At Crossroads, we help families remember the happy moments in life by recording them in what we call a “Life Journal.” A Life Journal is a special gift that patients give to family members recounting life experiences, offering advice, and expressing love. The patient works with a Crossroads volunteer to collect unique life stories and photographs, pulling together irreplaceable memories into one volume that the family can treasure for years to come.
As families gather for Easter and Passover, there will be an opportunity for the younger generations to learn more about the lives of the older family members and collect their family histories.
Family history can include the stories you’ve heard over holiday dinners, plus new stories that have been forgotten. Think about it: have you ever talked with your grandfather about the games he played when he was a boy? Do you wonder what your great aunt wore at her wedding? Have you ever asked a WWII veteran about his experiences during the war? Taking the time to ask these questions will be rewarded with knowing a one-of-a-kind family history.
Breaking the ice to get those stories started doesn’t have to be a daunting task. The Crossroads staff and volunteers have learned a few simple techniques that can help families gather memories that will long be part of family lore. At your next family gathering, try thesestory starters:
- Make it a family affair! Have more than one person ready to ask questions and to listen. Grandpa may be more likely to talk about his sledding experience on the highest hill in the county if he has an audience.
- Ask questions that focus on a specific stage of a person’s life – childhood, military service, work, parenthood, or retirement.
- Ask about firsts or bests– holidays, cars, world events, or friends.
- Be aware of the emotions that may come with some memories. If Aunt Hattie seems sad to talk about Uncle Will, reassure her that it’s okay. Move on to another question that’s not so emotional.
- Encourage children in the group to talk about things they’re doing in their lives. Anolder person in the group may remember an experience that’s similar–or very different.
- Ask general questions. Asking about “happy times” will likely produce more stories than asking about the “happiest time of your life.”
- Be open to story evolution. If the storyteller moves to a topic other than the question asked, let him talk. It’s his story. Let him tell it. It may be the most interesting one you hear.
- Ask the person to talk about the things he or she is thankful for or to share some words of wisdom. Enjoy the moment!
- Have someone in the family act as scribe to write down the stories for all to share. After an afternoon or evening of sharing stories, you and your family will have the start of your very own Life Journal.