Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Do You Want to be Remembered - Re-visited

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.


Barbara Gabriel said...

I think many of us at one time or another, feel we aren't special nor do we have great talent, but I can say honestly that you do indeed have special qualities: welcoming new folks into the community of writers of which you are one. You continue to share your knowledge with new writers, open your home to allow workshops to thrive, introduce writers to each other and you have a hefty dose of empathy at your core.

I wonder about my legacy, what I leave behind since I chose long ago not to have children. I believe it will come down to the relationships I have nurtured and those people that I can call my friends and true family. Thank you for giving me space to think about this more.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a singer like Olivia Newton-John or Debbie Boone. After being a music major in college for a few years, I decided to be a music therapist instead. Now, I'm a full-time writer with fifteen years experience as a music therapist and six years as a family caregiver. I would like to be remembered as an author with a romance novel, poetry collection, and possibly a memoir under my belt, but who knows if that will happen? As the song says, what will be will be?

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap:
Recollections and Recollections of a Family Caregiver

Glenda C. Beall said...

Abbie, you have many talents and you do so many things with your talents. I am sure you will be remembered for what you do to help those of us who see to understand those who can't, as well as for your beautiful voice. But you still have time to write more books and learn how to get them out there to the reading public.

Glenda C. Beall said...

Barb, building and nurturing relationships as you do, caring for others and reaching out to help those who need a hand up, already you have developed a legacy. I'm glad this post made you think.