Your Family Legacy is a Lasting Gift
Updated: Aug 12, 2019
Stories are a resource meant to guide and encourage future generations. Have you preserved your stories for your loved ones?
We don't tell our stories for ourselves, but for those our lives touch. They have the power to connect us across generational lines and give meaning to our lives.
Have you ever considered how your experiences connect to your unique family narrative? There's a fantastic article in the New York Times called The Stories That Bind Us, by Bruce Feiler. The article discussed how essential a strong family narrative is for children to learn to cope with a constantly evolving world. Feiler found that studies overwhelmingly indicate,
“The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.”
After reading this, I considered how family's history has influenced me. In particular, my uncle. I remember staring at a Marine Corps shadow box from his tours in Vietnam and not knowing what most of the medals meant. Except, the purple hearts meant he’d been wounded––and he had three.
After enlisting in the Navy, I often thought about how I was continuing the family tradition of service. I was able to visit my uncle while on leave, and he practically ran out of his chair to hug me. He then stepped back, grasped me by the shoulders and said, “Let me look at you!”.
I was 22 with no clue what was ahead, but boy, did I feel safe and sure of myself when my uncle did that. I knew I belonged.
Two years later, I arrived back home from my second deployment, and the first voicemail waiting for me was from my uncle. He said he had some things to tell me. We sat down at his kitchen table for several hours, and he shared the details of his time in Vietnam. Some stories were happy and full of pride in the young man he had been. Others were difficult to share as he recalled the hardest moments of war
The story that burned into my heart was when I asked about the purple hearts. He recounted wounds one and two, and I asked how he was allowed to return to combat when he should have been sent home from that trauma alone! Turns out, since he was the platoon sergeant, he could sign himself back as fit for full duty.
I couldn’t believe it. He’d done his job and paid dearly. Why risk his life again? His simple answer was, “Oh, I couldn’t leave my men. There was no way I’d leave them.”
Feiler’s New York Times article was so right; my uncle’s story has solidified my work ethic, loyalty, and drive to care for those around me. Sharing our stories is a must! We may not be able to establish generational wealth or make our name famous, but we can tell our story for our loved ones before the precious details fade from memory.
Capturing the stories of the oldest living generation is essential to the family narrative, but it can feel like a race against time. Capturing the Legacy of a Loved One with Dementia discusses how to approach telling the story of a loved one with Alzheimer's.
Now that we’ve established that sharing your story is crucial, you may wonder where to start and which stories are worth telling.
Milestone moments gain their significance from the details in the day-to-day
My middle school teacher insisted we write journal entries every day. The entries could be about anything, but the exercise always felt more like a forced march to writer’s block! After all, who cares about a kid’s daily routine? Most days included chores, school, work in the bakery, football in the yard, then sneaking up to my grandparents’ apartment to watch sports while my Grandpa snoozed.
See? No one cares about that story, right?
Does that mean we should only tell the ‘important’ stories? If so, how do you know when a significant moment is happening?
For me, a few significant moments come to mind. For example, I remember standing on a Navy pier in Norfolk, VA with a full seabag on my back and my three-month-old daughter nuzzled into my shoulder for the very first time.
Or, when I was 19, finding Grandpa alone in his nursing home bed. He was just informed that he had to go back to the hospital––most likely for the last time. He was wiping away tears saying he just wanted to go home, and all I could do was promise we’d do what needed to be done and then we’d get him home.
Those kind of stories usually stand out in our minds because they shape our perspective of life and death. They help us grow. While not all stories are that monumental, I do believe we learn our most valuable lessons between the big moments.
Journal writing in middle school may have been mundane, but now I’ve discovered stories worth sharing buried in those details.
I have numerous entries about Grandpa that help provide context for the impact he had on my life. Growing up, he never seemed bothered by my hovering and always found something to feed me. He respected my mind and would have long debates about any topic I wanted. He was one of my closest friends, and I always felt smart enough to be around him. Even if he knew I had no idea what I was talking about, I always felt like I belonged with Grandpa.
In those day-to-day details, we find the stories that reveal the milestone life moments. The story of my grandpa in the nursing home is touching, but the background of our everyday relationship gives it new meaning. The stories connect. They are each important.
Our stories and those of our loved ones are meant to intertwine, grow, and strengthen each other. Our family narrative doesn’t have to end. It’s meant to keep growing and reminding future generations that they will always belong.
Looking back, I wish I had continued writing a journal entry every day, because even the most basic notes of my childhood uncap a treasure trove of life experiences that are uniquely mine.
Even though I don’t have a journal to flip through, I still have pictures and other family artifacts to help recall the past. Sometimes it’s as simple as sitting quietly at my childhood dining room table or standing in the yard that brings back memories I thought were long gone. This time, I make sure they are recorded and added to my family’s story.
With today’s technology, we can build a family narrative like never before
Consider how you’ve learned about the people and places that have shaped your life. You've likely heard stories from the people you love about your ancestors and family history––the stories behind family recipes, fading photographs, and precious heirlooms.
While there are many different ways to share a family narrative, the StoryCombs app aims to capture the experience of hearing a loved one tell a story in-person. We have all seen photos and treasured heirlooms fade away, but StoryCombs brings them to life through narrated photos. It transforms photos and heirlooms into a timeless gift––the chance to see and hear a loved one tell the story behind its significance.
The app guides you through uploading a photo and recording yourself or a loved one telling a simple story. Family members can add comments or their own narrated photos to add details you may have missed. Your stories are safely stored, accessible, and ready to inspire for generations to come! This is a simple but incredibly wonderful gift you can provide for your family, and it is an excellent opportunity to bring everyone together to build a lasting legacy.
Whether you’re considering compiling your family’s history, trying to preserve the stories behind fading photographs, or just trying to figure out how to store and share the narrative you’ve already built, check out the app to see how easy it is to use.
Remember, your family story is precious. Don’t let it be forgotten.
The StoryCombs team created this blog to encourage, inform, and inspire your storytelling journey. Try the StoryCombs app to curate a lasting legacy through narrated photos. We believe your family’s narrative is precious and deserves a safe place to live and grow.
If you found this article helpful or have questions, please let us know by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or in the comment section. We can’t wait to hear from you!
For more storytelling tutorials and inspiration, visit our homepage and blog: www.storycombs.com.