Looking at my Dad lying in the hospital bed, unable to talk due to the recent stroke he’d had, I could only be thankful that some years ago we took the time to have a particular conversation.

We were sitting outside in my parents’ beautiful garden in France, under the shade of a tree, listening to the birds twittering away, and sipping gin and tonic while the supper was bubbling away on the stove inside.

“My memoirs?” My Dad looked at me. “Who’d want to read those?”

 
 

“I would, Dad! So would the others!” I was referring to my three siblings.

At that point my Mum joined in, encouraging him. He looked a bit bemused. “Well, I suppose I might. What do you want to know about?”

“You know, all those stories, some of which we know, but I bet there’s loads of others that will come to mind as you start to think about the different things that have happened to you. You have had an unusual and interesting life, you know!”

The subject changed after that, but as I sat there in the hospital, I just felt grateful that he had taken the hint and had created a 15-page document of the story of his life.

At 85, we hoped he would recover well from the stroke. In his condition, he knew what he wanted to say, but his mouth couldn’t form the words, nor his right hand hold a pen or be able to type on a key pad.

Not to mention the cognitive ability required to compose sentences, remember stories in his life, or create them in a way that could bring them alive.

Creating your memoirs is something that doesn’t necessarily make it to the top of your priority list very often, and certainly not in retirement, which often appears to be busier than your working years. But it is worth taking the time to do so, and here’s why.

Vital Piece of Your Descendants’ Background

If you want your grandchildren or other family members to understand your part in their lives, and thus understand themselves more, then sharing these stories is essential. Only you know what really went on behind what’s happened in your life so far.

The Story Brings You Alive

Even after you have died, the story of your life will bring you to life each time it is read. But you have to do it now, otherwise it’s too late.

“I Wish I’d Asked!”

You may not think so now, but your friends and family would be on the familiar “I wish I’d asked” refrain if you leave them without sharing your life story. If you don’t want your loved ones to live with regret in their hearts, then tell them now.

It Creates a Tangible Document

Writing down your life’s experiences gives your family an object they can identify with you, and through which you live on.

Passes on Wisdom

You can pass on lessons learned and share your wisdom, and they will be there, accessible to your family for years to come.

Gives Access to You

By writing down your memoirs you make them available for whoever wants to access you and your life, whenever they are ready.

Helps You Reflect on Your Life

You get to reflect on your life and appreciate what you have achieved and experienced through the years.

It can be hard to get started on this kind of project. When we think about our lives, there’s usually so much that has happened that it can seem overwhelming to record any of it. So, most people, while thinking this is a good idea, just don’t do it.

And then, of course, it really IS too late – but it’s not you who is left with the regrets, as you’ll not be here any more; it’s your loved ones that are left behind.

Here are my 3 pointers to get you going, to make sure your children, grandchildren and friends are never the ones saying they wished they had asked.

Write down or record:

  • the story behind one of your favorite belongings
  • what happened and how you felt when you had a big change in your life
  • what is one regret you had and why.

If you’d like to make this more fun, or you need some help, join me and lots of others in my upcoming free 5-day challenge “Start Your Living Legacy.”

Have you ever written down the story of your life? Have you had a conversation with your family or friends about documenting your life story in some way? Please join the conversation below!

Jane Duncan RogersJane Duncan Rogers runs Before I Go Solutions, a not-for-profit organization that helps people design and create their end of life plans. An award-winning coach, she is author of Gifted by Grief: A True Story of Cancer, Loss and Rebirth, and Before I Go: Practical Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Die. Find out how well prepared you are for your own end of life by taking her free quiz.

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