Things that Matter: Special Objects in Our Stories as We Age

In 2015, researchers at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, NB invited me to deliver a series of memoir writing workshops for seniors as part of a larger research project on narrative resilience in later life.

The book, Things That Matter: Special Objects in our Stories as We Age (University of Toronto Press 2023), emerged from the follow-up interviews with nine participants as they reflected upon how writing about their lives deepened their understanding of their experiences.

The book explores how special objects–old photographs, letters, jewellery, pieces of clothing or furniture, etc.–provided an entry point into deeper reflection and meaning. Each chapter is written by a different member of the research team, representing a variety of fields, including gerontology, social work, ministry, nursing, literature, and education.

My chapter (Writing about Our Lives: Exploring our Stories, Examining our Stories, Embracing our Stories), looked at various writing techniques that can help us to dig deeper and discover meaning in our experiences.

The book details how life stories can be fraught with a wide range of insights and questions from the memories that get stirred up as people embark on the process of “life review” prompted by the challenges and changes of aging. Shedding light on the complex emotional, psychological, and spiritual findings of the study, Things That Matter ultimately reveals the intricacy of personal narrative and the incredible ways in which things and stories are interwoven in our lives over time.

Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 360 Pages
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
Paperback, E-Pub, PDF: $37.95 CDN


“This book reminds us that narratives are not just about the stories we tell – they also include the personal objects that embody rich meaning in our lives.”

Kate de Medeiros, Professor of Gerontology, Concordia University

Things That Matter is the fruit of a truly communal, interdisciplinary collaboration between scholars and practitioners intrigued by the myriad ways in which people’s cherished objects serve as ‘portals’ into the stories of their lives during the course of later life. This thoughtful, engaging book is thus also about stories that matter and is a most valuable site for exploring, and honouring, the living, breathing story worlds that we enter, and re-enter, throughout our lives.”

Mark Freeman, Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Society, College of the Holy Cross