PART THREE - MEMORABLE MOMENTS
"I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well."
- Diane Ackerman
So… you’ve drawn an outline of the journey of your life so far, and you’ve made a list of the people who accompanied you along the way. Now we’re going to shine a light on the memorable moments during that journey – experiences that made you feel deliriously happy, moments when you were bursting with pride, and those challenging times when you may have hit rock bottom. These are the events that we remember most because they give meaning to our lives. All those dates, places and names would be just a black and white, one-dimensional list if these moments weren’t there to add colour, drama and depth. They are the ‘width’ that Diane Ackerman refers to in her quote above – the icing, the cherry, the room with a view…
And whatever life you’ve lived, however quiet and uneventful you think your days have been, there will be plenty of stand-out experiences. You wouldn’t believe the times I visit a bereaved family to talk about the life of their loved-one, and I’m met with the words “there isn’t much to say really…” Then I find out their mum single-handedly raised ten children, won Miss Lovely Legs at Butlins, and survived two heart attacks. I wouldn’t say that was an uneventful life, would you?
So prepare to become re-aquainted with your own stand-out stories. Remember you made a start on thinking about memorable stories and anecdotes in Section One. And, like everything you’ve done so far on this course, these stories will play a very useful part in our final section, when we pull everything together and look from your past to your future, and how you want to be remembered after you've gone.
I love the idea of being seized by happiness… don’t you? And I’d like to think that we have all known (and continue to know) how that feels in life. From the thrill of a Christmas stocking at the end of our beds, to spontaneous evenings with mates, where our plans for “just the one drink…” lead to an unforgettable night of epic proportions. And what about the holidays? The family celebrations? The music festivals? The sporting triumphs?
And while happiness can be found in a single event, it can also be a stage in your life when things were going well – a job you had a passion for, a home you made your own, a special relationship, a summer of travel…
Look back through your life story, and the people you’ve known, and highlight when you were happiest, making a note of any particular events, anecdotes or stories. Try to include…
What happened and when?
Where were you?
Who were you with?
How did you feel?
Why was it so meaningful?
We all have reason to be proud of ourselves – whether we’ve scaled the summit of Everest, or simply made it out of bed on a bad day. Pride comes in all shapes and sizes (and usually before a fall if you took advice from your parents)… But it’s really important to recognise the moments in our lives when we think we did good. When we surpassed our own expectations, defied the odds, fulfilled a promise to ourselves, or made a difference to others.
Some of these proud moments will have been rewarded with trophies, qualifications, or pay rises. They may have resulted in new babies, smaller dress sizes or an ‘all-clear’ from the hospital. They may have been featured in the news, celebrated in the pub or simply gone unnoticed. But they still mattered… especially to you.
What have been your proudest moments so far? Have they been single events, such as running a marathon, or something longer term, like being a parent. Once again, use your life story and notes in previous sections to jog your memory. Think about …
Why was this a proud moment or aspect of your life?
What’s the story behind it?
Where were you? How old were you? Who else was involved?
How did it make you feel?
Has it been recognised and remembered by others?
Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyse you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are.”
- Bernice Johnson Reagon
Whatever challenges we face in life, we can guarantee there’ll be a lesson for us in there somewhere. Something to learn from once we emerge, dusting ourselves off, from whatever struggle has come our way. And the first lesson to learn is that every life has its share of struggles – sadly some more than others. But we all experience good times and bad times, ups and downs, gains and losses… it’s what life is all about. And it’s how we deal with these challenges that says the most about the people we are and what’s important to us.
You may have had a difficult childhood, been divorced, unemployed, depressed. You may have experienced addiction, illness, fear, or loneliness. You will almost certainly have experienced loss, in some form, and bereavement. Or perhaps the challenge has been helping others in your life who have experienced some of the above.
It’s really important to recognise these challenges in your life. To see how they’ve played their part, alongside the good times andproud moments. In fact, you may find that these challenges also appear as proud moments, because you have come through a difficult time in your life, safe and sound, wiser than before and with a new outlook on the world. So, if you feel up to it, re-visit some of those events and experiences that have been challenging, or perhaps reflect on just one. Make a note of…
What challenge(s) did you face?
How old were you?
How did it come about?
Who else was involved?
How did it make you feel?
How did you overcome it?
What did you learn from it?
If I had to choose one word that best describes how my work as a celebrant makes me feel, I would say ‘privileged’. To be entrusted with the telling of precious life stories, and what that life meant to others, is an honour I never take for granted. Every story is unique and special in its own way, but some stories are, of course, more eventful than others…
And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years
- ABRAHAM LINCOLN
In his early 20’s Rav left Iran and moved to London to further his education and embrace a new life in England. And it was here that he met his wife Sandra. When they first married, nobody expected it to last. They were so different – in language, background, culture, religion – apparently they had nothing in common. The year after they married, they took an exciting road trip to Iran – travelling through Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia and Turkey. Once in Iran they visited Rav’s family and Sandra was shown around his homeland, where they also had a second wedding ceremony.
Born in Poland in the late 1920’s Marta’s father was a high-ranking officer in the military and she and her siblings enjoyed a charmed life of wealth and privilege. The invasion of Poland during the Second World War would change all their lives forever. Taken prisoner and put onto cattle trucks heading for Siberia when she was 12, her family were forced to abandon their home, their belongings, and leave Poland with just the clothes they stood in. They lost everything. The indescribable horror of that time, experienced at such a tender age, formed the brave, strong, proud, fearless woman she would become.
Stuart’s mum died of TB in her early 30’s, and so, with his father away, 10-year-old Stuart and his brothers were placed in an orphanage. Here the boys were looked after and taught the skills they would need for life and employment. There is no doubt the boys would have missed their parents terribly, but a photograph of Stuart taken at the orphanage shows a grinning young lad in his shorts and blazer, with an arm around each of his brothers. At the age of 16, he joined the Royal Navy as a boy bugler. He was then part of a ship’s crew who went to the Far East to collect Japanese prisoners of war. Many of these brave men were too weak to survive the journey, so they were buried at sea, with Stuart playing the last post.
When I was a child, my family and I watched a lot of films together. In fact, one of the highlights of Christmas for me was getting our festive copy of the TV Times and Radio Times magazines and circling all the movies so we didn’t miss our favourites. And chief among the chosen few were the ‘Epics’ – those two to three hour extravaganza’s of triumph over adversity, life stories and and historical events, long journeys and twists of fate. Here are six favourites I never tire of watching…