I've heard certain stories a thousand times (literally!) while being a caregiver for my aging family members. These are the stories that come easily, often involving youthful escapades. I am embarrassed to admit it took some time for me to realize there are vital life stories that rarely make it to the surface. Now that I recognize rich life stories as an eldercare treasure, my challenge has been eliciting them.
Do you have family members who are tight-lipped about their fascinating history? My mother-in-law rarely speaks of her time being raised by nuns during WWII in French Algiers. Requests to share life stories through a "fill-in-the-blank" memory book landed on deaf ears. She enjoys writing, just not about her life. I fared no better with broad, open-ended questions, voice recorder in hand. Clearly, I needed a better strategy.
Now I've found it. Your Life in Print - Story by Story is a gold mine of over 650 story starters and memory joggers perfect for unearthing buried treasure. I wholeheartedly agree with author Pat Cuellar's assertion: "There is not a more precious or enduring legacy to leave your loved ones than the stories of your life. Through them you will live forever."
Being a caregiver puts me in the perfect position to record information from my loved ones, shedding light on their lives with questions like:
- What did their day-to-day lives involve?
- What prejudices did they see or experience?
- What were their parents and grandparents like?
The magic of Your Life in Print lies in its ability to instantly start a conversation about somebody's life history through specific, non-threatening questions. In addition to chapters such as "The Growing Years" and "Parents and Family Life," there is a wonderful "List of Lists" with ideas like these:
- List things you would not change in your life.
- List things you did not do because of fear but wish you had.
- List what you'd do if you were the opposite sex.
Pat Cuellar will have a website up shortly for simple, one-click ordering of Your Life In Print. In the meantime, write to firstname.lastname@example.org for your copy. You might be surprised when you feel inspired to record your own memories along with those in your care!
What are your favorite story starters and memory joggers? Please share your tips as comments on this blog.