Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Your Legacy of Stories

In creating an ethical will, family stories and personal "tales" may be an important part of the content of your document. It depends on how much "story" has been part of your life and whether or not story-telling was valued in your family.

Last night at our monthly hospice volunteer meeting, we discussed plans for training volunteers to be "storycatchers" for hospice patients and their families. During the session, I led an exercise in which we imagined ourselves as hospice patients being visited by our assigned volunteer (who we had spoken with during previous visits).

In the imagined scenario, the volunteer has been asked by family members to record stories of your life (the hospice patient) for listening by your grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the future. You've agreed to record some of your life stories.

The volunteer says to you:

"Tell me one of your favorite stories that you've told many times in your life?"

(In the silence, participants allow stories to come to mind as they breathe into their heart).

After a minute or two of silence, the volunteer asks you a second question:

"What stories would you like people to tell about you after you're gone?"

(Once again, participants allowed stories to come to mind in the silence).

After another period of quiet, we concluded the exercise and came back to the present to share what stories (or other experiences) had emerged from the two questions.

While I won't share any specific stories here, participants reported that they often told stories about their children "over and over", about their significant family experiences, about important relationships in their life, and about major life "events". Some also told family stories that had been told to them by their parents or grandparents.

To the surprise of a few people, the second question awakened an emotional response about "remembrance" after one's death. It also raised wonderings about "Am I telling the stories I want to be remembered by?" and "Are their stories am I not telling (and keeping a secret)?"

You may want to "try on" the two questions from the exercise yourself. Or, if you'd like to pursue your life stories in more depth, I highly recommend an excellent study guide, "Storycatching with a circle of friends", available from Christina Baldwin on her website.
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