Leaving a written legacy

By Denae Jones – 

We take lots of pictures, but we rarely print them anymore. We don’t really need to. Most of the ways we share them with family and friends these days is by sending the photo on a text or posting it to Facebook or other social media. And there are dozens of websites and the Cloud that will store digital copies for us, so we don’t have albums full of prints taking up space in the house. That is so handy, except for one thing. All of mine are password protected. Are yours? What if something happened to us? Would our family know how to access our photos, or would the digital copies be lost?
We send texts and emails all the time, but we rarely put anything down in our own handwriting. In fact, writing an actual letter with pen and paper and putting it in an envelope to stick in the mail is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Even traditional Christmas cards and birthday cards are being replaced by e-cards.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about preserving family legacy, and I think one of the most important ways to do this is by putting things in writing. A few years after my husband’s parents were married, they built a beautiful A-frame log home together in New Richmond. They told us stories of the whole process, but we have forgotten a lot of them over time. They’ve both been gone for a year or so, so now we have their photo albums. One of them is full of their house project from start to finish. Jean, his mother, kept meticulous notes about every step, and wrote next to every picture. Also inserted in the album were typed pages that told the back story. My favorite parts are when she would write about how they were getting on each other’s nerves half way through, and her funny comments about Howard. Or how proud she was of their accomplishments. Or how the boys, still very young, would do what they could to help with the house in between fishing and playing in the yard. That piece of their family story is preserved, and we spent a long time looking through those albums.
One of the best Christmas gifts I think I’ve ever put together was with the help of my grandmother. We looked through all of the family photo albums of when she was a little girl growing up during the depression. We picked our favorites and I made several copies of each. I carefully and chronologically put them into three albums. Next to each photo was journaling space, and my grandmother wrote down names of who was in each picture, and her memories of each one. I gave an album to each of my sisters and kept one for myself. I am so glad I did that! I don’t remember most of the stories she told me that day, but I cherish each one as they come back to mind when I read what she put down. She was always proud of her neat penmanship, so I love that it’s in her handwriting. Unlike old videos that have been transferred to VHS tapes, this album won’t become obsolete as technology advances. It will always be here for our family to share.
Makes we wonder. What are the really special family stories that we want to be part of our legacy? How will we preserve them? I think I’m going to work on combining the old school ideas with modern day technology. I want to use websites like Snapfish and Shutterfly to create hardback family picture books so my family will always have them. I can choose my favorite digital prints, arrange them however I want on the page, and type next to each one to tell our family story. The book takes up much less space than a bulky photo album, is in full color, and multiple copies can be ordered with the click of a button. And there are always really good promotion codes available to buy one and get one free. I’ll do one book for each year, with all of our favorite memories written down. If one of the kids ever want a copy for themselves, they can easily get one.
Pictures do tell a thousand words, but your story behind the picture tells the important ones. How did grandma and grandpa meet? What’s their love story? What about the uncle who fought in the war? Or how your brother broke his leg. Or that funny story on that one vacation. Or the story of overcoming trials and tribulations, by that one relative who broke the cycle of a really bad family background. These are the things that tell your family history for the generations to come, and will be lost if nobody tells their story. I hope you’ll consider taking time to be your family’s historian.
Have a blessed week, friends!