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How to Defeat the Great Eraser

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The Grim Reaper is also the Great Eraser.

Unless conscious efforts are made to save life stories and all the memories and relationships they contain, death will wipe the slate clean.

Death eventually claims everyone who remembers a certain person -- her character, his achievements, her great challenges, his wisdom.

Is that what you want for your life story? For the life story of your loved one? For the history of your organization or community?

There is another option.

Honor those people and their stories by writing them down or recording them.

I believe passionately in the value of saving life stories for future generations. It benefits both the subject and the interviewer -- producing a product that can be shared with others and creating a new experience of reflection and re-discovery.

So how do you do it?

There are many ways. You can get the story down on paper or a computer or record it on an audio device or video camera. And it's easier than you think.

There is a great organization called StoryCorps whose mission is to help Americans make an audio recording of their story. The StoryCorps website says it has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews since 2003.

But with a US population over 310 million and a world population closing in on 7 billion, there are more stories than could ever be recorded by one wonderful nonprofit.

So why not do it yourself? The process is rewarding and the resulting story is invaluable. I believe you will never regret taking the time to tell your story or to listen to a loved one tell his or hers.

StoryCorps has put out a great resource on the web to help you do just that -- they've dubbed November 26 as a National Day of Listening to honor such projects.

Meanwhile, here's a tip from me as you begin: Start small.

Once you have a willing subject (it could even be yourself), agree on one story to tell and record. The shorter, the better. If you are taping it, rehearse the interview first -- while recording it. Then you can save it if it's good or delete if it doesn't work. If you are taking notes, use a tape casette or digital recording device as a backup in case you miss something. Set a time limit of 5 minutes. Above all, relax and enjoy the experience.

When we record parts of a life story, we celebrate and honor that life and that person. That's a reason to smile and an opportunity to enjoy each other. Don't worry if you don't get everything just right or you have supplementary questions. You can always add to the notes - or do another take!

Through Legacy Books for Future Generations, Steven Crandell creates books of quality about remarkable people and organizations. See his example of saving a life story at www.larrycrandell.com , the website for the book, Silver Tongue -- Secrets of Mr. Santa Barbara. Steven welcomes questions. Send to: steven@crandell.com

Originally published in CASA Santa Barbara Magazine