Carolyn L. Braun (

The Book of Edna … an idea for you

I am back at de-cluttering, a little at a time. The target of the day – the spare bedroom where we found some things that my mother-in-law saved. (She lived with us for five years before she passed at the age of 98 1/2.)  In that collection of stuff, we found a wonderful treasure – something that you may want to replicate to help you remember and understand your loved ones.

On Edna’s 93rd birthday (Sept. 7, 2002), our daughter gave her a book entitled The Book of Myself: A Do-It=Yourself Autobiography in 201 QuestionsThe thought behind the book was to give her something to do – to pass the time. Each question had a space for her to enter a response. And, given the number of questions, it would take her quite some time to finish the book. However, she finished her book by Thanksgiving of that year. At that point, it was decided that her work was worth sharing with other family members by putting it in a booklet form and giving the booklets as Christmas presents.

Reading the booklet, I realized that this idea can be easily used for grandparents and friends – anyone you want to know more about or where you want to remember their stories. Not only does it give them something to work on, it helps you to know who they truly were, what they thought, what they wished for, what they dreamed. And the bonus – the person will think back and remember – and realize they have a story to tell!

table of colntents edna.jpg

This book was done over 15 years ago. Now you could generate a list of questions and provide a journal for the person answering the questions. Or you could send a computer file with the questions and let the person fill in the list. If they use a computer, you can take the finished questions, edit, add pictures and get the booklet printed. Potentially, it’s much easier to do this now but the old-fashioned way works, too. (You just have to do what our daughter did – and type it up.) You can also add other remembrances. For example, Edna’s booklet includes her favorite hymn Just as I am Without a Plea and a favorite German folk song that she would often sing: Du, Du LIegst Mir Im Hierzen.  

just as i am edna.jpg

You are only limited by your creativity. Edna’s book is broken down into chapters  — The Early Years, The Middle Years and the Later Years. Here, again, you can arrange the book any way you want. 

One of my favorite responses from Edna:

Question/Statement: This is how we usually ate dinner as a family:

Her response: We always gathered around the table. Pa said the prayer before we ate, and all of us kids had to say our little prayer. It was “Abba, lieber fater. Amen.” which meant “Abba, dear father, Amen.” 

The items were originally posed as questions; the statements below were used for her responses in the booklet. You can add or eliminate questions, based on the era of the person answering and some of their interests (if you know them ahead of time.) For example,  you might add:

  • What was your nickname as a child/
  • What is a family favorite food dish?
  • What is your favorite food from a restaurant?
  • What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
  • What is your favorite cousin story?

(from Edna’s book)


  1. One of Mom’s traits that I admired:
  2. If I had any trouble with my Mom growing up, it was in this area:
  3. One of Dad’s traits that I admired:
  4. It I had any trouble with my Dad growing up, it was in this area:
  5. I remember getting into trouble with my parents on this occasion:
  6. This is how we usually ate dinner as family:
  7. My parents felt strongly about passing on these lessons:
  8. This person in my family was more serious than the rest:
  9. The present I got from my parents that really sticks in my memory:
  10. What I remember about my first trip to the hospital:
  11. One of my most memorable toys was:
  12. This is how my family celebrated Christmas:
  13. This is what we usually did at Thanksgiving:
  14. I want you to know this about my Grandmother:
  15. If I remember anything about my great grandparents it is this:
  16. The country or countries of my ancestors came from is this:
  17. My hairstyles and natural hair color growing up where:
  18. My family’s first TV/computer was in the year:
  19. In the afternoon after school, I used to:
  20. Games I liked to play as a child and youth were:
  21. What I like about my siblings was:
  22. People described me as a child in this way:
  23. We had these pets or access to other animals growing up:
  24. This person significantly influenced my life growing up:
  25. My best friend during childhood was:
  26. I admired this friend because of the following:
  27. I was generally popular or unpopular because:
  28. I helped a person greatly on this occasion:
  29. I wanted this person to be my friend but the feeling was not mutual:
  30. I had a childhood crush on this person.
  31. What my friends and I like to do best was:
  32. If my parents had only known I did this forbidden thing with my friends:
  33. I really enjoyed this grade in elementary school:
  34. One of my most memorable teachers in elementary school was:
  35. I had a lot of fun with this subject in elementary school:
  36. I had some trouble with this subject in junior high or high school:
  37. When I was very young I thought I would be like this when I grew up:
  38. If I didn’t graduate from high school, it was because:
  39. This is why I didn’t go to college:
  40. This is one of the most important things about life I learned in school:
  41. This is how I got to school every morning in the early years:
  42. One of my earliest memories about school was:
  43. These were my favorite sports in school:
  44. One of my favorite kinds of homework was:
  45. My elementary and high schools could be described as:
  46. My teachers generally described me as this kind of student:
  47. My religious training growing up was:
  48. What I enjoyed most after school hours was:
  49. I remember these chores when growing up.
  50. My first job for pay was:
  51. I enjoyed this particular work assignment:
  52. I took care of this person or persons while growing up:
  53. I remember this about my Mother’s work and responsibilities:
  54. I remember this about my Father’s work and responsibilities:
  55. I hated this particular work assignment:
  56. This is the profession that I often mentioned when people asked me what I was going to be when I grew up:
  57. My memories of the biggest war or serious conflict during my early years are these;
  58. This is what war meant to me growing up:
  59. This was a big wartime event that marked a turning point in the world:
  60. I liked this kind of music and these musicians growing up:
  61. The clothes fashions of my childhood were:
  62. Some of my favorite Hollywood actors and actresses were:
  63. Some of my favorite movies from my childhood are:
  64. I remember when these technological advances were made:
  65. My parents felt this way about politics:
  66. My world consisted of this geographic area:


  1. For a while I thought I would marry this person, but I didn’t:
  2. My first serious romance was with:
  3. One of my Mom’s strongest characteristics was:
  4. One of my Dad’s strongest characteristics was:
  5. This issue caused a great rift between me and my parents:
  6. We (my parents and I) reconciled after this happened:
  7. My hairstyles and hair color during these years was;
  8. The story about how I became engaged is:
  9. I remember my wedding well for this:
  10. This is how we decided how many children to have:
  11. I remember the birth(s) of our children well:
  12. Some of the things I loved doing with my family were:
  13. This was a particularly memorable vacation with my loved ones:
  14. This health problem was very scary for me:
  15. This was a serious accident that I remember:
  16. We had these pets;
  17. My parents played this kind of role to my children:
  18. This is the part of my parenting that I am particularly proud of:
  19. This is the part of my parenting where I think I could have done better:
  20. My brother(s) and sister(s) and I acted this way towards each other:
  21. My best friend after I left home was:
  22. These people were my best friends in my middle years:
  23. True friendship to me means:
  24. One of the ways I used to entertain friends/guests was:
  25. When I think of compassion and goodness, I think of this person:
  26. One big understanding I had with a friend was:
  27. I learned to take myself less seriously through my friendship with:
  28. I have always felt that this person betrayed me even though I was always loyal to him/her:
  29. This is the sport that I enjoyed watching or attending with friends:
  30. The activity that I and my friends most engaged in was:
  31. These are the books that I most enjoy reading:
  32. One book that had a very strong impact on me was:
  33. One of my favorite magazines in my middle years was:
  34. The subjects that I always wanted to learn more about as an adult but never did was:
  35. A year in which I learned a lot of skills was:
  36. A seminar or workshop that really struck me was:
  37. The way I liked to learn best was:
  38. This is an area I was able to teach well to others:
  39. One thing that I regret that I never got to explore:
  40. One of my accomplishments I am most proud of us:
  41. This person was a mentor for me who really helped me in my career:
  42. Things I liked about my work included:
  43. If I could have changed professions in mid-stream I would have become a:
  44. I strived to be this kind of worker with these qualities:
  45. Some household chores that I enjoyed and some I didn’t included:
  46. If I could have changed the balance between work, home, family, and play, I would have done so in this way:
  47. My favorite hobby at this time was:
  48. I worked for these companies or institutions prior to retirement:
  49. These are the Presidents that I voted for:

The Later Years:

  1. The clothes fashions I wore during these adult years:
  2. Some of my favorite movie or TV stars were:
  3. This is what I was doing when this dramatic achievement occurred:
  4. I traveled outside my local environs to these places and remember these experiences:
  5. One of the national news events that most fascinated me was:
  6. This event raised my understanding of the larger world outside my immediate surroundings:
  7. I wish I have been more of this person during my elder years:
  8. This friend became like a member of my family in my later years:
  9. I depend on my family in this way:
  10. These deaths in my family affected me strongly:
  11. I remember when my grandchildren were born:
  12. A good time that I remember having with my grandchildren was:
  13. I am proud of my siblings for this reason:
  14. My predictions for each of my grandchildren are these:
  15. Of all my personality traits, I hope my family will remember this one about me:
  16. I think I have this trait more now than in earlier years:
  17. If I have a favorite period of my life it was this:
  18. The best part about marriage is:
  19. The hardest part about marriage is:
  20. A good family is one that:
  21. I learned that living a fulfilled life includes these important things:
  22. The strengths and characteristics of each of my children are:
  23. As I approach the end of my life my attitude toward death is:
  24. I was sad when I heard this dear friend died:
  25. This person has stayed with me through thick and thin over the years:
  26. New friends that I have made include:
  27. Things that I look for in a friend now are:
  28. What I like to do most with friends is:
  29. I am never too old to learn something new. The most recent new thing I learned was:
  30. This travel period was enlightening for me and my favorite place was:
  31. My current relationship to the church is this:
  32. This is one of my favorite games that are also educational:
  33. Even after I “officially” retired, I still did this kind of work:
  34. Some responsibilities never end:
  35. This is what I think about ‘money management’:
  36. Here is a habit I picked up during my working years and carried over into my retirement years:
  37. Some of my favorite meals and recipes include:
  38. I have always been interested in this hobby:
  39. This is an accomplishment that I have achieved:
  40. This President has done a good job for America:
  41. My hope for the nation is:
  42. My hope for the world is that:
  43. I am more/less tolerant of these ideas and lifestyles than I was when I was younger:

I hope you use this idea to document, and therefore remember, a person who is special to you.

Thanks for reading! I hope you return! 


3 replies to “The Book of Edna … an idea for you

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