Sharing Memories: Stories Benefit Us & Our Relationships

January 17, 2020

Bio photo: Arlen Solem

The last World War II combat veteran that I know passed away a few weeks ago. Like many war veterans, Mel did not talk much about the war for most of his life. But, like many, he started talking about his experiences during the last few years. 

Mel’s Stories and Talking with Family

The stories he told were often very sad, riddled with pain and horror. A few of the stories were happy and Mel would laugh and laugh when he told them. All were profound to him, and he would often cry whether the story was happy or sad or somewhere in between. 

I really appreciated and was honored to be able to hear these stories. Mel told other stories too. He talked about his youth growing up in rural Minnesota. He talked about his family – those still alive, and those who have passed away.

Sometimes, I couldn’t get all the details as he could be hard to understand at times. Later, I would talk with his wife or one of his daughters about these stories. Often, they knew the story and could fill in some details. Some of the stories were also new to them.

Awakening Memory Through Stories

So many of the people I serve at Emerald Crest can talk about the past in a way that they are not able to talk about the present. Often, their stories come out easily, sometimes they don’t. 

With Mel, if I started telling a story it would often lead to a story of his own. I told him about how my grandfather told me stories about Native Americans when my grandfather was a boy. This led to Mel having a few different stories about finding tools left by Native Americans along a river bank by his house when he was a kid.  

I also did some reading on my own about the army unit he was in, and about the different battles he remembered. With this knowledge, I was able to better understand what he was talking about, and I also knew some questions to ask that could help him draw from his memory bank.

I have done this with other residents too: I learn something about them, and then learn something about their lives on my own. Later, I can go back to them with questions or I can discuss something similar and this helps them to recall and talk about their memories.

This sharing of memories makes me think about your loved ones, and the stories that they have and can still share. The stories that you know they love to hear and tell again. The stories you can help them to tell and share with others. The challenge can be getting to those stories. It can be hit or miss, I know: one day the stories flow, the next they don’t.  

But stories are so much of who we are. We are our past in so many ways. 

Reverend Arlen Solem

Chaplain and Campus Pastor


For questions about our spiritual care program, or if you would like spiritual care and support for you or your loved one, contact Chaplain Arlen Solem at 612-554-6379 or

At Emerald Crest, we offer a deep knowledge of memory care in a specialized assisted living setting for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related conditions. We encourage you to contact us directly with any questions or request a tour. For tours and general information, please contact Christine Drasher at 952-908-2215.

Emerald Crest by Augustana Care provides memory care in a unique environment, specifically designed to support those with cognitive issues. Utilizing this exceptional model of care, individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s and related conditions can flourish in positive relationships and participation in meaningful activities. Memory care is offered in the Minneapolis – Saint Paul area with communities in four convenient locations: ShakopeeBurnsvilleMinnetonka and Victoria, MN.

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We were exceptionally pleased with the staff and their care – beyond our expectations. We picked Emerald Crest because of the “family” atmosphere and home environment.  We speak very highly of Emerald Crest in the community and would refer someone with full confidence and no reservations.

— Kim, daughter of resident