When is it the right time to capture someone's stories and life memories? It's so easy to put it off, to think "There will be a better time when there are more people here." But the truth is - and this is a cliche in so many ways - there's never a perfect time. There's just the "now" time.
In an earlier post I wrote about this very thing - the ways and reasons to collect the stories of others' lives. The reality of this fact has come back to me in a very personal way. Just a few weeks ago, my husband was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and cancer. Yes there is the chance that medicine will make a dramatic leap in the next year, and yes, there are outliers and situations where something just clicks and resolves the situation. But truly, the odds are against that and so in a very short time, we have gone from planning our future in decades to planning our future in a few years, and during particularly brutal acknowledgment of reality, months.
Just a week ago, I was sitting with a good friend in a coffee shop. We were talking about the harshness of this situation, and that the coming weekend was going to have my step-daughters and their families come to see us in order to get some photographs with their dad and his less-than-one-year-old grandchildren. "You have to get his stories," my friend said with a note of urgency. "This would be a great opportunity - everyone sitting around the table. You could take pictures and record stories." I had actually considered this, but her urging reinforced that consideration. Then she continued, "I have always regretted not sitting down with my friend who died of cancer. I didn't want to bother her; I didn't know when the time would be right; I was afraid asking to record her stories would remind her that this was the end. I had many excuses, and the result is she died before a 'right' time could present itself."
So I tried to get some stories recorded over the weekend with my step-daughters and families. The situation wasn't ideal and I didn't get many of the stories without interruption, but I started. My husband has had some time to think about doing this, and though it didn't happen much with his daughters here, he's game to keep trying to get things recorded. In the next weeks, there will be some times when he will be quite tired, but I hope he will be willing to tell just a few stories while he's resting. My plan is to continue to capture the stories, take some pictures, and when we travel to see his family, have them add stories to the collection. I know I might not get the ideal stories, and maybe not many in the end. Eventually, though, I'll transcribe what I have and put them and the photos into a book, along with the accompanying mp3 files, to give to his daughters for them to share with their children. It might not be completed until after he's gone or we are lucky and he survives this battle, but even if they sit for a few years before I am able to pick up the project, I will have the stories waiting.