An old friend sent me an email today, where he lamented about his mother’s recent unexpected death. He, like I, is a personal historian – a professional who interviews living people about their life stories and preserves them for the future as a family legacy. His sorrow was compounded by the fact that he hadn’t taken time to interview his own mother, because he was busy interviewing other people’s mothers: “I didn’t practice what I preached,” he said. My eyes teared as I read his words!
I empathised with Mike, having been in the same situation myself. As a young, at-home mum with two small children, I wasn’t prepared for Mum to drop dead in the shower three weeks after her sixtieth birthday. I foolishly thought that she’d be around forever. I didn't make the time to sit down and ask her questions about her early life, early career as a Social Worker (they were called Almoners in her day) or about her turbulent marriage to Dad which ended when I was 4 years old.
Mulling all of this around in my mind, I recalled a saying I heard many years ago and I repeat it again, in the hope that it will help those of you lucky enough to still have a parent (or two) alive and healthy.
Five Things You Can Never Recover
1. A stone – after it has been thrown.
2. A word – after it has been spoken.
3. An occasion – after it has been missed.
4. The time – after it has passed.
5. A person – after they die.
Both my colleague Mike and I missed the boat when it came to unlocking our mothers’ memories about all manner of fascinating facts and stories about their early lives. Both of us feel the poorer for this and wish that both ladies were back here in the present so that we could rectify the situation. But, wishing won’t make it happen. We delayed and procrastinated and now regret our actions.
Have you talked to your mother about her childhood and early, pre-married days? She wasn’t always an older grey haired woman wearing an apron and glasses. As a young girl, what was her dream for the future? What was her first career choice? Perhaps she sewed beautiful wedding dresses, or maybe she was a dancer or singer? Then again, she may have been a kindergarten teacher, a nurse or a radio broadcaster.Don’t let the weeks slip by without making some time to talk to both of your parents about their lives, before it's too late!
Remember - time passes, memories fade....and we take our stories with us when we go!
Annie, this really hit home with me. My mother died almost 12 years ago and everyday I think of something that I want to ask her. Thank you for the sage advice!
Thanks for your kind comments, Connie. It is only after our parents die that we realise how much information died with them. Mum was an only child and both of her parents pre-deceased her, so trying to discover any of her family background is very difficult and only ever third or fourth hand information. If only I'd sat down and asked the right kind of questions!
Annie, this will be discussed on our group call tonight!! It represents everything we're about and a tremendous example of how to share a story and teach at the same time. Really, really excellent!!
Annie,how true. We never seem to realize what we have lost and can NEVER recover until it is too late! If not now, when? If not me, who? Each of us will have these same sorrows if we don't make the time and effort to record the stories of our parents before they pass on. And LegacyStories encourages us to do just that.