Sign in or register to download original


Stories We Value

Family Stories

Stories are particularly important for families. We tell and retell stories about where and when we were born, about holidays shared, about birthday and Christmas parties enjoyed long ago, about grandparents and great-grandparents no longer with us, about pets and houses that we once owned. Stories are deeply important for shaping families. Stories help bind us together...

An aunt who lived to the age of 99 had an astonishing memory. Unlike the rest of us she could remember even the smallest details of family events both recent and long past. As she grew older she loved to recall these events again and again. Even though we had heard her do this time after time we quickly forgot the finer details. So each time we had to ask her. Just who was this particular cousin? What was the grandmother’s maiden name? And where exactly did they live? Right to the end she could remember.

Then she was gone. She never did want to be 100. After 65 years of marriage she wanted to be with ‘my old dear, wherever he is now’.

It is when elderly relatives die that we can discover just how important family stories are. When they are alive the telling and retelling of the same stories easily becomes routine, even irksome. Something that the elderly frequently do and the young should patiently accept. However, when they die we think of all the things that we should have asked them, or the things that we did ask them and have now forgotten. A part of the family has gone with them.

Perhaps that is why so many of us get interested in family history as we grow older. Go into any local history library and you will find dozens of people in their 60s and 70s searching through micro-films of old baptism, marriage and burial records. The more adventurous will then write family histories and perhaps even record their own childhood memories for their grandchildren or yet-to-be-born great-grandchildren. For our fortieth wedding anniversary that is exactly what we did. Perhaps in 60 years’ time our grandchildren will read our record and do the same for their children and grandchildren.

Even the discovery of long-hidden family secrets is greeted with interest. ‘So that is why they got married’, or ‘So he died in a hostel for alcoholics.’ It is all part of the family story. It is a part of what we are ourselves. It is our story.

Since my father came from Gibraltar his family history is wonderfully circumscribed. Until fairly recently, though, the local archives were not open to the general public. Now they are. After many pleasurable (and occasionally frustrating) hours of research I have been able to discover things about the Gibraltar Gills that my father and grandfather would have loved to have known. They only had access to records held in the Catholic Cathedral in Gibraltar and from these they assumed that the Gills were Catholics, originally coming as shopkeepers from Ireland in the early nineteenth century. In reality William Gill was a wheelwright who came as a young man from Kent to Gibraltar at the time of Trafalgar, and was not a Catholic at all. His wife Jane was born and baptized as an Anglican in Gibraltar in 1785; her parents had come there during the Great Siege with the army from the Scottish Borders. All absolutely fascinating to me and to my family but of little interest to you as a reader.

Family stories are just that. They are family stories, of little or no relevance to anyone else but of great interest within the family itself. Such stories are intimately connected with family identity. Even just knowing the names of long-dead relatives helps to give a sense of identity.

My grandfather never knew his own father. He died three months before my grandfather, himself an only child, was born. He had a portrait of his father and grandfather (both shopkeepers in Gibraltar) and a few photographs of his father, but he knew little about them. His devoted mother spoke only Spanish and knew little about the English side of the family. But she did pass on their love and pride to my grandfather. In turn he became a much-loved family doctor in Gibraltar and a devoted parent and grandparent. Even the few family stories that he did receive through his mother were important in shaping his life. Stories help to bind families together and to pass on values from one generation to another. As do the stories told about Jesus and the stories that Jesus told.
Yet there is a problem.


Psalm 128.3
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.

Sura 4.40
Be kind to parents.

Taken from A Bit Like Jesus by Robin Gill

Publisher: SPCK - view more
Log in to create a review