My precious grandma passed away in June this year. She was 98 years old. So in these recent months I have been spending some time restoring and updating a special gift that I gave her for her 90th birthday, 8 years ago. It will now be a wonderful keepsake for each of our families to treasure for years to come, remembering her life, our family history and the legacy she has left behind.
I couldn’t have anticipated eight years ago what a treasure this photo book would become for all of us now. It was the best birthday gift ever!
When my grandma’s 90th birthday was first approaching I knew I wanted to give her something extra special as 90 years is such a wonderful achievement and milestone. But it was very difficult to think what a 90 year old would need or appreciate. We ended up making her this special photo book of her life.
It is a special keepsake full of memories and information about her life.
The idea and inspiration originally came from doing our own wedding album as a photo book for our coffee table just a few years earlier (that, and maybe the TV show “This is your life!” which was quite popular at the time!). Photo books were such a new concept back then. These days, some ten years later, creating them are super popular and very accessible. People make them for all sorts of special occasions, they come in all sizes and book types, and really do make a great personalised gift.
While compiling this book we were able to do a few unique things….
- Preserve some of the special black and white photos from long ago digitally by scanning them into our computer.
- Take a photo of some special items to the family such as her OAM (Order of Australia Medal),
- Add poems, letters and artwork special to us as a family to include in the book.
- Retell special memories we thought worth noting , and
- Record information we wanted recorded for years to come like a family tree.
As my grandma grew older and her memory began to fade, this book became a very valuable tool to help her remember and feel connected.
This was a surprise to me for some reason, but it makes sense. Ma could look at the photos and information and remember her family and life that had been. When carers came to help care for her and keep her company during the day they would use the book as a talking point and found it a very valuable way to prompt her memory and engage her mind.
Now that my Grandma has passed away this book of memories and photo’s has taken on a whole new purpose. Now it is helping us remember and allowing the family history to not be forgotten.
I have my own quirky way for remembering my grandpa and I am so glad, in light of recent events, that I took my children to visit his grave earlier this year. And now, with this book, we have a unique way to remember my grandma too!
If you would like to make your own memory book like this for an elderly person you can read on for more detailed information about what I did in terms of content and design of our book.
How we made the photo book
We used Momento to create our photo books initially. They were one of the first online photo book design companies around when I first did this eight years ago and, fortunately for me (as you will find out later), they are still going strong today. There is a design program we could download for free that made it quick and easy to create the new book. Most of the pages could be done in this program, however, for the more complex pages (like the family tree and title pages) we found it easier to create in Photo Shop initially and then it was as simple as inserting the jpeg image once they were done.
For my grandma’s book we divided the pages into different stages in her life: Childhood, Marriage, Mother, Grandmother, Great-grandmother. Each section had a ‘title page’ that we designed to look similar to the front cover. This helped the book to flow better and have a theme that tied the whole book together while still clearly defining each section.
We created a double page of photo’s of each family member under these topics (for example, a double page dedicated to each child she had in the ‘mother’ section). We tried to include here a photo of them with Ma if possible, as well as childhood, wedding and current photo’s of each person).
Special extra pages
We started the book with a special 90th birthday message to Ma and we ended the book with a photo of her, surrounded by words and memories we chose as a family to describe who she was as a person and what she meant to us. We also dedicated some extra categories in the book to things that were unique to my grandma such as her work with children and the homes she treasured and lived in.
Probably, though, the most special pages in the book (which also took the most time to create) was the family tree. On this page we included a photo of as many people in the family tree as we could. Pictorially showing how everyone was related, their names, births, marriage dates, and children…. Five generations in total!
Updating the book
Unfortunately for me, when I first created this book I didn’t utilise adequate file backups and so when my computer crashed, everything went with it! (I have since learnt from this mistake and have made sure there is adequate backups this time round!). I was very fortunate though that Momento, still had the book in their archives that we could order new copies of. They were kind enough to email PDF copies of the pages so we could add to the photo book and print more copies for the family.
We have now been able to add a record of the final years of her life, update the family tree and add a new page dedicated to all her great-grandchildren (15 in total!) including my little china doll and my little scientist who weren’t even born when we first made this book. Every family member will be able to have a copy printed for themselves to keep and the generations to come will be able to enjoy this historical family record for many years.
I am so thankful for this book. Firstly, that my Grandma could enjoy it herself for so many years. And now, that we are able to allow her legacy to live on in a very tangible way for all of us.
What gift would you give someone for their 90th birthday?
Have you got any records of your family history for future generations?
(Doing this book also prompted me to do up a similar family tree for my dad’s side of the family)
Have you made any other keepsake photo books?
For other great DIY gift ideas you can check out my Pinterest Board.