Relive Your Life (Then Leave it Behind)
A year ago, I received a unique gift for Christmas; a chance to relive my life. No, not like George Bailey of “It’s a Wonderful Life” fame—or Marty McFly in “Back to the Future.” I got the chance to relive many of the most meaningful moments of my life—by writing about them.
My daughter-in-law, Natalie, gave me a unique gift. A chance to write a book about the aspects of my life that she was most interested in. Here’s how it worked. The gift was writing a legacy book by answering one question per week about my life—that she selected. Every Monday morning, Storyworth.com would email me one question Natalie wanted me to answer. I would write my answer, then email it back to Storyworth.com. They would forward my answer to Natalie so she could read it and have immediate feedback every week. In the meantime, they compiled the answer to each question into a book. I received 52 questions, one per week, for one year. At the end of the year, I had a finished book called Stories of My Life. (See photo above--and a younger me.)
The last step was for me to send a picture to illustrate each story to Storyworth.com. (I share more info below.)
The beauty of this was my daughter-in-law not only bought me an inspirational gift for Christmas, it included a finished book of my life. Best of all, I answered 52 questions she specifically wanted to know about me—and the family she married into.
What type of questions did she ask—and where did my answers take me?
She asked me what my grandparents were like. Who were my friends in high school and are we still friends? If I could start my career over, would I choose the same field? What was my mother like when I was a child? What was one of my greatest surprises in life? What traits do I share with my mother and father? What is my motto? What is my best relationship advice? What is my best advice for raising a child? What was your first date like with your spouse? What were you like when you were 30? When did you know you wanted to marry your spouse? What do you like most about your siblings? What are your favorite holiday memories? What is your greatest achievement in sports? What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in life? What was surprising to you when you had your second child (her husband)? Who inspires you?
“Our lives are filled with memories, sometimes lost,
when we fail to recall them, and invite them back
into the present.”
Each question transported me back to another place and time and, in its own way, allowed me to relive the moment by first recalling it—then recording it—in the detail worthy of a book. She took me back to my childhood, reintroduced me to my grandparents who passed away long ago, invited me to focus on my father’s life, and challenged me to stretch my memory to recapture the traits I share with my mother, whom I lost at age eleven.
She carried me back to precious moments with my five siblings, allowed me to revisit my high school years and my gymnastics career. Her questions reminded me of the purchase of my first car (a used 1966 VW Beetle, $575, no heat, no defrost, and the gas gauge didn’t work). My sister, Mary, borrowed my car and it ran out of gas a few times. No cell phones in those days and it was a long walk to the gas station. Oops.
This gift allowed me to review my 43-year professional career, recollect my first date with my wife—and when I realized I wanted to marry her. Natalie's gift allowed me to reminisce about when Karen and I started a family and how we wanted to raise our sons.
Every Monday morning, a new question greeted me in my inbox and I paused from what I was doing—and traveled back in time to rediscover snapshots of my life relegated to the past—and the dusty corners of my memory. Her questions sharpened my focus on the people who helped shape my life, and uncovered momentary trials that transformed into blessings with the passage of time.
For one year, I recounted the people, places, and events that defined my life. The book is now a legacy book lying on my coffee table, reminding me that, like George Bailey, it has been a wonderful life.
Someday, I will leave this book behind so my children and grandchildren can revisit my life, learn about my parents, grandparents—and something of my character. Photos will refresh their memories, but with my words—scrawled across the now yellowed pages—they will hear my voice, which, I hope, will bring me a step closer to them.
This was a perfect Christmas gift. After all, how often do I have the privilege to relive my life—and then leave it behind?
SOMETHING TO CHEW ON: When was the last time you stopped to relive, or at least rethink, your life and be grateful for this precious gift? Pause this week to call to remembrance just ONE memory of a loved one in your life. Strive to recall a lost memory, not a familiar one—and invite it back into the present. You'll be glad you did.
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For more information about Storyworth.com and writing your own legacy book, check out https://welcome.storyworth.com/faq