By Aileen Santos
It was November 2005 when I met Leonard. I was conducting a story writing workshop for a group of call center agents, and he was one of the participants.
Leonard had that kind of "good boy look" that easily turned acquaintances into friends; in fact, he was the one who'd recruited the most number of friends to join the workshop with him.
"So you're a Protector." I told him, after the Discover Your Enneagram Type portion of the workshop. The activity helped them identify their unique "heroic" qualities, so they could give those qualities to the lead characters in their stories.
"That's true!" his best friend said. "He's very protective of his friends. And he adores his family. He's especially close to his mom."
Leonard just smiled, the slight hint of a dimple showing briefly on his right cheek.
One week later we returned to their office for the second & last session of the workshop – and met a hushed room of people. Leonard's best friend walked up to us, and in a breaking voice he said: "We just came from the wake. It's Leonard. He's gone."
Just like that.
Leonard had been killed the day right after our first session. He was about to visit a friend, got held up, and died from multiple stab wounds to his chest.
One Saturday he'd entered our workshop doors wanting to write down the stories of his life; the next day his life was over, and in his pain the last person he called out to was "Mommy."
"We decided to attend today…" his friend continued, "Because that's what Leonard would've wanted."
Who's going to write Leonard's stories now? I wanted to ask. But I didn't ask it out loud, because I knew everyone was thinking the same difficult question.
And we all knew that the answer would only make us feel worse.
Your Life Is The Sum Of All Your Stories
And The Only One Who Knows Your Stories Is You
Leonard taught us that day that we shouldn't wait for someday to tell our stories; most of us don't know enough about our future to know when it's too late.
My friend's mom, for example, has been suffering from a progressive form of memory loss for about a year now. While they take turns in caring for her, she says the hardest part is watching her dad quietly suffer, knowing that he no longer has anyone to talk to and remember his life's memories with.
Recently I discovered this book called I Love You, Ronnie, where Nancy Reagan shares the precious notes and letters her husband wrote her throughout the years of their marriage, before Alzheimer's took his memories of those same years away.
"One of the things life has taught me," writes Nancy, "Is how important it is to try to say 'I love you' in ways that can be preserved, looked at, and read when you are alone or when there is adversity or when circumstances bring separation.
"…(His) letters took me back in time, to the different moments of the life that Ronnie and I have shared for almost fifty years. And, once more, they brought Ronnie back to me, in his own words."
Maybe you're not the kind of letter writer that Ronald Reagan was. Maybe you're not even the type who's comfortable about baring your soul in such a direct form as a letter.
But what if you could pick five important stories from your life, and you could learn to write them down & share them in just a few weekends?
And what if you learned to write them in ways that would bring back all the memories & clearly communicate the essence of who you are – without the awkwardness of going into too much personal emotion or detail?
The 5 Life Stories You Need To Write Now
For five consecutive Friday nights this November and December, Pinoywriters & Powerbooks will conduct a 5-part workshop to help you celebrate these important stories of your life, and capture them permanently on the page in different story formats.
Called the 5 Life Stories You Need To Write, it's a creative writing & self discovery journey that will help you:
□ turn your Success Story into a fairy-tale-like Heroic Journey on November 14.
□ share the lessons you learned from Failure & Perseverance with the Parable on November 21
□ say what you know about Love through the Modern Short Story on November 28
□ celebrate insights from your experience of Pain through the Fable on December 5
□ and share your discovery of Who You Are with the Video Script on December 12.
All sessions are held on Fridays at Powerbooks Live! in Greenbelt, Makati from 6:30pm to 9:00pm (telephone numbers 631-2751 and 631-5939).
You can choose to enroll in individual sessions for P1,000 each, or register for all the 5 sessions for just P4,000 (can be paid in 2 installments, but you MUST reserve your slot on or before 6:00pm of November 14). Enrollments are accepted at all Metro Manila branches of Powerbooks; just inquire at Customer Service.
Both enrollment options include a complete writing & scrapbooking kit and light snacks.
By the end of the workshop you would've produced a creative compilation of your personal stories, ready to photocopy and give away as an inspiringly memorable Christmas gift: the gift of yourself.
Honor Your Stories. Celebrate Your Life.
So many things can happen in each person's life at any given time.
But majority of these "so many things" are eventually forgotten. And once you forget, no one else will be able to do the remembering for you. They're your memories, after all.
This workshop we're offering is our own way of celebrating the life of Leonard Montillano – 20 years old, a beloved friend to so many people, a much-missed youngest son and brother – who we met for one brief moment, and who we lost the day after.
We dedicate this workshop in his memory, because he was about to write down his life's stories... and one day later it was already too late.
Leonard, we do remember you. ©
Aileen Santos is a psychologist, creativity coach, and self discovery workshop facilitator. She also used to be a short story writer, magazine editor, and television scriptwriter. Her personal website is at www.aileensantos.com