Friday, November 11, 2011

E is for “Enlighten,” By Janet Utermohlen

I know that “E” is out of our alphabetical order, but I have reason to post this particular story by Janet. Janet was part of a memoir-writing group that I facilitated for about six years in La Mirada. Sadly, that class was cut several years ago when the California budget crunch forced Cerritos to cut a number of classes (a situation Janet dreaded). I learned yesterday that Janet had passed away last month. I was, of course, saddened to hear that news.
            There was, however, some encouragement tucked into the delivery of that sad news. It turns out that Janet spent her last days in the care of a Korean woman – a woman with many stories to tell. During their days together the caregiver shared her stories with Janet, telling her about triumphs and tragedies in her own life. She knew that her stories were important, but never thought about writing them down. Janet persuaded her to take time to put her stories on paper. She has now begun that project, “enlightened” by Janet’s example.  ~ Bonnie
        I am 85 years old and in good health. By living this long, I have many stories to tell, but I really did not know how to get them down on paper. By attending this class, “Memoir Writing for Older Adults,” I have learned simple ideas to enlighten my memories, and I have written four essays brought about by what I have learned. This has given me great pleasure.

        By coming to class and fulfilling the assignments, I have become centered, and I can start and continue writing my memories. I have felt very enlightened by this class, and have enjoyed listening and learning from all the members who attend.

        I would be devastated if it were to be discontinued.

        The letter I was assigned is the letter “E.” The word I picked to use in this essay is “enlightened,” so I feel this class has enlightened my mind and gives me, Janet Utermohlen, a purpose in life, which I have been unable to perform until now.


  1. Hi Bonnie,

    My name is Karen and I am Janet's daughter.
    I wish I could convey to you how precious my mother found your class. To say she loved it would be an understatement! You helped her to solidity a legacy. My daughter retyped all of her stories and made a copy for all of her seven children to share with her 21 grandchildren, and her 15 great grand~children.
    Thank you for spotlighting my mom and for helping her to enjoy the art of writing. :)

  2. Karen,

    Thank you so much for your encouraging words. It was a blessing to know your mother. My favorite stories were the ones she shared about her family -- she clearly loved you all so very much.

  3. Dear Bonnie, how rewarding it must feel to know that you play such a crucial part in getting your students to realize that they do have a legacy of memories to share.

    You are the most amazing teacher!!!