Some artists never show their work to anyone, even their family. Some stories are never told or recorded.
The other day I stumbled on a random book at the library called The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. It is super nerdy, niche, specific, and beautiful. This book wasn’t discovered until 70 years after it was written and illustrated – long after Edith Holden, its author and illustrator, and most of her family were alive. No one knew about the creativity and passion she poured into this work of art.
It is beautiful and heartbreaking that she didn’t need or seek the affirmation of friends and family for this work, that she just went for it and produced a book admired by a whole new generation that never knew her.
I don’t want to miss out on hearing stories and learning about the passions my grandparents have. I wanted to sit with my grandma and ask her about her life before she passed away, but took too long to ask and lost that opportunity forever. The something meaningful I wanted to record were interviews with my grandparents, but because I’ve never been particularly close to any of them it felt awkward to ask.
StoryCorps is a genius creation that helped me overcome my insecurity about asking personal questions. StoryCorps began as an on-the-spot recording space in a handful of big cities where anyone can go in and interview someone. The recording can be saved to the Library of Congress or it can remain personal. They recently released an app that walks you through the interview process, records the conversation, and gives you the option to save publicly or personally.
So I called my grandfather on the phone and asked if I could stop by and interview him about his life. I asked if I could have a conversation about things he’s learned in life and the hopes he has for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His hearing isn’t great and his speech is stilted by a recent stroke, but he was so kind and gracious.
I asked him about his childhood, the most difficult moments in his life, advice for future generations, and his faith. Some of the loss he experienced during the first half of his life would have made me calloused and bitter. But I’ve never seen that in him and there was none in him as he shared about it during the interview.
With the speed of life and technology, I often forget about how valuable the experiences of older generations are. I keep coming back to the realization that generations before me experienced loss, disappointment, disillusionment, pain, suffering, joy, hope, beauty, and sometimes a conversation or an awareness of their story provides healing and peace during tough times. Rather than seeking distraction by constantly scrolling through social media, trying to keep up with the latest trends, or seeking solace and comfort in something fleeting, it’s better to remember that someone else walked a difficult path once before and survived.
We may be walking our paths in a different generation, but I’m forever grateful for the conversation I was able to have and record with my grandfather before his journey on earth ends. The road doesn’t feel so lonely knowing someone else before me walked through valley and mountain top experiences and made it through to the other side.
If you’re interested in listening to the interview, click here.