Death comes to us all.
It comes mostly at times when you least expect it.
It comes to the old, the sick, the young and the healthy.
It will come to you.
It is a privilege to be there for families when death comes. I am a funeral celebrant. I plan, write a life tribute and then deliver those words on the sad day when they say goodbye. In the last six months, I have written 106 funeral services. Wrapped up in the mystery of those unwelcome days, are four valuable lessons I have learned. Lessons about life and how you can leave a digital legacy for your family. Helping 106 families face death teaches you about life.
This series of posts are about those four lessons.
Lesson One - Take Time To Share The Stories of Your Life
Your life story is worth telling. "Me, I do not have a story to tell!" Yes, you do. There is no such thing as a "normal" or "inconsequential" life. You are a unique and extraordinary person. Your one wild and precious life, as Mary Oliver would say, matters. Experiences endured or enjoyed, will bring value to your family by sharing them. Simple truths about commitments to a work ethic, family and friends can inspire and teach.
What stories should you share? Share every single one of them! Each is special to hear, there will be a lesson in them somewhere.
Share the biography stories.
- Where were you born?
- Where did you go to school or University?
- How did you meet your life partner?
- What was your first job?
- Whom was your best friend growing up?
- Where have you worked?
- Where have you lived?
Share the "back story" of your life.
- What in your life makes you happy, sad, frustrated or fulfilled?
- What have been the greatest lessons, regrets, experiences of your life?
- What brings you joy?
- What makes you laugh?
- What were your dreams and did they come true?
Share the Who, What, Why, Where and How's of your life. Write them down, speak them into a digital recorder, or put them on video. With digital technology like smartphones, these things are simple and inexpensive to do. Do you have family overseas? Then add Call Recorder to your Skype account. Next time granddad is talking to his grandchildren say, "tell us about your school days, pops!" Then save those priceless conversations in an online vault.
Have a "storytelling night." Invite your family and tell them stories of growing up. Yes, they will say, "annoying." They will go, "we have heard them before!" Have your phone record the conversations and laughter. One day they will be re-telling and listen again to those stories. They will do so with such joy and gladness in their hearts.
How Do You Write The Stories Of Your Life?
There is a valuable aid to writing your life story called, The Legacy Recorder Community Guide, by Gael Gilliland. Along with an e-Course, Gael teaches and shows you how to write a story from your life. She reinforces the inherent value in each person and the uniqueness of their story. Gael explains how richer family life and community life can be when we share and record the stories of our lives. "I do not know what questions I would have asked my father if I had known that he was going to die so young," she asks. "I do know I would have asked him one more time what his childhood was like, and I would have written it down. I would have recorded his voice while he was playing his guitar and singing his favourite songs. I would have taken video of him seeing his granddaughter for the first time."
Now it is your turn. What stories do you wish that you had found written from those in your life whom death called?
What Do I Do Next?
What can you the do with those stories? Why not store your legacy stories, photos and videos online? Digital Legacy platforms such as SafeBeyond, Vivala.Me and Final Wish make it easy to upload, organise and secure those priceless memories for your future generations. These platforms provide security and choice. You chose who can see and when sharing these private memories will happen.
The important truth of Lesson One - Tell your life stories or your family will lose them!
I see and hear it often that a story untold becomes lost. "Tell me about dad," I ask when sitting with a recently bereaved family. For some families, their recounting story after story can happen with grief releasing laughter and "happy tears." Other times, the silence in the room speaks loudly. I am skilled at asking the right questions. Then listening with the intent to hear what is said and the untold stories between the lines. I can leave a family sorrowful sometimes that I have so little to say and write about the unique and precious life that once lived. It should not be that way.
Your life is unique. You are a "one off!" (A good job some may say...) You have a life story that is worth telling. Share the story of your life before death comes calling. And don't kid yourself, it will terminally knock or come uninvited and unexpected.
What Is Your Life Story?
Don't take the risk that telling your unique and valuable life story might never happen. Start today. Share the stories of your life. At each opportunity you can, share the lessons that life has taught you so that they are not wasted and lost. Share the stories of your life. Store them as a living digital legacy. Then the story of your life will be retold and loved for generations to come.
This is the first lesson that I have learned from 106 funerals.
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