Hazel McHaffie


A file about my life has lain dormant on my computer for longer than I care to acknowledge. But a growing sense of urgency has made me open it recently and start putting flesh on the bones. The years are ticking by and I’m increasingly conscious of the frailty of life as a series of loved friends and relations succumb to illness and death.

It’s not my first attempt at memoir. I wrote life histories on behalf of a couple of elderly ladies who moved into a care home where I’ve volunteered for decades. I also took down my mother’s life story – a much deeper and more personal and analytical experience – in time for her to present a bound copy to each of her children on her 90th birthday. It began as a form of therapy when she went into a care home, but she entered into the interviews with such enthusiasm and honesty that powerful reflections emerged and I learned facts about her life and thinking that were entirely new to me.

I confess I’m decidedly more reticent about telling my own story. And I certainly don’t want it to be a catalogue of ‘this happened … and then that …’, but rather to select the memories, explore the insights, the emotions, the wisdom gleaned, in order to express that of me I want to leave behind. My legacy to my family; my last story for them.

So I’ve been recently looking into the art of memoir, and I’m intrigued to find that it has the potential to be of real benefit to the writer. That’s a bonus. I’m very aware that delving into the past might unearth more than I bargain for, shocks even. Hazel McHaffieI might well find out things about myself I don’t currently know, too, or perhaps that I’ve suppressed or actively denied. The exercise might also trigger difficult emotions, released by half-forgotten memory and deeply-stored images. But finding and acknowledging those congruencies has the capacity for good as well as harm. The healing properties of revisiting and finding meaning in one’s own life, making sense of experiences, binding them into the whole-life narrative, could help to lessen the impact of stressful times, diminishing their power to hurt. Time alone will tell. But taking these potentials on board has given me new energy for the task.

Who knows? I might indeed lay some ghosts to rest. I like the sound of that.

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