...When I'm 64
An Aunt Edith Story

Stories For the Infinite Future

[NOTE: Thank you all for your birthday greetings yesterday, and it was terrific to hear from some of you who've been reading Time Goes By, but have not left comments before. You all helped make the celebration of the first day of my 65th year even better.]

On my post about Jill’s blog, Legacy Matters, Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles posted this comment:

“You bring home the notion that you never truly die if you remain in someone's heart and memory. Sadly, though, it only takes the span of a couple of generations before our own story grows dim. I hope that my future great grandchildren and beyond have a curiosity about me and that some of my writings will survive the time test.”

It is only the descendants of kings and queens who have access to their family histories for centuries, and I have sometimes wondered what it is like to be, for example, Prince Charles, who can read in great detail about his direct ancestors going back for more than a thousand years. Genealogy is a popular internet pastime, but beyond names, birth and death dates and a few other public records, there isn’t much to discover about ordinary people and what they were like.

However, the time has come now, I believe, that Pattie’s lament no longer applies. There is an important admonition about the internet and email: Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to read on the front page of The New York Times - the point being that everything lives forever somewhere online. That's bad news for those who may have published in haste, but it is good news if you want to leave the stories of your lives behind.

Although I have no children, there are younger folks I love as much as if they were blood relatives. Some time ago, one of them accepted the responsibility of tying up loose ends when I die and now, having thought over Pattie’s comment, I have left with the other papers my friend will need, a final blog to be posted. Yes, it begins with, “If you’re reading this, I am dead,” though I intend to update it every six months or so and I may be able, in time, to get more creative than that.

I’ve also left instructions to set aside money to pay my blog host for at least a year after I die, along with other instructions for downloading my blog onto CDs (or whatever storage medium has evolved by then) to give to anyone who cares to have it.

In my case, in addition to whatever I’ve written here, there is the Timeline of my life in photographs. But you don’t need to do that in a blog necessarily. You could create one on a photo program on your computer to leave behind with the stories you want your descendants to know.

And you could encourage your children and grandchildren to start a similar timeline now with stories in their own words, for their children, and add to it during their life journeys. It doesn't need to be a daily journal as our blogs tend to be. But an account of a birthday party, first day in second grade, a summer vacation trip, college graduation, a book they liked reading, etc. will leave a sense and sensibility of these times with their personal stories for those whose lives will be as different from ours as the details of daily lives of 150, 200 and more years ago are to us now.

Imagine if you had such a record from your grandparents, great grandparents and even further back what a gift that would be. Now it can be so into an infinite future.

Comments

Yes, Ronni, we used to have a sort of "timeline" of our lives. They were called letters. While I didn't keep copies of letters that I sent out, I've surely kept every letter received (except for the rare one that the writer asked be destroyed after reading, that is!) It's interesting to, every few years, go back through a few of them. One of these years, I'll get them all sorted and organized--especially, those from family members.

P.S. Some of the most interesting letters are a few that my father wrote to his parents during the summer that he spent working as a farm hand in Iowa in the early 1930s. They only fell into my hands when my mother died.

Ronni, I had forgotten about our conversation regarding blogging for posterity. You put it just right.

Your instructions for your blog postmortem is quite interesting and something I bet no other blogger has considered. However, like all your devoted fans, I don't want to think about the day I read the last TGB post.

I inherited boxes of letters, documents and pictures that my mom was always going to get to "one of these years"... mostly because no one else wanted to go through them. I've scanned most of the pictures and documents already, but I think I need to get them onto CDs and out to the family members before they're once again at risk of becoming lost.
Ronni, you ain't done yet!

I have realized that every blog post I make is a form of documentation, but I haven't got it yet for the comments that I drop all over here and there and would not want to see on the front page of the New York Times. Something to think about. I am thinking about the term "time capsule" as far as the record we are leaving via our blogs.

First time visitor to your blog.
What a great post. I am the only one in my geenration that is really interested in family history. My aunts have given photos and letters of my grandmother. Keeping the blog on disk is a great idea!
Belated Happy Birthday!

What a great post. I love the title Stories for an Infinite Future. You are the very first blogger to make any plans for what will be a certainty. Fabulous! An example to us all.

Hi Ronni,

First of all, happy birthday. I've been keeping paper journals for about 20 years, which I read occasionally and might one day have the courage to post some things I wrote back then on my blog which has taken over my paper journal. I've also started a blog for my son which I do at the moment, but I have visions of him taking it over - http://jaycee.typepad.com/.
I'm sure you'll have many more blog posts to come.

Hi Ronni

Sorry I've been so scarce lately... but what a great post! I had a conversation with a friend the other day about the way we describe/define ourselves and other people - like the fact that I still describe myself as a lawyer, even though I last practised in 1993 and have been lecturing and researching since then; or the fact that I still describe her as a psychologist, even though she is now a statistical researcher. I then tried to come up with a one-word definition of myself that did not relate in any way to my job - and came up with "archivist". I don't know who will ever read the stuff, but I have notes/diaries/photographs on every event in my life since about age 10, and I guess blogging is an extension of that. And I love your idea of downloading your blog onto CDs and continuing payment to the host for a year after death. I wish so much that I had more by way of notes, letters or blog posts from my mom. There is so much I never asked her because I always thought there woudl be time later. My dad has now started writing an account of their early days together (they had to wait 6 years to get married because his ex-wife refused to agree to a divorce!!) and it's magical. I hope my scribblings give somebody even half as much peasure.

[Incidentally, when answering the define-me-in-one-word question about me, my friend Bronwyn said she'd define me with the word "friend" - which is as lovely a compliment as I'm ever likely to get.]

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