My mother, dad and I had driven the 17 miles from our home to Spartanburg, South Carolina, for my appointment with the ophthalmologist to have my eyes examined and possibly get new glasses.
As we were walking from the parking lot to his office, I heard my mother say to my dad, “I’m not sure I want Mitch to get new glasses. He has always said that I was so pretty. I am afraid he will find out the truth.” Dad just laughed.
This is a tiny sliver of my family lore, but if I do not write it down somewhere, it will be lost when I die.
There are thousands of events big and small in my family’s history. Hardly any of them important to anyone outside our family, but are significant in telling the story of our family. They are important in making me who I am.
The same is true for your family. If you do not record your story and your family’s stories, they will be gone forever when you are gone.
Bob Hudson, a former senior editor at Zondervan Publishers, said, “Our story is a part of God’s story.” When our stories are considered part of God’s story, they take on new meaning.
This was a new idea for me. I had never thought of my story in that way until I heard Bob say it. Think of how encouraging your story could be to others.
StoryCorps created a National Day of Listening, encouraging people on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) to sit with other family members to tell and record those family stories.
The benefits of such a day are enormous. You don’t have to join the mob of those pushing and shoving to buy the latest “must have” gadget.
There is nothing to buy and most important of all, you will be left with a treasure chest of family lore.
When I was to receive an honorary degree from Lander University, I walked out on stage to deliver the commencement address and spotted my Aunt Norma and Uncle Jim, my mother’s brother, in the audience.
They had never attended any event in which I was involved, but my father had died and my mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. They had come to support me. They could never imagine the depth of my gratitude and joy.
That too is a part of my story and God’s story. It illustrates how important small gestures can be.
My late wife, Liz, was well known for her creative abilities but also as a great procrastinator; consequently, I was astounded when she insisted on making our daughter’s wedding dress.
As Suzanne was about to descend the steps from the dressing room in the church, her mother was hastily pinning up the hem of her dress. Mercifully, everyone focused on the beautiful bride without noticing the pins.
Suzanne only remembers her mother’s love that created the dress. Although Liz died 30 years ago, who would want this story to be lost?
While my sister and I were growing up, our dad was an impatient person. When we were assigned a task by him, he expected an instant response. – “Don’t make me tell you twice.”
After my mother contracted Alzheimer’s disease and could no longer communicate verbally, this same impatient man sat by her side, held her hand and talked to her for hours at a time. Theirs was a love that was stronger than any disease.
Is that an important story? He showed me by example what love really means. I thought of him constantly when my late wife suffered from the same horrible disease.
Don’t let your story die. Don’t allow your family’s stories to die. They are important both to you and future generations.
Get together with whomever you consider family and tell the old stories. Start with a single incident. The rest will come.
Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at MitchCarnell.com.