This is the first in a three part series, in celebration of Personal History Awareness month.

Each time I talk with someone about my work, I inevitably hear some version of the same response, “oh, I wish I had known about 11stories last year, before we lost my mom. She had such a wonderful story…”

And each time I hear this, it breaks my heart. I know that this person has lost a bit of their history that can not be recovered, and I know how much it would mean to them to be able to read those stories, in their mother’s own words.

I know this now through personal experience as well. Last month, I lost my own mother, and it has reconfirmed what I already knew – that personal histories matter, and that they are perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give to our families.

My mother’s greatest legacy was teaching me a love of books, a love of reading, and a love of language and words. She shared favorite books from her own childhood, like Winnie-the-Pooh and her amazing collection of original Nancy Drew volumes. She challenged me to late-night Scrabble games, tiles strewn about her bed, ‘til I finally got good enough to win a few games. She instilled in me a love of the French language beyond what I was learning in school, by taking me to live in France and exposing me to the beauty and the opportunities that came with knowing a second language.

In the weeks since I’ve lost my mom, I catch myself wanting to ask her a question – from little things, like where did she hide her secret brownie recipe and why was her favorite color purple, to big things, like her advice on parenting my daughter and her hopes and dreams when she was my age. I am fortunate to know many of her stories already, but now it just doesn’t seem like enough.

My hope for this month is to truly raise awareness. To light a fire, to remind folks to capture those stories before it is too late. So this month, start the conversations with your parents, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your best friends. Nothing fancy, just ask a few questions. Before it is too late.