Today is the best day to record a Life Story
I often say that today is the best day to record a life story but could it already be too late to record this biography even when they are still here?
When I started my other podcast Your Story I had an initial list of people I would like to have on the show. One person in particular, is a lovely old woman I know through one of my closest friends.
I have known her for about 20 years and found her to be a delightful old dear. Her granddaughter is a close personal friend and she had explained to me in several conversations of her Grandmothers halycon years in the late 20’s and 30’s where she meet a film director from the US who was shooting a large Hollywood production here in Australia. Soon afterwards they fell in love, married and moved to California, where she mixed with the movie crowd of the time. The likes of Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Charlie Chaplin were amongst some of their personal friends and party goers.
Now I ask you…! Do you think that there might possible be some interesting stories there?
At the time of starting Your Story she had just moved into a nursing home at the age of 94 and was very thin and frail, somewhat vague at times but with moments of inspired conversation. I had meet her many times over those nearly 20 years and I thought we would get on fine, so I asked my friend to ask her Mother, if I could record her Mother’s life story for Your Story.
After a couple of weeks the reply came through that the family had declined to accept my invitation for their Mother/Grandmother to be recorded as she was now so frail that they were concerned for her welfare with the possible stress of the recording.
So I had to let it go… Bugger!
My point is that I had missed my opportunity, time had slipped away and another story would not be captured before it disappears. But why had I missed it?
- She was frail?
- I was not part of the family?
- Maybe there were secrets that needed to be maintained?
I’m not sure of the reason other than what was expressed to me but there are often many reasons for when it is too late to gather oral history.
As people move towards their end, we often start to consider that time is running out and that some action should be taken soon. But…
It’s all to easy to think that they have always been here, that there will always be another day so there really is no urgency. And sure, today all is still good. We procrastinate with a, “We’ll get around to it tomorrow”, attitude. Sadly there are things that happen beyond the obvious at a much more subtle level.
They may still be with us and we see them from time to time but things are changing. They may have lost the ability to express themselves in the same way as when they were younger. Physical and mental changes may have caused memories to fade or inability to focus on a subject. Maybe the years have caused them to simply lose interest in sharing as, “it’s all so long ago.”
Sometimes a conversation is more akin to herding cats and it’s not possible to edited it into a cohesive listening experience as no one would listen. Basically it’s become too hard.
All these things happen slowly over many years and decades, gradually robbing us of someone who told us wonderful stories once upon a time and now are unable to express themselves the way we remember. The truth is that although we may still visit them, the time has passed for the stories and we have to let it go.
Not only do we have major illness and death that can rob us of the stories that we wish to hear but also the changes in personalities that come with ageing. Like my friends Grandmother, sometimes there are times when it’s just too late to record a life story.