I am so glad that my dad had the idea some years back and asked me to do it — to record my mother’s stories. It was a wonderful task, spending time with Mom and organizing some 40 stories into a beautiful blue book titled “Counting It All Joy.”
It is one of the treasures I need to grab if our house catches on fire.
Which actually almost happened two weeks ago …
Early that morning I was sitting with some neighbor ladies in our living room when the smoke alarm went off.
The wood stove fire was blazing, but there was no smoke.
I was baffled. And scared.
One of my friends suspected a chimney fire and she told me to call 911.
As I waited in our driveway for the fire department (and for Jake to come back from his breakfast group), the what ifs gave me a serious stomachache.
Soon many siren-blaring trucks were on our street and they blocked all traffic for over two hours — putting out the creosote fire in our stovepipe, checking every nook and cranny of the house, and monitoring the heat index in our chimney.
Today, sitting here peacefully by the cold dysfunctional stove, I am thinking how terrible it would have been had our house caught on fire.
How sad I would feel if my copy of Mom’s book – and other treasures – had been ruined.
But they weren’t, because it didn’t, and here I sit re-reading her book, feeling extra-especially grateful today for my home and for my mom.
In case you ever want to do a memoir with someone, here is how I went about it:
I asked Mom to think about her life by decade.
Who were the significant people in that decade?
What were the important events?
What did God teach her through those people and those events?
As she talked, I recorded her, without interrupting (that’s an important point: No interruptions allowed.) I listened and wrote down any questions that came to mind.
Later I would transcribe the recordings and make a list of questions to give to Mom as written homework, to get more details and to fill in gaps.
I would then weave her answers into the stories, taking care to keep her ‘voice’ authentically hers.
We moved that way through the eight decades of her life, getting the stories written.
Then Mom chose a title and a Bible verse to go with each one.
I picked photos, made a timeline, a table of contents, introduction letters, and got help with proofreading.
We arranged a private printing and the job was done.
The book’s title is a phrase from the Bible, one that Mom often used to sign her letters: “Counting it all joy, Joan.”
What an honor it was for me to help her write her stories.
What a special person my mom was.
Today, December 5, is the 9th anniversary of Mom’s heaven-going.
Mom loved Christmas and every year she went whole hog, all-out, over-the-top decorating for the holiday season.
Since her absence, I have felt a small obligation … no, not obligation, more like an inclination … to take up some of the slack, to hang more lights, and to enjoy this season more, like she did.
So I am going to get up off this couch, put on the Christmas music, decorate our tree, and make some cookies … counting it all joy, in memory of dear Mom.