My Why: The Power of Asking
As summer approaches and Father’s Day is around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I started this company and why preserving memories is so important to me. My first book was for my father. He was full of life, music, and stories, but in 2015, his body was also full of cancer. Time was running out, and I suddenly realized there was so much I didn’t know about him. That's when I made a decision that would have a ripple effect. We scheduled time to talk and I asked him everything I wanted to know, taking careful notes.
About his childhood: What were you like as a kid? Who did you share a room with?
About his career: How did you get started? What mistakes did you make along the way?
About meeting my mom: What were those first dates like? How did you propose?
About us kids growing up: What did you think about becoming a dad? Who is your favorite kid? (Ahem.)
And knowing that he knew that his days were numbered, I asked what really mattered. When were you happiest? Would you have done anything differently? What are you most proud about?
These questions changed my life.
My dad was candid and thoughtful. Some of the stories I had heard before spoken around the dinner table, but not to this level of detail. Other stories were brand new to me; either he never thought to mention them, or more likely, no one had bothered to ask. What's more astounding is that he was remembering things along the way, bringing details to light for the first time in decades. Through storytelling, he dusted off the cobwebs of memories long forgotten.
This is the true power of the interview. Who knew that a few simple questions could unlock so much meaning? I learned so much about my dad, and later he told me that he appreciated having someone take interest--knowing that someone else thought his life mattered.
My dad's responses, both funny and poignant became the book that launched my business. It started as a personal project for me to understand my father and by extension, understand my own life--because that's what we're all after. I also knew he would take his stories with him, and I wanted to keep a part of him with me always, and share those stories with my kids and maybe even their kids.
That one interview and the book that came from it ignited a desire to share this powerful experience with others. I encourage you all to consider the stories that live within your own families.
Ask. Listen. Document. It’s time to preserve some of those special memories. I’m here to help if you need it.
Nora Kerr is the founder of Memoir for Me, recalling and preserving the stories that matter.