Collecting Stories from Others
Your personal memories are a comfort to you, but hearing the memories that others hold dear is an incredible gift when you are missing your loved one.
Hold a Story Circle
Story Circles are all about gathering people together who were close to your loved one to tell stories and celebrate the life she lived. Have an informal get together, bring a digital recorder, and let everyone tell stories about your loved one – how they met, things that made them smile, or anything else that comes to mind.
Here are a few tips for a successful gathering:
- Connect over the phone too: If there are those who would like to participate but live far away, you could hold the gathering in a place where you could use a speakerphone so that others could join in. Or, using Skype or Google+ Hangouts over the computer is a great option.
- Bring photos: Invite the participants to bring their favorite photos that can be passed around during the meeting to help spark everyone’s memories.
- Digital recorders: Good quality recorders can be purchased from Amazon.com for $50-70. Read the reviews and see what others have liked. Test the recording before you start. Be sure to have a large memory card that will capture at least a couple hours of a recording.
- External microphone: If it’s a large gathering, an external mic will be very helpful to get a good recording. Lay it on a towel or something soft to keep table bumps from being picked up in the recording.
- Bring paper and pencils: Let the stories flow, don’t interrupt each other, so bring paper and pencils so everyone can take notes as one story sparks another story, and so on.
- No one is “right”: There may be disagreements about details about the memories. Who we are shapes how we remember; enjoy the tribute, not which way is the way it really happened.
- Test again: Test the recorder by recording the date and go around the circle to record all names and places. Then play it back again to be sure it’s picking everyone up.
- Copy the recording: When you’re finished, be sure to send a copy of the recording to everyone there. Multiple copies will ensure that it will last forever since it won’t be reliant on one computer or one backup.
- Type it up: Have someone type up the recording and send it out to everyone, or present in a special way such as a Memory Book or something similar. Books are a little easier to go through than audio files.
Ask for others to share their memories
Sometimes, getting together physically isn’t possible. If that’s the case, then contact those who knew your loved one well. Ask them to write and send you letters talking about their memories, and to include pictures wherever possible. Collect these memories in an album and ask for permission to make copies to give to others in her immediate family.
Here are a few tips to help:
- Handwritten: Ask that, if possible, they write the stories out by hand rather than typing them up. Of course, you’ll take them either way, but handwritten memories just seem to mean more.
- Memory triggers: Give a few memory triggers to help get the juices flowing; see the list below for ideas.
- Format: What format will you present this in later? If an odd format, let them know what size of paper you would like to receive. Or send paper with your request that you would like them to use.
- Not a writer? You may find some people will will never get around to writing a letter. Consider recording conversations with them instead. You can do this over the phone, or over your computer using Skype or Google+ Hangouts. Search for “phone recording software” or “Skype recording software” to find ways to record these conversations
Memory Triggers to help get the conversations flowing:
- How did you first meet?
- What are your earliest memories of her?
- Is there anyone who remembers him as a child? As a teenager?
- Think of turning points – first car, dating, marriage, children, jobs, etc.
- Remember favorites – foods, desserts, colors, things to do, etc.
- What kinds of things was she passionate about?
- What did he consider an adventure?
- How did she make you laugh?
Printing and presenting the stories
Consider publishing the information using online Photo/Memory Book software programs.