Writing Letters for the Ages

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What family stories mean the most to you? Have you taken the time to make sure your younger family members know their own history? Sit down with a tape recorder, video camera, or computer, or even just some paper and a pen and get started. You won’t regret it.

As the grandkids started coming, I begin to think about the family history. I wanted so badly for the experiences of my ancestors to be something I could pass down through the family. Writing news stories and blogs is one thing. Writing letters to the family, well that’s a little harder. But I persevered and have managed to tell a few of the important family stories.

Using Letters to Preserve Family History

I started out writing letters to my grandson. They weren’t really just for him but for all my grandkids. It occurred to me that to really tell this story right, I needed to tell it from my perspective. I wanted him and them to know the people they came from and the wisdom that could be lost if this story is not told. I want them to know the strength of character of the people who struggled against daunting odds yet overcame poverty, prejudice and a lack of education to live and thrive. I would not be alive had they given up.

Getting started was the hardest part. Where to begin? I really hadn’t a clue so I began with that sweet grandson.

Dearest Punky,

I’m going to tell you the story of my childhood. Not because it was so remarkable but because my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were remarkable. I want you to know them. Their blood flows through your veins. I want you to know the strength that you have inherited. I want you to know exactly who you are.

Then I started with my parents, since I know their stories the best and my grandson knows them so their stories will seem more relevant to him.

There are things that define us as a person. Sometimes it’s our name, our education or how much money we’ve got. But that’s only on the outside . . . the way we see ourselves through others’ eyes. How we really see ourselves is so much more important. I have to say that who I am, what defines me is that I’m the daughter of my parents. They are the most remarkable people I have ever known. From my earliest memories, every night I have thanked God that He gave me my parents. Their love defines me. Their sacrifices have so often sustained me both physically and spiritually. They were raised with little or nothing but gave me everything.

Speaking from the Heart

I think the one important aspect of these letters is to speak from the heart. I chose one grandchild to write to because it made it more personal. I can go back later and personalize most of this letter for the rest of the grandkids.

If you have siblings, that’s probably what I’d write next about. Tell a few funny stories and some that show who they really are. I’m an only child so my next subjects were my grandparents.

I wish I could have written the letters in my own hand but honestly as a writer that would have taken the rest of my life. I’m just so used to using the computer.

Find the method that works for you. Speak from your heart. Tell those personal stories. Your letters will be treasured for generations to come.

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