I Thought I ‘d Have More Time!



When we first start researching our Family History we usually begin with our parents or Grandparents and slowly work our way back as far as we can go. We spend a tremendous amount of time going over documents, gleaning any information we can from them. We add photos of our relatives, pictures of their headstone and anything else we find interesting to our trees.

Then at some point we realize that these people are not just names, birthdates, marriage dates, and death dates. They lived unique lives, had relationships and occupations, owned property and in some cases did amazing deeds. So we begin to put together the story of their lives taken from all the information we have gathered.

All this is exciting and fulfilling to any Genealogist. We have brought our deceased loved ones back to life. Then we ask the question, “What about those who are still living? Shouldn’t we be recording their stories for the next generations?” Of course we should. So most of the time we concentrate on our oldest living relative, trying to tell a well rounded, well documented story of their life. We feel the urgency to do this because we are not sure how long they will be with us.

Somewhere along line we recognize that we should begin writing our own story and that of our spouse as well so that there will be an accurate account of our lives. This way we can choose what we feel is the most important facts and events from our past and include them. We get excited that we are able to add photos and even video to our legacy. The problem is, writing or recording our own stories usually takes a back seat to our Genealogy quest. We figure there is always time to do it, later.

I have been actively researching my Ancestry for over 20 years. I have seriously thought of writing mine and my husband’s life stories off and on through all those years. I even began my own story about 15 years ago, but I put it away knowing I would finish it one day. I never started writing anything about my husband’s life because I figured I could always work on it after I research just a few more Ancestors. Besides we have been married almost 28 years and he has told me stories of growing up in a small, rural Arizona town so many times I felt I wouldn’t need to ask too many questions to adequately write his history.

Then it happened…5 years ago he began to have problems remembering his childhood. The memory loss quickly spread to what he did a few years ago and then to what he did yesterday. We spent 2 years having tests done to try to determine what was going on. About 3 years ago we received the devastating news that he had Vascular Dementia. He had suffered several mini-strokes and we were told that eventually he would not even remember my name. The worst part is, he just turned 51 years old last December! I thought I’d have more time to ask him more details about his life, but now I can’t. I have been trying to remember all the stories he told me, I have asked his family to help fill in some blanks for me, but it’s not the same. Only he knows the complete story of his life and now it is all buried somewhere in his mind that he can no longer reach.

The moral of all this is: You never know from day to day what may happen, so don’t assume that you have plenty of time to write your personal story or that of those whom you are blessed enough to still have with you. Don’t put it off so long that one day you too will say “I thought I would have more time!”


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.





Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy

32 responses to “I Thought I ‘d Have More Time!

  1. Valerie,

    I’m so sorry about your husband’s diagnosis. How devastating!

  2. I’m sorry, Valerie. When I first started my quest I was focused on my dad’s side of the family, thinking it was the most interesting, even though Dad was gone. One day the light bulb went off and I realized I needed to focus on my mom’s side of the family since she was still with us. Even though she didn’t remember a lot about her family, every once in awhile a memory would surface from the recesses of her brain and we’d talk about it and she’d share things with me. I’m SO glad I did that because Mom died last spring and while I still have a ton of questions to ask her, at least I got some of the basics out of the way. I hope you’re able to piece together his story.

    • Debi,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I am glad you had the opportunity to get those memories from your Mom. Some days my husband does have a memory and he does share them with me but I can’t ask questions because he just can’t remember.

      Thanks again,

  3. Valerie,

    I want you to know that your blog post is listed in today Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/04/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-april-25.html

    Have a fantastic weekend!

  4. Oh how devastating, Valerie. I’m so sorry. I hope the memories your husband shared will come back to you little by little so that you can record them. What a great reminder to live in the now and record the past while we can.

  5. Valerie – I’m so sorry to read about your husbands illness. I can’t even imagine how difficult this has been for you. We all imagine growing old together with our spouses and never consider there being any physical problems. Thank you for reminding us to document our lives and to always remember today is precious. My best to both of you.

  6. I am so sorry that you and your husband are going through this. Dementia is such a devastating disease. I helped take care of my Grandmother as she suffered with Alzheimer’s. I can’t even imagine having to experience it in one so young. May you be able to find the support and strength you need.

  7. Laura Hedgecock

    Valerie, How horrible–for both of you.
    My father-in-law went through a series of mini-strokes a few years ago (but he’s improved). It was so hard. Hugs!

  8. I’ve just finished a road trip seeing my rellies – seeing the two remaining survivors of my mother’s generation. It was a bitter sweet trip. But you are so right. Time is running out. It also includes us – have we put our memories down.

  9. nancyhvest

    I’m sorry for what you and your husband are dealing with. My father has dementia. Different that it being a spouse, but still hard. Your blog is a needed reminder for me. I am presently contemplating what to do with the rest of my life and those kinds of things.

    • I am sorry about your father. It is a horrible disease. I am glad that my blog has helped you. I hope whatever you decide to do it is something you are passionate about and that it will bring you joy!


  10. Amy

    My heart goes out to you. As a friend recently told me, it seems like there is always tomorrow until there isn’t.

    You shared your story so beautifully that I highlighted it in this week’s “What We Are Reading” column on the Ancestry.com blog. All of us need to take your words to heart. http://ancstry.me/UglcTv

    Thoughts to you,

  11. I certainly can relate to your story. Like you throughout my marriage (24 years) I must have heard the same stories at least 100 times – I thought I knew them so well I could repeat them verbatim. Then one Sunday evening after Thanksgiving he was gone forever. Sudden cardiac death took him without warning. I did start a book of stories he had told me – included photo’s and even my own side comments about his stories. It was difficult so I would write for a while and then I’d have to put it aside for one reason or another. I still haven’t completed it and those stores I thought I’d never forget – well some I have. Occasionally something will remind me of one and I make notes of what I remember. Pictures help but so many of those wonderful details I can’t recall. I hope others take heed of your post and take the time now to write those stories you think you will never forget. Thank you for sharing Valarie!

    • Thank you Terri for sharing your story with me. I am so sorry for your loss. I am so glad you are getting them written down. Just don’t forget to also write your stories as well. Maybe while writing yours you will remember more of his.

      God Bless You

  12. Thanks for bringing this post up, Valerie — it’s so important. My husband and I are the elders in our families now, so we do need to get those stories down. On my blog, I’m trying to intersperse my own stories and memories with those of my ancestors.

  13. Marcy Elliott-Rupert


    You and your husband are in my thoughts. Life is so fleeting when we just need more time. I hope you have many more good days and memories to comfort you.

    • Thank you so much Marcy. Although it is tough for him to go places we have been going to museums and other places lately. He really enjoys them. He has to take anti-anxiety meds to go but it is worth it!


  14. I am so sorry to hear about what you both are going through. It must have come as quite a shock for him being so young. Thank you so much for the reminder! We never know how long we have. All the best to you both!

  15. I am so sorry to hear about your husband’s illness; I can only imagine how devastating and difficult it is for you. Thanks for the reminder about how little time we have. Unfortunately, the realization occurs far too often. I lost my sister when she was one week away from her 43rd birthday, and previous to that, my mother at the age of 50. As you point out, only the individual themselves can provide the full story of his/her life. It is never too soon to start gathering those stories.

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