The greatest legacy one can pass on
to one’s children and grandchildren
is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life,
but rather a legacy of character and faith

~ Billy Graham

March of Generations

This week our daughter’s daughter was born. Today, April 1st, is the 99th anniversary of her great great grandparents’ wedding in St. Ours, Quebec. Angela’s March arrival marks five generations with March birthdays – preceded by Mémère Morin (the 1913 bride), Mom, my brother Bob, and then my son Dennis.

Late life spirituality of ten widens our perspectives. We come to see our lives in the context of the generations, from the past into the future, as lines branching among all humankind. Like Margaret Mead, I feel the wingspan of those generations.

With regard to writing, it is interesting to note that two best-selling novels were completed by aged grandmother authors with the help of their granddaughters – Hortense Calisher’s Sunday Jews and Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Within the Writing Down Our Years book series, I edited two collections of grandparent/grandchild stories and poems:

From Me to You: Intergenerational Connections Through Storytelling
Exchanges Between Us: More Intergenerational Connections

For more information  > READ MORE

Selected Intergenerational Writing from the Series:

Pooh Sticks
Summer Memories
A Grandmother’s Lament

First Grandchild


Most of us have memories of spending time with grandparents. Even more of us remember  tales told to us about our grandparents. Write about a special time with a grandparent – for example, describe an incident in which you learned values from one of your grandparents. Or, write down a story often repeated within the family of when your grandparents were your age or younger. Alternatively, you could write to a deceased grandparent asking the questions you wish you had asked earlier.


Boucher, Therese M.  Spiritual Grandparenting: Bringing our Grandchildren to God. New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1991.
Graham, Barbara (Ed).  Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.
Kornhaber, Arthur. The Grandparent Guide. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002.
Lanese, J. (1996). Grandmothers are Like Snowflakes: No Two are Alike. New York: Dell.
Marshall III, J. M.  Walking with Grandfather: The Wisdom of Lakota Elders. Boulder CO: Sounds True, 2005.
Valle, Gina (Ed.). Our Grandmothers, Ourselves: Reflections of Canadian Women. Vancouver: Raincoast, 1999.


Foundation for Grandparenting (Arthur Kornhaber, MD)
AARP Grandparenting
Cyberparent Grandparent – Stay in Touch
Grandparents. About.Com
Grandparent World
Third Age-Grandparenting

NEWS — World Health Day 2012: : “Aging and Health” – April 7th

The theme Aging and Health for World Health Day provides an opportunity for organizations and individuals worldwide to showcase solutions to population ageing, putting health at the core. The focus is “Good health adds life to years”.

On World Health Day 2012, the WHO recommends three calls to action:
1.    Promote and live a healthy lifestyle across the life-course
2.    Create age-friendly environments and policies to engage older men and women
3.     Make primary health care age-friendly.

Related to this international focus on aging, HelpAge International, the only global organization with a singular focus on providing assistance to and advocating for disadvantaged older people, has recently been awarded the 2012 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 million.

To sign up for e-news from the International Federation on Ageing, click here.


Service Opportunity #3 – Helping Elders to Record Their Stories

Writers can help frail elders record their stories –  by talking with them about their stories, by encouraging them to write and providing constructive feedback, by writing the stories down, or by audio/video-recording storytelling.  Volunteers can also assist those in hospital, long-term care, or housebound to write letters or email messages to family and friends.

One way to put together stories quickly is to gather key photographs and record a brief story for each one. A grandparent might choose to send one such photo/story with each birthday card to grandchildren.The photos can focus not only on generations of family members but also homes, places visited, or objects of significance (e.g., heirloom violin or rocking chair).  Such a collection of photos and stories can be collected from all the family members for a special anniversary or birthday.

An important advantage of written stories is the possibility of translation for families where the grandchildren favour English but the older generations think and write in a different mother tongue. Elders can write or tell their stories in their comfortable language. Through translation, the grandchildren and future generations can then enjoy the stories in their own comfortable language.  The plot of Amy Tan’s novel The Bonesetter’s Daughter derives from a life story written in Chinese by an aged mother beginning to decline with dementia. When the daughter later finds the manuscript, she hires a translator — who falls in love with the narrator, then and now.

Reader Input

It was great to hear this month from Sheryl-Elaine Brazeau, who wrote about her involvement with the early literacy program in her neighbourhood school, a book club and creative sanctuary groups. TO READ MORE:  ReaderCommentMarch 13th


My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging.
Rachel Naomi Remen      New York: Riverhead Books. 2000.

This is one of my favourite books — powerful legacy story of a grandfather shaping the primary lifelong values of his granddaughter even though he died before her 8th birthday.

Remen is the wounded healer author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and The Will to Live and Other Mysteries. A physician coping with early onset Crohn’s disease, Remen is Co-Founder and Medical Director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program. She is also a nationally recognized medical reformer and educator who sees the practice of medicine as a spiritual path.

Spending her earliest days after school with her Rabbi grandfather, Rachel Remen learned an attitude toward life which has enabled her to see beyond her own medical training on disease and beyond her own suffering with illness.  He emphasized that none of us are only the way we seem — the acorn holds the potential for an oak tree, a weak old man holds the past of being strong as an ox.  The elder restricted to a rocking chair can become the enchanting teller of family stories and cultural history. Also, we are all more than our disabilities: a blind person can see what others do not, a cognitively impaired person can often sense emotions missed by others.  Blessing others recognizes them as persons, each yearning for wholeness within, thereby inviting them to be all that they can be.

Remen reports that life had burnished her grandfather, enabling him to be with others, offering real presence through his listening. He also taught that serving the wholeness in you helps me find the wholeness in me. Through the many stories of life with her grandfather as well as serving her patients, it is clear that Dr. Remen learned these lessons from her grandfather very well.


Grandpa Albert had a habit of stopping now and then and looking back down the trail. Frequently, he would take me by the shoulders and ask me to look back at the way we had come. `Remember the trail,’ he said, `because one of these times I will send you back alone. If you don’t remember the way you have come, you will be lost.’
~ J M Marshall III

Until next time, I will say ‘Adieu’ with my grandparenting shadow photograph.