Living

Sharing life stories can help to make the future whole

Homer Buffington Jr. and his dad, Homer Sr.
Homer Buffington Jr. and his dad, Homer Sr.

It wasn't unusual for Homer Buffington Jr. not to get a phone call from his father. Nor was it unusual for the 36-year-old Rock Hill man to not have a conversation with his dad.

"I wrote it off as this is just the way he is, and he's just my father," Buffington said about his dad, Homer Buffington Sr., who lives in Saluda.

But things changed for the two last spring with the help of a book, "The Journey: A Celebration of Life," by Rock Hill resident Lee Q. Miller. The thin green book is "a guide book for writing your life story."

"I think I learned more about my dad in three hours than in 36 years," the younger Buffington said. "It just really changed our whole relationship . . . We have accepted our past and now we are moving on."

From 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Miller will sign copies of her guide for all ages at The Bookworm on Cherry Road in Rock Hill. She can't wait to share the book with others.

"The book provides anyone the opportunity to look inward and backward in order to make the future whole," Miller said. "It is from our elders that we begin to glimpse what life is all about, and how we fit into the picture."

The idea for the book began after Miller served as a volunteer in Montana with the Storykeepers of Hospice Patients, who were responsible for collecting a patient's life stories for their families. Miller and her husband, Jerry, lived in Montana for 18 months before moving back to Rock Hill in 2000.

The experience in Montana made Miller realized that she needed to capture some of those stories with her own family. Miller had already lost her father and sister.

Her mother was able to share a few stories with Miller before she died. Miller decided she wanted to help others collect the stories she didn't get the opportunity to record.

"I thought, someone's got to make sure that this gets out there," Miller said. "If the stories are not captured in some form -- written, audio or video -- they will eventually fade. How are we to know the values and ethics of our ancestors if they are not shared?"

While writing her book, Miller began hosting several workshops at Winthrop University to help others either write their own stories or write the stories of others.

She is working with some students at Winthrop who are assisting seniors at Westminster Towers in Rock Hill with telling their stories. Miller has been invited to discuss the book on National Public Radio with Joseph Shapiro. A date has not been set.

The book's first chapter is dedicated to providing details on how to get started. The book includes chapters such as the "Turning Point," "Personal Data," "Family Background," "The Early Years" and the "Teen Years."

Buffington and Miller had known each other for a short while as volunteers at Hospice & Community Care. He knew about the book and asked Miller for help.

Buffington then asked his father what he thought of the idea of recording his stories. At first, he said, his father was a "little resentful," but he came around to the idea.

Getting to know his father more was of grave importance to Buffington. His father, a former construction worker who primarily stayed on the road, had been diagnosed with terminal emphysema, and Buffington wanted to find a way to reach out to him.

"It allowed him to be very vulnerable," Buffington said, describing the experience. "He wept. I got that out of him in two hours. I think he felt validated. I accept some responsibility that I had not given him a chance to let him know that I really cared about his past and his upbringing."

Buffington said his father is continuing to document pieces of his life by recording them in a journal.

He said repairing his relationship with his father has not only helped him, but is a legacy he can pass on to his own son.

"I would like to have the conversation and stories dictated to pass on to my 14-month-old son," he said. "Now, he will be able to know more about his grandfather . . . the stories and the things he liked."

WANT TO GO?

What: Lee Q. Miller will sign copies of her book, "The Journey: A Celebration of Life."

When: 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Bookworm, Cherry Road, Rock Hill

Details: The book is a guide to help people write their life stories or those of others. The book is $15.99; it's also available on CD. A workshop will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 20; location to be announced.

More information: Lee Q. Miller at 366-3065 or e-mail millerjl@rhtc.net.

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