Writing My Grandmother’s Biography

I just finished writing a biography of my grandmother, a little over a year after she passed away. A link to the book, in PDF form, is here: The Life of Hazel Arlene Eby

I am grateful for the gift of her life and the chance to tell her story to others. It’s a quiet story, not filled with action and danger, but filled with peace and love and home.

I am also grateful for the many people without whom this never would have happened: Joanna Levy, my third grade teacher; Helen Eby, my mom; Daniel Eby, my brother; Lawrence Eby, my great-uncle; and Ann Disher, my sister-in-law and final editor.

Joanna Levy: When I was just eight years old, my class wrote biographies of people in a local nursing home. I, Kyla, and Kjell were assigned a woman named Pat, who loved reading books and going to the beach. We titled her biography “The Library First,” and our teacher, Joanna Levy, printed off copies for each of us, the subjects of our biographies, and their loved ones.

Helen Eby: The following summer, when we went to visit my grandmother on the other side of the country, I took a tape recorder and the list of questions my teacher had used. I interviewed my grandmother with them, and she finished up the questions after we left to go back home. After we got the tape in the mail, my mom, Helen Eby, transcribed the interview and I forgot about it for about six years.

Eventually, with much encouragement from my mother, I wrote up a biography from the interview. I gave it to my grandmother for Mother’s Day, and she sent copies to each of my cousins.

Helen, Daniel, and Lawrence Eby: As my grandmother neared the end of her life, I looked at the biography again. It was missing a good chunk of her life, and it was not up to my standards for good writing anymore, but I wanted to make it better.

I wanted to add the intervening years, revise the format and general writing quality, and make it available to people who visited and cared for my grandmother. This was particularly helpful as she had mostly lost the ability to communicate, and her visitors had few opportunities to learn a little more about what lay under the surface of her quiet demeanor. They also needed something to do when they visited, and reading her story was the perfect solution.

My mother and brother, Helen and Daniel Eby, helped a lot with the editing at this stage.

My great-uncle Lawrence Eby helped flesh out an appendix about my grandfather, who had died young and few of us had met, so we could preserve his story as well.

Ann Disher: The version here is the final version. I did one last stage of revisions and asked my sister-in-law Ann Disher (an English teacher) to do the last touch-up. I hope that it can spread the blessings even farther and bring joy to the world.

I feel blessed to be able to share my grandmother’s story with the world. It is wonderful to see how this short book has touched my cousins, my immediate family, my grandmother’s many friends, and the nurses and volunteers who cared for my grandmother near the end, and myself.

This has been a labor of love, and I hope I can work on more biographies in the future for my own family and for others.