By: Lily Prellezo
Who will remember you when you’re dead and gone? Will your legacy simply fill a rectangle on a family tree or will the people on the lower branches remember who you were, where you were born, what school you attended, your struggle, the endearments you called your spouse, your favorite ice cream flavor? How far back does your family history go? How much of it do you know from memory?
Everybody has stories to tell—which one will your grandchildren remember? If you are helping to raise them or you are their primary caregivers, you have a responsibility to pass on the stories. You are a great part of their history.
My husband recently returned to Cuba, a country he left in the midst of social and ideological revolution when he was four years old. The Revolution still claims its ground, although it is dry and withered, where only resentment grows. His first emotional moment was visiting the family tomb, where he saw the graves of a brother and sister he never met: one stillborn, one dead at three days. His parents had never shared the agony of those two deaths, yet they belonged in my husband’s history. It took him fifty-five years to claim it.
If you ever doubt the need to story tell, to write, to record, to document, read the book or watch the movie, Sarah’s Key. Hopefully none of us will have to live through those experiences, but more important, hopefully none of us will ever forget those kinds of experiences. Sarah denied her past, taking away from her future generations a rich identity. Our struggles make us who we are; our struggles are our history.
Your grandchildren deserve to know the story of why they came to live with you. If they are too young to hear it all now, then make sure to document it for a day that you may not be around. It’s part of their history. In the same loving way you took them into your homes and your hearts, you can, without judgment, explain what happened with their mother and father. This can open up hours of discussion that can lead to object lessons and examples of the consequences of choices—and what it took to overcome difficult situations.
They say history repeats itself. Perhaps through your care, your unconditional love, and your stories, your grandchildren will choose to create their own history, in their own footsteps. But make sure they start out on that journey with a solid knowledge of yours.