Where a story lives or dies

My mother in Iran circa 1980's

When my mom passed away last year, I didn’t know her story.

She gave it to me in fits and starts, small fragments, anecdotes said in passing.

I knew where she was born, the fact that she left her small town in Finland as a teenager and came to another small town in northern Ontario. From there she went to Paris then London where I was born.

I knew a few of her likes and dislikes and some of her habits, too.

In other words, apart from the chronology of events and personal preferences, there was a chasm I needed to bridged. One of meaning.

Many of us die before knowing our own story, let alone sharing it.

We live in societies that are ever driving forward.

Our stories are our birth right. In older cultures, they were central to life. To know your story was to know yourself.

The same is true today. Perhaps in this time of cultural amnesia, they are even more vital.

Stories reside not in events or circumstances but in our dreams, hopes, and ambitions that dwell within them.

They are the obstacles we faced and overcame. The fears we held onto until they no longer served us or the regrets we have for not following our own path.

Our stories teach us. Through them we gain wisdom and insight in the shape of lessons learned to help edify and elevate others.

Surely, this takes equal parts courage and humility as the ego so distrusts the revelation of perceived weakness.

We’re all seeking meaning and purpose. We travel long and wide, high and low for it.

We buy and consume, derail ourselves by trivial distractions, seek counsel, yearn for a guru or prophet or priest to anoint us with their grace.

What if, like the shepherd boy in the Alchemist, what we were seeking was there all along, buried within.

If my mother knew her story, if she had pieced it together, if she came to an understanding of the themes that drove her life, then she kept it a secret.

Now that she’s gone, I’m left to piece it together, to ponder the greater meaning of her life. In doing so, I’ve come to unravel the riddle of my own life, my own story.

I have vowed not to die without telling it.