Our Elders carry true treasures about their personal history, our families, Life in general and our cultural inheritance
Once upon a time…
“I have had a good life, a very good life.” She looks up and smiles at us.
“Make sure to enjoy it, it goes by very fast.”
The last thing we’re curious about is what has been her most beautiful lesson in life. “No. No, I can’t remember,” she says, staring into a lifetime that stretches out over eight decades.
Our Life Story chat had come to an end. The past 90 minutes this wonderful lady told us with a lot of enthusiasm about the 85 summers she’s lived. About the highlights (the many travels, her one-of-a-kind husband, her children, het favorite music, art) and the difficult parts (loosing her father during the war). But now she’s tired and starting to withdraw from the conversation. The paper is entirely filled with sketches and notes, except for one little corner. I promise her I’ll find something to complete the drawing.
When we arrived and called her out of the canteen, she was over the moon. These guests were coming especially for her! Her eyes were shining bright and her smiles was wide, while we took her somewhere quiet to talk. After providing her with a drink and an ashtray, we were good to go.
We didn’t have too many warm leads to start this conversation as neither of us knew each other. Moreover, this Life Story Drawing hadn’t been ordered by one of her relatives but by a ‘casual passerby’.
“Who is Heidi again?” she asks us.
Well…Heidi is the woman who passes right in front of your window with her pony two mornings a week. And when she does, she waves and you wave back at her. “Oh, yes!” she shouts out loud, “I remember that!”
It’s wonderful how this story of two strangers develops into a warm friendship as Heidi finds out where the lady lives and comes to visit her from time to time. This story could have been a fairy tale but is a true story and it’s getting more beautiful by the minute.
Before setting up our meeting, Heidi checked with her children to get their permission. But neither of them knew very well what it was we were planning on doing. So the surprise when the final A3 drawing was ready was big.
Her children let us know that the absolutely loved seeing their mother’s Life Story on paper. Not only did they liked it visually, they also discovered new elements the knew nothing about up until then. This is normal in most families because we’re not always used to talking about the past, we don’t take the time to sit down and really listen, or memory issues complicate our conversations.
Now, due to this drawing, their conversations were taking new turns. And so did the chats with the nurses in the retirement home where she resides. It gave them the opportunity to occasionally refer back to items from the past that felt familiar to her.
It was a true honor to co-create this Life Story Drawing. Much gratitude to the family and of course to Heidi, who set this up. It may be clear, I knew exactly what should come in that empty corner: two lovely people, waving at each other, here and now and forever more.