Our elders can think their lives have not been interesting or that no one would want to hear about their stories. Are we losing something important here?
By Minnesota Women's Press
In many cultures, an oral tradition of storytelling allows one generation to pass on spiritual and cultural values to the next ones. Have we lost that in current American culture and practices? Sometimes younger people don't know how to ask, don't want to pry or just don't think of it. Our elders can think their lives have not been interesting or that no one would want to hear about their stories. Are we losing something important here?
The Funeral and Memorial Information Council offers a toolbox for their "Have the Talk of a Lifetime" campaign. The organization encourages us to have "the talk." Or better yet, to have "the talks." Ideally it is a dialogue with the elder person telling her stories and memories and the younger person(s) telling their stories too and sharing how the elder has impacted them. It can be casual, over several conversations, or orchestrated and captured on video. The important thing is to do it.
Sometimes using a visual prompt like a photo or a souvenir can be a good place to start. You might talk about a vacation you took together and tell about what you will remember from that, or a piece of advice given or music from that time that meant something to you.
The toolbox gives you these sample questions to get you started:
What did your parents think of the music you listened to growing up? What are some of your favorite songs?
Tell me about your favorite teacher. What did you learn from her or him?
What was a piece of advice you received from your parents or grandparents that you never forgot?
Where did you and your friends hang out when you were in high school?
What is an achievement you are proud of?
Tell me about a memorable summer you had growing up.
What was your first job? Did you learn something from a boss or a co-worker that's helped you over the years?
Tell me about something difficult you experienced. What did you learn from it?
How do you hope you are remembered?
What do you not want people to forget about you?
How would you like your family and friends to commemorate your life when you die? Is there something special you would like us to do for you? What are you waiting for? FFI: www.talkofalifetime.org/have-the-talk