One thing increasingly common to baby boomers is, if we haven’t lost our parents yet, we probably will soon. Lynn Cook Henriksen has found a profound way to remember our parents long after they’re gone. That’s why she calls herself The Story Woman and why her book is called, TellTale Souls Writing the Mother Memoir. It’s about tapping our memories, and writing them down.
“If you could tell just one small story that would capture your mother’s character and keep her spirit alive into the future, what would it be?”
This is the seminal question I asked people more than a decade ago after my mother died. I began what I now recognize as a spiritual journey, inspiring women and men from all walks of life to write the Mother Memoir.
I was filled with a burning desire to guide them to that tender spot deep inside themselves to locate striking memories and then to show them how they could move even the hint of fragrance, the turn of a phrase, the hum of a tune, the flash of an eye, the back of a hand, or a fragment of family ritual, temporarily eclipsed in memory, into successful and unforgettable short, true tales. The Mother Memoir has the power to move people and change awareness.
An initial shift in my awareness actually summoned my pioneering effort into this place of treasure. In company with countless daughters and sons, I witnessed with great sadness, pain, and mounting disbelief the ravages of mental deterioration as my mother’s ever creeping inability to recognize me became irrevocable. How could this be? I was with her 24/7 during her last three years; how could she not know me? A tragical shift, yes. A sharp-edged turn that took with it my being known by my mother while she lived, but also one that moved tragedy through inspiration to a source of satisfaction that would keep her spirit and hosts of spirits alive for years to come.
There inevitably comes a time when it is too late for each of us to ask Mom how she would describe the spirit of her mother— always a tough lesson to learn. I feel a personal loss and regret because I no longer have the luxury to elicit stories from my mother about anyone who held a significant place in her heart, those who were connected to her soul. I hope you won’t wait until it is too late to coax stories out of family members and to write your personal Mother Memoir, so future generations reading your words will catch a glimpse of your mother’s character and spirit.
Think of yourself as a TellTale Soul when you tap memory and write a story, a bio-vignette, of just a few pages—800 to 1600 words. Powerful images and unique insights will make themselves known to you when you consider deeply the memories that will be revealed as you look for the essence of your mother, or anyone significant in your life, and illuminate her or his character through a true story, as no photograph could ever do.