Earlier this month I wrote a post about how I had discovered my own version of a Half-Blood Prince in a library book I had checked out titled, Your Life As Story. I had checked out the book because I’m interested in writing my own stories, hopefully to publish as a memoir someday.
What I found inside the book, besides wonderful tips for memoir writing, were clues about the book’s previous owner: Robert J. Hall. As I read, I slowly got to know this man who was nearing the end of his life, and wanted to leave a legacy of his life stories for his children and grandchildren.
In my last post, I said I planned to write a letter to Mr. Hall, and I did just that. I really wasn’t sure if I would get a response or not.
Well, I did get a response – but it was not what I expected at all. I received an email from the current resident of Mr. Hall’s house, saying that sometimes he still receives mail addressed to Mr. Hall, and that “I typically don’t open what appears to plainly be “junk mail”, but your note clearly did not have that appearance.”
The email shared that the house had been built by Mr. Hall himself in 1999, and that Robert Hall had actually passed away back in 2011. I was given a link to his obituary, which allowed me to further unlock the mystery of this man who I had felt a close connection to ever since starting to read my library book.
I found myself getting emotional – I was sad that he had died so long ago and that I had never gotten to meet him. I wished he could have known that he helped inspire me to write my own stories. I was elated however, when I saw it written in his obituary that, “his hobbies were photography, choral singing, writing his life story for his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and poking fun at himself.”
“He did it!” I thought to myself. He left his legacy behind for his children and grandchildren to read, just like he had wanted to before he died.
I emailed back the current resident of the house, and thanked him for his reply. He had also forwarded me the contact information for two of Mr. Hall’s children, and so I decided to send them an email as well.
How do you start an email to a complete stranger? Well, I started my email with, “Hello, I know this is a bit random, but I checked out a book from the library recently…” I shared how I had been on a quest to contact Mr. Hall and share with him how he had inspired me to write, and how I similarly wanted to write down some of my own life stories.
The response from Mr. Hall’s daughter came later that day, starting with,
“Erica, how remarkable to get this email from you!” She told me how her father had started sending 2-3 page stories about different aspects of his life to his children each year, which eventually turned into about 7 or 8 three-ring binders’ worth of writing! She said in the later part of his life, Mr. Hall went around to different groups talking about his memoir project, and encouraging others to write down their stories.
I think Robert J. Hall would be excited for me as I begin my journey to write a memoir. And I think he would be glad to know that his legacy continues beyond his lifetime – he’s still influencing people 9 years after he died.
It makes me wonder what kind of legacy I’ll leave for my own children and (maybe) grandchildren someday… at the very least, like Robert Hall, I hope I can at least leave them some of my most important memories and life lessons – whether they are written in pen and ink and stored in a three-ring binder, or are published more formally as a book someday.