Preserve your Story: The Art of Legacy Writing
By Victor Westgate

No one needs to be reminded that the holidays will soon be here. Thanksgiving and Christmas are times that we come together as family. Have you considered giving your loved one a gift that will last for generations? Have you considered taking the time to talk to a family member and record the conversation either on paper or digitally?

Given our technology and love for electronics having a memorable conversation with a loved one and preserving it for future generations would truly be a gift worth opening next year and twenty years down the line. In my thirty-five years of teaching, I often assigned a project for students to interview grandparents and ask them about a major incident in our country’s history and their part or reaction to it. Students always struggled with how to propose, arrange, and complete the assignment.

However, almost without exception students returned later to express their delight about what they learned and how much they considered the opportunity to preserve this conversation as a wonderful gift. The materials for such a conversation can be as simple as pen and paper or more high tech as an I-phone. Keep in mind that your conversation does not have to be with a grandchild; it could also be with another friend or relative whose presence in your life is important. Preserving this special moment in time will be the gift that truly keeps on giving for generations to come.

What follows are some questions to consider as icebreakers in such a conversation and are listed below as a sampling:

  • Is there something about yourself that you think no one knows?
  • What is your best memory of childhood?
  • Who were your best friends and what were they like?
  • Can you describe your first serious relationship?
  • What advice do you have for young couples?
  • What lessons has your work life taught you?
  • What traditions have been passed down in your family?
  • What are the most important things you have learned in life?
  • How do you want to be remembered?

As a baby boomer you might want to sit down with a family member and discuss these questions. Sharing your deepest thoughts, impressions or feelings is not necessarily an easy task but I can assure you that the experience will enrich your life as well as that of untold future readers or listeners. In my own experience, I gave my father a list of questions similar to those suggested here. A few months later he gave me a journal with the questions and his responses neatly written down. The journal he presented to me is one of my prize possessions; every time I pick it up and read a portion at random, I actually hear his voice. I remember with humor that students would often tell me that it was hard to talk to older people about such intimate feelings. My response to them was to gently start by simply listening.


About the Author

Victor Westgate, a high school educator of 34 years, along with his wife Dr. Lisa Cowley, a holistic chiropractor and nutritional counselor of 25 years, are authors of Pack Lightly: Making Sense of the Second Half of Your Life. You can learn more at:


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