The Family Memory Project helps people with aging relatives to gather, record and preserve their family stories for their children and grandchildren.
Over this last month, I’ve had many questions about The Family Memory Project (which is about to launch) so today I’ve decided to answer some of them:
Janet asks, “Mum’s memory is failing. Is this suitable for her?”
Janet, it certainly is. I know it’s hard when your mum can’t remember everything. Some of the questions will not be suitable, but often, a photograph, one of her treasures, some music from her past, will take her back and she can tell you a story from her life. These are precious. They are the moments of her like that can be preserved. If you remember the story of my friend, Ann. She found that recording the memories that her mum could recall was a genuinely rewarding experience, and took away some of the sadness and frustration she was experiencing when she visited her mother when her memories were fading.
Mary wants to know, “Isn’t it too soon to start? Mum will think her life is over!”
Mary, it’s easy to convince your mum that her life is nowhere near over. There is a lot of living left to do. But it’s important to start sometime. You could tell her that you are beginning to record your own stories (and why not?). Let’s do it now and not put it off. The kids want to hear her stories.
Susan asks, “What if we hear something that’s disturbing?”
That’s a good question, Susan. When my husband and his sister started to listen to his mum’s stories that she had recorded in Russian, they realised that his mum had had a baby when she was very young, and that baby had died of starvation in a cold Russian winter. The knowledge shook them deeply. They understood so much clearer why their Mum had been so desperately protective of them when they were children. They also understood how much she had been through. Yes, it was disturbing, but it brought understanding and a sense of closeness. I’m not a therapist, but I can say that openness and sharing often does bring people closer.
Maralyn wants to know if this method will work if you want to record your own memories.
Absolutely, Maralyn! It’s a great way of getting all those stories down and in some sort of order. You don’t even have to visit yourself, you can do it any time!
Sharron’s mum lives a long way away. She asks, what is the best way to go about things?
I suggested Skype or phone. I showed my mum how to use Skype while I was visiting her once. Now, at 84, she Skypes me all the time! If you ask a question or use a trigger while you are on Skype, it’s possible to record the answer. You can record the screen of your computer with Screenflow (for a Mac) or Camtasia (for a PC), and capture the stories that way. You even record the video of her telling the stories!
Mark seems to think that he doesn’t have the time to do it.
That’s sad, Mark. I didn’t have the time to record my Nana’s memories and stories. I was busy with my job and motherhood. And then Nana got sick and went downhill so fast that it was too late. Maybe you could spare half an hour a week? That’s all it takes. And it really is worth it. And if you can’t, maybe you could hire a professional oral historian to record some stories for you!
Claudia thinks it might be too emotional.
It certainly can be emotional, Claudia. I’ve cried over some of my parents’ stories. I’ve cried with sadness and also with joy. It’s very emotional sometimes. But I’m not sure that emotion is such a bad thing, is it?
Jean writes, “I’m researching my family tree. Isn’t this the same thing?”
Not really, Jean. This is, if you like, “filling in the gaps” A family tree can only tell you so much. This is a more personal gathering of stories. This is the part that will be lost when your relatives are no longer with you. It’s a collection of personal memories and stories.
Catherine wanted to know if you can do this for friends as well as relatives.
Of course. When I say “your parent” or “your relative” it’s just for the sake of convenience. You can collect the stories of anyone to whom you feel close. It’s a wonderful thing to do, whoever is sharing their stories with you. And how wonderful for them that you are listening to their stories and valuing their lives!
Paul wants to know if we can take this further than just a book.
Bless you, Paul. Yes. I’ve already put together the Family Memory Kit, which you will enjoy, and I’m planning all sorts of other exciting things for those who want to become more involved in collecting their family stories. Watch this space.
I’m really excited about this. I guess you can tell!
I’d love to hear what you think about the project. Let me know!