If it's the last thing you do...
Because of recent events in my life, I felt compelled to write this particular article. Around the time when my parents had their fiftieth anniversary, I had the bright idea of doing a video interview of them. I think I realized that my father was not in good health, so I thought I should capture the moment and discuss some family history with them for our family's future generations. I had a basic script layed out from an internet search of suggested interview questions along with my own ideas. While it didn't cover everything, it was all I had to go with. It wasn't long after that interview that my father passed back in 2005. I'm grateful to have this priceless footage to look back on, especially these days.
It was this past July that we learned not only had my mom's lung cancer returned, but it was stage four, the worst stage. Stage four represents cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, outside of the original location. We found out through a fairly routine check up, and we were very surprised because mom seemed to be in good health. She had a clear report just six months earlier. It was a lot to digest along with her six-to-twelve month prognosis. We quickly faced the facts and wanted her to do whatever she wanted while she was still in good health. It was very hard to believe that her body was so sick on the inside, but not showing on the outside. With all of this information thrust upon her, she gently replied "Don't worry. I'm 80, and I've lived a good life"; "I don't need to do anything or go anywhere"; and "When can I stop taking all of my pills?". It was a blessing to us that she was as ready as she was to face what was coming.
In short order I started thinking that maybe I hadn't gotten all of the information that I wanted from my video interview years ago. Mom and I went through old photos, and I jotted down the names of people who I didn't recognize which included old friends and family who I had not had the privilege of meeting. Still, I felt like I needed more of her life story and my internet search began again. This time it was for a book. I didn't even know what to type in except for "interview questions", and it was very difficult to sift through all of the irrelevant results. Finally, in a local book store, I knew I had found the section that I was looking for when I spotted books about how to write your own autobiography. The light bulb went off, but I was out of time and didn't want to purchase any old book because I was in a hurry. At my next opportunity I resumed my online search with the key words "how to write an autobiography". I came across the perfect book for me and mom. It was called The Book of Myself A Do-It-Yourself Autobiography In 201 Questions. It is divided up into three sections; Early Years, Middle Years and Later Years. It has questions like "This is how people described me as a child, and how I saw myself"; "As an adult, I saw these notable characteristics in my mother";"This is what I predict about my grandchildren". The questions are placed at the top of each page and you have the rest of the page to fill in the answer. Mom kindly humored me by going along with the idea and filled out the pages when she was feeling good enough. At first I thought of doing another video interview using the questions in the book (which you could do), but I decided that she might need more time to think about the answers rather than being put on the spot and on camera. I peeked in the book from time to time to see her progress. I noticed her handwriting getting worse as she went along, but she was determined to get as far as she could for me.
Mom made it through about half of the book before she passed, less than six weeks after getting her prognosis. It is my hope that you find this article inspiring enough that you will pick up this book for a loved one or yourself if you would like to leave your own story behind for your family to enjoy for generations. In a way, it was a gift to know that we had a small window of time with my mom which prompted me to get this book. However, we are not promised tomorrow, so I suggest that you don't wait. Do this for your loved ones now ... if it's the last thing you do.