But it’s not only professional bards who weave tales. Humans are the storytelling animal. Stories help us decipher the world and ourselves–we use them for instruction and inspiration. Our brains are literally wired to hold onto information better when it comes in narrative form.
“You can’t take it with you” applies only to the physical things–your body, your possessions–but you absolutely take your stories with you when you leave this world. One of the things that awes me about creating books in this era is knowing they will outlive me–and to read my stories, while fiction, is to know my heart in a way only my closest friends and family do. Writing is simply an intimate act of the mind–which you *do* take with you when you shuffle off this mortal coil.
When my mother-in-law passed away, I had previously compiled some of her stories into a picture book that I was then able to bring to the wake. The people who shared our grief could also share in those stories–they were just snippets of her life, but the mourners carried those away, tucked into their minds, like the treasures they were. When my father-in-law passed suddenly last week, I was heartbroken that I hadn’t managed to capture some of his stories in the same way. Then I discovered he had started a chronicle of his own! It was like finding gold on his laptop. So I took that unfinished text and completed it–with a few carefully selected words and images to craft the story into a form we could share today at his wake.
Life is busy–we’re all in the midst of living our own stories–but you will not regret taking the time to put some of those on the page. As we grow older, the storytelling impulse becomes stronger–it’s actually an important part of mental well-being for older folks to tell their tales. Ask your parents and grandparents to tell you a story from their youth–you know they’ll want to–and then commit it to the page. Use pictures to make it come alive. Capture their story while you can still share the act of doing so.
Then write your own as well.
Trust me, it’s the gift your family and friends will treasure most.