Get started on your life story today

Twenty-five years ago, my mother’s sister visited us and I thought it was time to record some of their childhood experiences.
Yesterday, I listened to the tape. It was both fun and poignant.
They told about the death of four of their mother’s sisters within a two-week period in the diphtheria epidemic in 1885. The disease was so contagious that no one dared to come in to help and they had no funeral.
My great-grandfather had to load the coffins on a sleigh and drive them to the cemetery, where he buried them by himself in the dead of winter. I asked for more details, but they said their mother never spoke about the tragedy.
They talked about the wide sled their father made for them. It was big enough for all four siblings to go down the hill together.
My mother confessed that she walked on a board across the dam close to their schoolhouse, something that was strictly forbidden. Aunt Naomi was horrified.
And they both confessed that they ran across a 10-inch beam high in the barn, something else they were forbidden to do.
“It sounds like you really listened to your parents,” I commented. “If they said not to do it, then you did it.”
They giggled so hard they could hardly talk. Then Aunt Naomi said, “We had a lot of fun growing up!”
What a treasure that tape is! Now, 25 years later, it’s time for me to record my stories.
“As our lives grow longer and our memories teem with images, events, and stories from 50, 60, or 70 years ago, we often begin to feel a desire, and sometimes even an urgent need, to capture our lives on paper,” says Francis Kazemek in “Exploring Our Lives—A Writing Handbook for Senior Adults.”
“You have a lifetime of valuable experiences and writing about them will sharpen those memories and deepen their meanings. This is often called the ‘life review’ process, whereby we explore again our pasts and come to understand them better and value them more.
“Writing . . . opens our eyes to aspects of our own lives and to the world that we had been blind to.”
So get writing. It’s easy with the help of a tool like “Exploring Our Lives.”
This book gives step-by-step instructions about how to turn your fascinating memories into fiction, memoirs, poetry, and children’s books.
You’ll begin with brainstorming. Stories of “firsts.” Your first day of school, first date, first teaching job, first Bed and Breakfast, first child, and so on.
Then you go on brainstorming. Stories told by parents and grandparents, stories of childhood adventures, stories about scary experiences, stories about special places and memorable people.
Now that you have your content, Kazemek teaches you how to write and rewrite your stories. And how to turn your life stories into poetry and children’s books for your grandchildren.
There’s a chapter about “Photographs and Writing.” Pick a favourite photo of your childhood and tell the story of that picture.
What fun you can have writing your memories! Do it for your grandchildren, if you want to. But more important, do it for yourself.
By writing down your stories, you will better understand and value your past. Then use your newfound understanding of life’s lessons to help you create an even more wonderful future.

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