The Gifts To Be Found in Untold Stories

Grandma with granddaughter

Written by Ruth Luban

September 2, 2021

A story untold hides itself from those who matter to us, and maybe even from aspects of our own self-perception. Through dialogue, when the listener is genuinely interested, our untold stories get the light of day and bring insight, connection, and, sometimes, revelation simply in the telling.

We have repeatedly seen this process unfold at Live On, where we guide people through a personal life review. We begin with the stories they’ve heard about their grandparents, aunts and uncles, along with any details they remember of their own parents. That legacy of handed-down stories informs our own life script in so many ways: inherited traits, inspired paths and passions that get added to our family tapestry for generations to come.

How often do you hear that successive generations have been physicians, or artists, or craftspeople mentored by their parents or grandparents! Some people choose professions in reaction to stories of past generations, like military families, or activists who feel charged to compensate for experiences of their forebears and thereby make the world better.

Beyond our immediate families, a life review can serve as a roadmap for unrelated successive generations. How did the child of refugees born in a barrio end up a pioneer in public health? What steps did a successful jazz musician take after growing up in a family with no musical exposure? How did any successful person achieve accolades along their paths beyond schooling and parental guidance?

Sometimes it is our untold stories, beyond the recitation of our vocational and relational paths, that provide insight and communion. As people share their factual histories, inevitably they free-associate to anecdotes and humorous asides they suddenly remember. Poignant images appear, old nicknames, quirky behaviors from siblings or friends, promises made, promises kept, dreams postponed that might find the light of day now. It’s never too late!

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