If you are like most of us, you probably don’t think much about how you will be remembered by your loved ones after you’re gone. But trust me – you will be missed and remembered more than you will ever know.
Think about your loved ones who have already passed. Don’t you miss them? And don’t you wish you had more to remember them by? Wouldn’t it be nice to know a little more about their lives? Wouldn’t you love to hear more of their stories or have a better way of remembering them?
In the future, people will feel that way about you, too. So why not create something for them to remember you by? After all, nobody knows your life better than you.
There are many ways you can choose to document your life for others.
You can write a memoir or autobiography. People often use these terms interchangeably. While they are similar, they are not the same. An autobiography is a chronology of your entire life which is usually more informational than personal. A memoir is a collection of your memories told in a storytelling format which generally doesn’t cover your entire life.
You can compile your favorite recipes. Your loved ones may have fond memories of the wonderful food you prepared.
You can create a collection of your poetry or short stories, photographs, artwork, musical compositions, or even your favorite jokes.
If you have documented your family’s genealogy, you can share that. This is a bit more factual and less personal, but it will still be useful to others and appreciated.
This doesn’t have to be a major project. It can be brief if you prefer – in fact, if it’s too lengthy it might become less interesting.
What you create and what form it takes is up to you. It doesn’t have to be perfect or professionally produced. As long as it is an authentic reflection of you, people will treasure it.
The good news is that now it is easier and cheaper than ever to create your work, reproduce it, and give it to others. After all, the best gift you can give to others is the gift of YOU.
If you decide to write an autobiography or memoir, document your genealogy, or create a collection of poetry, stories, recipes, jokes, or anything else, you can self-publish a book.
In the not-too-distant past, self-publishing meant using a vanity press, which required a hefty set-up fee and a minimum print run of books.
Amazon has changed all that. You can now self-publish a book almost for free. There’s no set-up cost and no minimum purchase. Each book is printed on demand, even a single copy. As the author, you can order as many copies as you want for yourself at cost, which for a paperback with a color cover and black-and-white interior would be $2-$4. You can list it for sale at whatever price you specify (as long as it covers their printing cost), regardless of whether anyone else ever purchases the book online or not.
If you’re not a fan of Amazon, Barnes & Noble offers the same capability at a comparable cost.
If you want to create electronic versions of your book, there’s a company called Draft2Digital which will create versions of your work in Kindle, epub, and PDF formats. Draft2Digital can make your ebook available for sale on many platforms if you choose to do that (including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, and more), and there are no minimums. You don’t have to list your book for sale or you can do it briefly, but you will have your work available in the three formats mentioned above to give to your family and friends.
If you wish to produce a collection of photographs, there are many companies that will produce photo books for you. Some of the most common services are Shutterfly, Snapfish, Mixbook, and Picaboo. Walmart, Costco, and Google also offer photo books at lower cost but with fewer design options.
Photo books are more expensive, usually ranging from $20 to $40 apiece. If you have excellent quality photos and a limited number of people you wish to give these books to, it’s probably worth it.
If you are less concerned about quality reproduction of your photos or if you want to combine photos with text, you can create a document, copy the photos into the document, add your narrative, then publish the book using Amazon as mentioned above. The cost for color pages will be higher than black-and-white, but this option will be more cost-effective than photo books.
This would be an excellent option if you are having difficulty writing a memoir or knowing where to start. You can start with a small collection of photos and then tell a story about each one. It can be as brief as where and when it was taken and who was in the picture, but each photo will evoke memories of the vacation or occasion on which it was taken or stories about the people in the picture.
If you are a musician, you might wish to record a collection of your works. Software such as GarageBand and Band in a Box will enable you to create instrumental tracks to accompany you.
If you have written poetry or short stories, those will come to life if you read them. People will enjoy hearing your voice in addition to receiving your words.
If you enjoy telling stories, you can record yourself telling your stories. That might come more easily to you than writing them down, and again, people will appreciate hearing your voice.
For spoken word, the microphone in your smartphone or computer might be adequate. For better quality, external microphones that plug into the USB port on your computer are available for as low as $20. Good podcast-quality microphones start at around $70.
There are many options for recording and editing audio. For example, there is a program called Audacity which is an easy-to-use, multi-track digital audio editor and recording application that’s available for Windows and Mac – and it’s free!
Once you have created your audio work, you can either burn CDs or copy it on to USB memory sticks. These might one day become obsolete as technology evolves, but they will last for the foreseeable future. They can be converted to other formats later, since technology lifecycles usually overlap.
If you have a collection of videos from vacations, family gatherings, or musical or theatrical performances you have been part of, you can gather some of these and create a video. Video is also a good medium for sharing musical performances and spoken word, allowing people to see you in addition to hearing you.
For simple home use, you can use free video editing software such as HitFilm Express, Apple iMovie, VideoPad, and others. If you want software with more advanced features the sky’s the limit, but you can find plenty of good software for under $100.
Once the video is ready, you can create DVD or Blu-Ray discs on a higher-end computer. If you don’t have a computer with this capability, ask your friends or find a local business that can do it.
Just do it!
Whatever works best for your preferences and what you have to work with is fine.
You don’t have to make this a massive project. You can just devote an hour or two to it occasionally, when you have the time and feel the inspiration. A good approach might be to simply get started now and mark your calendar to revisit and update this project once a month or at whatever interval you choose.
The worst mistake you can make is to do nothing. It’s easy to think that this is something you’ll get around to “someday.”
Once you have created your work, you can order copies and give them as presents at an upcoming holiday or family occasion.
While it’s a work in progress, let one or two people know that it exists and where to find it – even if it’s not finished. If, unfortunately, your time comes before it’s finished, people will be grateful to have whatever you have created so far.
What do you want people to remember about you and your life?
Please feel welcome to comment below.
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© 2020 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.
People at sunset: Jung Ho Park
Hands on laptop: Thomas Lefebvre
Family and Christmas tree: Ann Danilina
Video camera: PublicDomainPictures
Box of photos: Free-Photos