In the case of remembering and honouring our loved ones, better late than never cannot be more poignant.

I believe that to not record your memories and stories is depriving future generations of learning more about their ancestors, thus gaining a better understanding of their place in the world today.

Interestingly, as a species, we humans have known this for thousands of years.

Storytelling was always a way for people to learn about their role in society, the values they were to aspire to and, most importantly, what and who to respect and fear – essential in learning to stay alive.

Recently I looked at the stories inherited from my forefathers and found that those told by my living ancestors are few and far between. Those that do exist are very thin on detail. I was quite disappointed but discovered many of NZ Europeans have limited connection with their past.

Or so I thought ….

After a little digging I found that while we may not have the detailed stories and myths, we have language and proverbs which were created by our ancestors and apply to us as much today as they did hundreds of years ago.

Take a look at English writer John Heywood (1497-1580) who was known for his plays, poems, and collection of proverbs – he even supposedly coined the phrase “better late than never”.

He recorded a wide range of proverbs, many of which already appeared in prior writings, so it is unlikely that he actually invented them, but regardless of their origin we still commonly use them today. And that was 500 years ago!!

The following famous epigrams are found in his writings.

  • What you have, hold.
  • Haste maketh waste. (1546)
  • Out of sight out of minde. (1542)
  • When the sun shineth, make hay. (1546)
  • Look ere ye leap. (1546)
  • Two heads are better than one. (1546)
  • Love me, love my dog. (1546)
  • Beggars should be no choosers. (1546)
  • All is well that ends well. (1546)
  • The fat is in the fire. (1546)
  • I know on which side my bread is buttered. (1546)
  • One good turn asketh another. (1546)
  • A penny for your thought. (1546)
  • Rome was not built in one day. (1546)
  • Better late than never. (1546)
  • An ill wind that bloweth no man to good. (1546)
  • The more the merrier. (1546)
  • You cannot see the wood for the trees. (1546)
  • This hitteth the nail on the head. (1546)
  • No man ought to look a given horse in the mouth. (1546)
  • Many hands make light work. (1546)

From the Germanic half of my gene-pool there are also many proverbs that hold true today as they did many hundreds of years ago.

While I couldn’t seem to drum up too much information on John Heywood, and I seriously doubt we’re related, the research I did do made me realise that my great-great-great…grandparents from way back then were actually using the same proverbs then as we do today.

This gives me a sense of belonging. But as for uncovering the intimate family stories I’d like, I haven’t got that. And that is what memories help us do, reveal how truly unique an individual person is.

Is it not true that most employees think that they are great at their job, but it is never confirmed until you get the opinions of their workmates and employer? It’s then you get a more comprehensive, real picture of the person.

It’s also not possible for us to all be good drivers (even though we think we are) when so many of us end up in scrapes.

The perspectives and experiences of others have help complete the picture.

Sharing your memories is an extremely generous thing to do, to help others understand us and those we care about.

Anyway, as John Heywood would say ….

A penny for your thought? (1546) …. Nah I share mine for free.