Get to know your relatives before it’s too late

Neil Coxon

journal getty 300x225 Get to know your relatives before its too late

(Getty Images)

Neil Coxon, founder of ‘from you to me’ always wanted to follow his dreams of running his own business. The loss of his father in 2007 encouraged him to take this step and create ‘from you to me’ products to preserve priceless memories and stories.

Hoping to inspire people to get to know their loved ones before it’s too late, Neil created the journals to provide a dialogue for friends and family to share their stories and memories.

Below Neil shares one story from one customer called Steve which shows the power of capturing stories from the people close to you.

Steve shares his story of getting to know his father Arthur

I know I was the youngest child of the family but I still couldn’t understand why my father was so distant. He kept his feelings to himself and, no matter how often I questioned him, he would never tell me what was going on his mind or his life. He seemed closer to my elder brother and sister and this only seemed to make things worse for me. I so wanted to know him better and for him to know me too.

One Father’s Day, I gave him a great gift. A journal designed to invite him to share stories and experiences about his life – Dear Dad, from you to me. He opened it in front of me and looked at me with tears in his eyes before telling me it was going to be a bestseller.

As life went on, I went away to university and it was on my 21st birthday that I got a call to tell me that my Dad was unwell. I raced home to find the family gathering to look after him. As I went into his room, he looked up and gave me the biggest hug of my life. He reached beneath his bed and gave me a present roughly wrapped in a paper bag. I knew instantly what it was and my hands shook as I flicked through the pages seeing the handwriting that I know so well. “That was fun …” was all he said.

He looked at me with a knowing smile and, whilst I knew I wanted to know how it read, I also wanted to wait until the moment was right to explore what he had written. It took me some time to pick up the courage with a heavy heart to sit and read the journal from start to finish.

As he had said, it was truly number one in my best-selling book chart. It might not reach the list for anyone else but I wanted to share some of his writing with you. The journal is comprised of a number of questions – some lighthearted, some deep – but all structured to capture his real-life stories.

Here is a selection of my Dad’s answers …

Q. Tell me about your mum and dad.

They were truly inspirational, my son. They were strong and there for me at every step of my young life. My dad worked hard as a schoolteacher whilst my Mum was a traditional housewife. It was what mothers did back then and she was very good at it. The house was always spotless when we got home from school and when my dad returned from work. They never seemed to talk together though – nor laugh – nor fight. I was never sure quite what they saw in each other but the relationship worked for them. They both seemed to get out of it what they needed.

Becoming parents was where they became strong. One or other of them always took the time to talk to me, to listen, to help, to challenge. They were true leaders when it came to helping me with my life decisions – big and small.

I always felt I could never emulate this as a parent. I would never step up the mark. I wanted to be there for you, but always felt I would add nothing. I do hope you feel that, in my own way, I have been there for you my son.

Q. How did you meet my mother?

Blackpool Tower Ballroom … and what a night that was. The band played and I spotted your mum across the room. I was dressed in my RAF uniform and I felt as if every woman in the room was watching me! I approached her and asked her to dance. As we moved onto the dance floor there was hardly space to move so I suggested sitting that dance out. To this day we have never danced together – I can’t dance, but I did not want to show my lack of confidence on that first date.

Q. Describe the greatest change that you have seen in your lifetime so far

Landing on the Moon.

Cheap worldwide travel.

Communications in the palms of everyone’s hands. When I was young we had no telephone in our house and only one in the village!

The Internet and its vast array of information.

Where do I start?

There has been huge change in most areas of life, but not always for the better.

Some dads still don’t talk to their children enough.

Q. If you were an animal, what type would you be and why?

I stand tall amongst friends. I am fun. I am different, although not everyone notices that difference. I run and hide too often when difficulties come my way. I am a survivor.

Q. What would you like your epitaph to say?

“He was quite simply an inspiration.”

Thank you for the stories dad. The journal you have given back to me is quite simply the best read of my life. I wish I had understood you better earlier in my life. I wish we had talked and shared stories and experiences and memories.

Knowing how you tick has helped me to know more about how I want to be a father to my own child.

Dad … you really were an inspiration.

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  • Sculptor471

    A neighbour died recently. For the last two years I’d been advising his grandsons to ask him questions and listen to his life stories. I hope they did – the funeral eulogy was by a vicar who had obviously never met him.

    Only after your parents are dead do you realise how little you knew of them as individuals. The only revelation by my parents that was truly personal was how they established their relationship.

    My mother was dating my father’s brother – and said that my persistent father could take her out on a Saturday – but only if it was raining. My father left his house in the pouring rain – while his brother stood on the doorstep cursing the weather that had stopped his date with my mother.

    Near my mother’s house my father passed under a railway bridge – and on the other side it wasn’t raining. My mother wanted to know why he had come when it wasn’t raining – and what had he done to his brother. As they say – the rest is history – but we heard that story every time we sheltered from the rain under that bridge. I owe my existence to a rainy day – amongst many other quirks of the Fates.

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