Stories of Our Lives This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

My grandmother hid in empty rice sacks to hide from the Japanese soldiers so she wouldn’t get raped. But in the midst of hiding, she saw her father get brutally murdered by the soldiers and her younger brothers kidnapped. She never saw them again.

This is all I know about my grandmother except for the fact that she was the mother of my father. She died when I was seven. Yet when I heard the news I could not help but feel indifferent. I had seen her about a total of three times in my life as she did live five thousand miles away from me. For me, I felt more comfortable talking to a random stranger on the street than I did when I talked to my grandmother. When I did talk to her on the phone it was limited to an awkward hello and questions that one would ask someone one has just met—what grade I was in, how the weather was, what I liked to do in my spare time.

Now it has been ten years since my grandmother died and there is no way to hear her story anymore. My father and his brothers also knew very little about her past and my grandfather doesn’t talk about her. Throughout the rest of elementary school and middle school I was always envious of my friends because they could easily talk to their grandparents and knew so much about their pasts.

But that longing was satisfied in my freshman year. My brother and his friends were singing for residents at our local assisted living home and I tagged along because I had nothing to do on that Saturday afternoon. While I was waiting in the lobby I began talking to a resident who talked for nearly two hours to me about everything—where she grew up, her family, her first job, how she met her husband, and even about her stamp collection. She said that no one ever came to visit her since all of her siblings had died and her children lived too far and were always working. When I went back home I couldn’t help but think of her on the drive back and for the rest of that week I went back to Mary’s life story and her eagerness to talk about herself, something she never had the chance to do. As a way to thank Mary for letting me hear her story I decided to make her a scrapbook. It did not take me long and was not expensive but when I gave it to Mary she began to cry and thanked me.

It shocked me that Mary would respond to my scrapbook with such gratitude. Mary’s reaction made me want to let other seniors reflect on their lives to me. I wanted as many seniors’ life stories to be heard; I didn’t want their stories to disappear like that of my grandmother’s. So I began to talk to residents at my local assisted living home weekly and interviewed them. Afterwards, I would go home and work on the scrapbooks. I could spend hours creating scrapbooks and I loved seeing how thrilled the residents were when they talked to me and when I gave them their scrapbooks. Each time I came back many of the residents who had trouble remembering where their rooms were would remember my face and thank me each time.

I wanted to share this experience with as many people as I could and invited my friends and students from nearby high schools and colleges to help me out. Many of the students have come to me and thanked me for introducing them to Stories of Our Lives. For many of them it teaches them about how to lead their own lives and take a break from their hectic schedules to just listen. The assisted/independent living residents often tell me that they look forward to our visits because the only visitors they receive are physical therapists and the occasional relative who may come once or twice a year.

And for me Stories of Our Lives has been a way for me to fulfill my wish to hear my grandmother’s story. Though I have not heard her own story, I like to think that she wouldn’t want these seniors’ stories to disappear because these stories of their lives ultimately help us create better stories of our own lives. To learn more about my cause, please visit: http://www.storieslives.com/





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