I’ve had a few conversations lately about how people have a tendency to hold their stories until the very end, or even worse, until it’s too late to share them. Call it humility or just preoccupation with other things, life storytelling can take time and a willingness that doesn’t always come easily or naturally.
One of these conversations went something like this:
"Did you know that S. was a trained classical pianist? I read it in his obituary! I had no idea!"
A well-written obituary is a beautiful thing, but it arrives tragically late. There’s no chance to ask the follow up questions. No chance to respond. If you found out Grandpa flew B52s, don’t you want to know when, where, and how? If you found out Mom struggled with crippling anxiety, perhaps you’d say, me, too.
We think we live rather mundane lives, but the minute it’s shared with someone else, it becomes infinitely more interesting. A simple shared anecdote can connect you with loved ones in ways you never thought possible.
A note for those who have lost loved ones and this lands like a gut punch. While it may be too late to ask those questions you'd love to ask, your memories of that person, however limited, are still worth sharing and documenting. You remember how Grandma had a secret temper and used to yell at the TV when the Packers were on. You remember how Dad had a bear hug that was equally warm and bone crushing at the same time. Those are great glimpses into a person. Share those memories with your kids or grandkids. Write them down or audio/video record them. It’s never too late to talk up these amazing lives and better yet, how their life impacted yours. Chances are their story will continue to impact people long after they’re gone, and that’s the greatest legacy you could ask for.