A couple of years ago I wrote an article - How Do You Want to be Remembered? - which is one of the most often read page on this blog. Every single day it is in the top three page views.
Can there be that many people wanting to read how someone wants to be remembered? At the time I posted that article, the thought hung heavy over me. I wondered about my legacy.
Looking back to when I was young, I wanted to be a woman with great talent and ability. I wanted people, certain ones in particular, to recognize me as someone special. But I have never felt that I was someone of special qualities, someone who would be remembered for years and years to come. That's why I wanted to write a book. People have always respected books - at least I have. I would often pick up a book in the library and read about the author. I marveled that this person who had been dead for a century or more was still leaving his imprint on the world by the words he had written in the book.
When I decided to write a family history book back in the eighties, I didn't think then of my lasting legacy so much as I did the people I documented in that book, Profiles and Pedigrees, Tom C. Council and his Descendents. My beloved aunts and uncles where passing on and their stories I'd heard all my life would soon be forgotten, I thought. I dedicated the ten years I cared for my mother to collecting those stories for a book. My cousins were happy to help me with research and photographs. The book was well received by family. Even the youngest ones mentioned have asked for their own copy and want to know if I will continue with the next generations.
I didn't have the technology we have today, no Ancestry.com and no access to records on the Internet. But I did have the benefit of oral history passed down to me. My book is a family history with genealogy listings, not a memoir or a biography. Because the stories of Aunt Oleo's house being flooded, and another home being burned to the ground, and her husband being shot by his brother-in-law, were part of the fiber of the family's oral history, I can't swear that every word is true. But my story gives the essence of who Oleo Council was, her perseverance and tenacity during a lifetime that rivaled Job's for patience.
My story of my parents was the story told to me by my mother and father, my sisters and brothers, cousins and from my own experience growing up in a large family. I have always had a curiosity. I asked questions. I want to continue that story now with the family history including the lives of my siblings. Somehow, I hope that writing their stories and having them printed on paper in a hard cover book, will keep them alive in the minds of the next several generations.
How would they like to be remembered? I don't know for sure. I think I will find that as I write about them. Just as I learn about myself from writing, I will learn how I remember them and how I want them to be remembered.
Today, in the twenty-first century, in a world of technology changing so quickly even the youngsters can't keep up, a ten-year-old can't imagine the lifestyle of people, urban or rural, born in the first half of the twentieth century. By telling life stories we fill in those gaps in history left out of the text books. Write or record on video or audio the memories you can't forget and the reason you remember them. Your story is unique. No one else owns your life experiences or what you learned from those experiences.