Memoir Foreword

“Now also when I am old and grey-headed, O God, forsake me not; UNTIL I have shown thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to everyone that is to come.”

— Psalm 92:13 

Statement of purpose

There are important questions to consider before writing a memoir, which is always an extraordinary act of egotism.

In the first place, how real, or even in the author’s possession is the set of recalled experiences compiled and presented as “the life story” of anyone, in the present instance someone named “Andrew Gibson Bendelow”?

And in the second, why this memoir? Who benefits from it?

But writing it, I’ve found that the process mainly assists “me,” a human nearing death, to retrospectively make sense of his lived experience. If it benefits others, particularly any of my friends or descendents, then it will have been more than worth the effort. I hope that one day my children, my step-daughter, and their families can find something of use in these accounts.

The story that follows is what “I” think happened to “me.”

I intend to be as honest and prudent as possible, not merely because Jesus said that “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32), and St. Paul claimed we should “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:13). No, I quote the Bible because it had a deep influence on my early years. But quite apart from scriptural edict, though, I’ve found that a theme of my life has been that being honest and loving with myself and others pays off–self-acceptance leads to stronger relationships with others and oneself.

Another challenge of memoir writing is veracity. Scientists have found that each telling of a remembered event alters the facts of the actual occurrence o some extent. The mind prunes the branches of lived experience into a coherent memory, and subconsciously represses truths that could be threatening to one’s conscious sense of self. A factual story can thus move further from the facts with each telling. So consider this my attempt to capture something closer to “the truth” of what happened than if you were to ask me five years from now.  

To avoid relying on my recollections alone, I will try as far as possible to claim only knowable facts, and steer clear of prior assumptions or received opinions. I will anchor my memories around primary source documents, such as letters and journal entries in my posession. I will also corroborate my interpretation and understanding of events with my siblings and contemporaneous records where available. 

Finally, I started this project in my 60th year because I now have time and a relatively sound mind to apply to the task. Before infirmity or cognitive loss remove my abilities and erase my memories, I will attempt to lay down for posterity just what kind of character this “I” was.

In my 61 years, I’ve gotten lots of meaning and satisfaction out of life. Telling the story of my achievements and failures gives me a privileged chance: to reflect on a life before its end.

It reminds me just how much I got to live, learn, and love, and I humbly thank those who have made this possible.

I dedicate this writing to all of my ancestors, the people whose sacrifices, courage, and compassion made my life possible.

Andrew Gibson Bendelow, March, 2023, LaGrange Park, Illinois, USA

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