It’s been almost 18 years since my 80-year old father died. I remember sitting in church at his funeral, numb, hardly registering any of what was being said about my kind and wonderful father.
One comment, however, caught my attention—and it has kept my attention ever since that sad day. One friend of my father began his eulogy by saying, “A man’s birth year is noted and so is his death, but it is the hyphen that separates those two dates that contains all of a man’s life”. The unremarkable hyphen containing the most remarkable and unique of stories.
Our lives contain a wealth of stories—happy ones, painful ones, long or short chapters of despair, loneliness, boredom, joy, accomplishment, failure, delight, crises, satisfaction, peace... Don’t believe anyone who tells you that they’ve had an uneventful life. Just unwittingly start them down a track reminiscing at Thanksgiving dinner.
Writing your autobiography or memoir is rigorous work whether you consider yourself a writer or not. Yet your life story is your legacy to those you’ll leave behind, even though they might be too busy now to want to know. In perpetuity, a son or daughter, grandchildren or great grandchildren will want to know who you were and your experience of the long-ago period in which you lived. Your life story is your opportunity to tell them.
There are many helpful resources available to coach and oversee your endeavor. Look for them. To be sure, this is a courageous step to take. If you’ve been thinking about it for a while, remember “tick-tock” and don’t wait too much longer.
How do you start? William Zinsser said this: “Write about small, self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you remember them, it's because they contain a larger truth that your readers will recognize in their own lives. Think small and you'll wind up finding the big themes in your family saga. ”