My Dad, Laurie Smith turns 82 this month and I recently travelled to his home on the west coast of Scotland to spend several days talking with him about his life.
And the best thing was we filmed it all.
He was born in India in 1940 because his father, my grandfather, Tom, managed a large tea plantation in a rural part of that vast country. Aged five, Dad was put on a steam train, waved his parents goodbye, and set off for the nearest school which was over 100 miles away and where he would live and study for the next few years.
The family returned to Edinburgh some years later and Dad, now 16, decided to leave home and join the army, specifically the Scots Guards. He spent five years with the famous regiment, standing guard in his red tunic and bearskin outside Buckingham Palace and travelling the world.
Later he met my late Mother, Sheila and they married at Clapham Registry Office when they were both 24 and raised a family of four children. Dad later started numerous businesses and enjoyed success (and notable failure!) as a property entrepreneur.
Some of the stories he shared were new to me and some I’d heard many times over the years. There were tears of laughter and some poignant moments and even after hours of storytelling, I sensed that we were only scratching the surface, so we plan a sequel next year!
On the first day of filming, we sat in the living room of his cosy cottage with his 3 dogs, Charlie, Dougal and Luca to keep us company. The next day we went for a long walk on the beach to continue the conversation.
All the time, my colleague, George Barbov was close by filming us chatting and capturing the special moment on video, which he is now editing.
So, now, we have a family heirloom, a treasure and a multimedia souvenir of an extraordinary life lived by an extraordinary human being.
My Dad tells me that he plans to live to be 100 and so I hope we have a chance to update the film a lot more in the years ahead! But for now, I have something important that I can share with my children and, hopefully, eventually, their children.
If you have children or grandchildren or are lucky enough to have older family members still around, make yourself a promise to have a conversation and record it on film. Ask them to recount their childhood, major life events, passions, and favourite stories.
If you like the idea but need some help, there are companies that offer to create your film for a reasonable fee. Iternal is a service you can use on your phone or tablet and Extra Audionary will meet with you to record the conversation.
If you prefer a book to a film, consider using Story Terrace or LifeBook (please note that I haven/t used any of these services so I can’t vouch for them. However, they have all been recommended by trusted contacts).
In the final analysis, your financial plan and investment portfolio are important. But they exist in service of a greater purpose – one of a secure and fulfilled life and a lasting legacy.
Capturing the essence of your life or that of a loved one is something that the current and future generations of your family will thank you for.
They’ll be glad to have it and be able to share it with the family. It really beats just having photos.
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