Who Wouldn’t Want a Book About Themselves?

For my son Adam’s 6th birthday, he got a book called “My Book About Me” by Dr. Seuss.

Every single page had something special to write about himself. He thought it was the most fabulous thing he’d ever received! Besides sharing information like his favorite color and favorite foods, there were items like “How many steps is it from your front door to the first mailbox?” (218, for the record)  

He loved it so much that we went and bought a copy for his friend’s birthday the next month. At the cash register, I asked for a gift receipt. He must have asked me what that was and I said, “It’s in case they don’t like it and want to return it.” He looked at me incredulously and said, “But Mommy – who wouldn’t want a book all about themselves??” He couldn’t fathom.

Years later, I sometimes wonder the same thing, when talking to families and family foundations about capturing their history and stories for future generations. Why wouldn’t you want to create a film about your life?

I think sometimes people hear the word “legacy” and associate it with the word “obituary.” They think this is all about facing the end of their life. It can feel uncomfortable and scary.

I love how my recent clients Michael & Marian Newman took the opposite approach. As they started attending more and more memorial services, they realized they should proactively be planning for their aging. Just as they ensured that they had their wills, estate planning, and healthcare documents in order, they also needed to make sure that all they had done in their lives was documented and not forgotten.   

I especially love how they thought about their story as not just being about them – but about being the building blocks of a family story. In the space where they could write a note of introduction to their film to their children and grandchildren, they included this beautiful sentiment in the inscription – “This is our story and yours.” 

It is true – our stories build upon one another, from generation to generation. One generation paves the way for the next. It’s not about death but about carrying on the narrative of our lives – sharing the lessons learned and values held to keep them going.  

I hope Michael & Marian’s thought process will inspire you to reconsider the importance of sharing your life story with others in whatever way is meaningful to you.

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