandparents about the good old days (and the not-so-good old days).
This got me thinking about whether or not our children would know the narrative of our family.
Do you have a memory makers heart? There is a 20 question scale that Marshall P. Duke came up with. He is one of the psychologists that Feiler spoke of in his article as having formulated the theory of the importance of the family narrative. He wrote a piece in the Huffington post, further explaining the theory as well as giving 20 sample questions.
So, I asked our daughters the questions one night at the dinner table and found that they knew the answers. They even rolled their eyes a few times because they had heard them so often.
But, what would happen if Dan was no longer here? How would they have access to his stories and experiences? Even I didn’t know all of them. Sometimes, you can know someone your whole life and still learn new things about them. This is what gave me the idea of the Memory Makers Journal.
Why is sharing your story so important?
It reaffirms your values for you and for others.
It was the very question of how to still be there for our children and grandchildren that prompted Dan to write his book, ABC’s of the Bible. He never wanted his kids and grandkids to guess how he felt about the Biblical principles he wrote about in the book. It was a way for him to leave a lasting legacy.
It didn’t, however, share the stories that our children and grandchildren will want to hear. I began to get on his case about writing some things down, or better yet, recording them. It’s been a hard task for him to undertake, though. It felt like studying for the finals at the beginning of the semester. It also seemed overwhelming. What should he write about?
The topic came up at a recent caregiver class we took part in. One gentleman had started asking his mom questions, and then later write down the stories she told him.
Connect the past to the present and the future.
Our daughter, Summer, has on occasion asked Dan certain questions she wanted him to answer on video. One of those was, “What would you say to the man who one day wants to marry me?”
The answers to these questions don’t take the hurt away. They do fill in some gaps, though. On the day each of my daughters gets engaged, they will be able to share their dad’s hopes and dreams with their fiancé via the video.
Helping others through your story.
The reason I began writing about our journey facing Dan’s cancer was to help others who were or would be facing cancer. We knew a lot of people facing the same situation. And worse, we knew that at some time, nearly everyone will have their life directly affected in some way by a cancer diagnosis, whether their own or that of a loved one. I needed to have something good come out of this situation. Which brings me to the last reason I will enumerate for sharing your stories.
To overcome the difficult parts of our history.
Each of us has a unique history of being an overcomer. Everyone has gone through something difficult. By sharing that experience, you can use your pain to bless and encourage someone else—especially the next generation. Why not make those lemons into lemon bars?
How to tell your story
Telling your story at this time in history can take many forms. We have at our fingertips unlimited resources that could never have been imagined a few generations ago. You can video yourself telling stories, record yourself using something as simple as your telephone, or you can write your story down. I recommend a combination of these. The Memory Makers Journal, available on Amazon is perfect for giving you ideas of what you can write.
The best thing you can do is to allow others to participate in the discussion. If you are trying to learn your family narrative from a parent or grandparent, see if they will let you ask some questions, (like an interview). A good reporter will respond to the interviewee, drawing more details of the story out, looking for those golden nuggets.
Get the Memory Makers Journal!
The Memory Makers Journal is available in 5 different covers. Choose the cover that you like the best!
My book, Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle.
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In 2012 my husband, Dan, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker
Note: Where should be an apostrophe in the words Memory Makers, SEO doesn’t recognize it, so I’m counting on you to be okay with that.