Preserving memories: From Ticket Stubs to Dissected Frogs

Orit Ramler discusses how the Box of Life community preserves memories in Part Two of the Preserving Purpose Q&A Interview Series.

A community of loved ones, friends and neighbors helps add meaning to our lives. True community stems from fellowship and blossoms through shared experiences and memories.

While developing the Box of Life Project and her forthcoming book on the methodology for preserving memories, Orit Ramler realized that the sense of community fostered by the process creates more profound understanding and empathy among families and friends. 

Why does your best friend hang on to that photo of a dissected frog? Why is your father so attached to a 30-year-old coat-check ticket stub? The memories contained in each Box of Life illuminate the meaning behind otherwise trivial or curious objects.

Orit sat down to discuss the Box of Life Project in a series of conversations with Jennifer Lloyd, Founder of Thought Bubble Studio, a company that builds personal brands using thought leadership and storytelling strategies. Orit shared her journey to creating the Box of Life Project and its community, which will be highlighted in her forthcoming book.

Q: Last time we chatted, you discussed how the Box of Life Project originated in a request to help preserve memories and write the memoir of your late friend, Charles Stern. After you created his Box of Life, you began putting together your own. What did you include in your Box of Life?

A: I started by creating folders for my precious memories: friendship, family, community involvement, professional life, travel, romance, traditions, mentors, memorable moments, lessons learned, favorite things and more. I keep curating the contents of each folder and adding to them as my life evolves.

But for each folder, I’m not putting more than 18 items. I’m trying to be precise. Otherwise, it would be boring, or it would be hard to tell what’s truly important.


Q: Why include 18 items to preserve memories?

A: I recommend people include 10 to 20 items per topic, no more than 25 items. For me, I focus on the number 18. In Hebrew, the number 18 means life. Hebrew letters have a numerical value. Charles loved Hebrew letters and created sculptures of Hebrew letters. The Hebrew word chai (חַי) translates to life with the letters of the word adding up to 18. So, I love that number because it means life.

Q: At any time, did you feel overwhelmed by the choices of what family photos or memories to include? If so, how did you work through that feeling to reach decisions?

A: Yes, I did. That’s why I tested the concept and process until I came up with a methodology for separating the trivial from the meaningful and understanding what tells the story of our lives. If I ask you to tell me about yourself, would you start from the day you were born and describe every single day of your life? No, that would be overwhelming. You’d summarize your life by sharing the moments that are important to your essence.

Q: Has the Box of Life process of preserving family memories and personal moments brought you closer to family members or friends than you expected?

A: Absolutely. When I engage in meaningful conversations, I learn a new dimension about people. This deeper understanding is part of what differentiates creating a Box of Life from, for instance, posting a photo on social media, which is just a one-dimensional form of sharing. By boxing with someone (This new meaning of the verb boxing is catching on in the Box of Life community!), I know what they care about and what their values are. I know what they’ve learned in their life, and I really connect to their essence.

Orit's father and his Box of LifeBy creating a Box of Life with someone or sharing your Box of Life with someone, you create deep feelings of empathy. When putting together a Box of Life with each of my parents, I learned to leave my assumptions behind. I understood them better when I saw what they chose to put in their boxes. It’s human nature to make assumptions about others and what we think matters to them. But when you see their box, you suddenly gain new insights into how they see themselves and live their lives. You may begin to question your assumptions and change the narrative you have about that person.

Q: How did creating your own Box of Life help inform your priorities?

A: Each of our boxes should answer three fundamental questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. How am I living my life?
  3. What is important to me?
  4. How do I want to be remembered?
  5. What do I want to pass on to future generations?

Then, based on my answers to these questions, I began adding memories or priorities to my Box of Life. This works in reverse as well. If I have something I automatically know is vital to me, I can dig deeper to uncover truths about who I am and how I’m living and determine if I am living in accordance with the Box of Life I’d like to create for myself.

Q: In your growing community of Boxers, people have shared many memories to showcase on your website and preserve for future generations. What surprising or unique items have clients preserved in a Box of Life?

A: Most people don’t include a concrete object, but a photo of the item and a story attached to it. One time, a person included a photo of a dissected frog (what a surprise!) from the era when we used to dissect frogs in school. Dissecting that frog helped that person decide he wanted to become a veterinarian. Another person included a coat check ticket he had kept from his first date with his future wife. These examples help show that it’s the story that goes with the object that adds meaning, not the thing itself.

Q: What are some of Boxers’ favorite categories of memories to include?

A: The categories depend on each life story, but the ones that almost everyone includes are:

  • food, which I call the aromas and tastes of our soul
  • friendship
  • family
  • romantic love
  • places
  • holidays and traditions

Q: How do you connect the lessons you’ve learned developing the Box of Life Project to your successful executive coaching business?

A: As a learning specialist and certified personal and professional development coach, I have extensive training in the art of asking questions and active listening. My expertise is the key to connecting with other people’s souls and essence through the stories they share. 

I now help my clients, individuals and organizational team members think about what they include in their boxes — either personally or professionally. This information helps them learn from the past, act in the present and plan for the future. For instance, if a professional has a leadership category in their box, I ask them what they will include reflecting their leadership style and achievements.

The process works for organizations too. Asking team members to contribute to an organizational box each year will bring out stories and values that leaders might not have otherwise known. This process can bring teams closer and identify ways organizations can better tell their story to clients.

Q: I always like to wrap up by asking how people can learn more if they’re ready to dive deeper into the Box of Life Project. How can readers get involved or seek more information?

A: I coach clients and organizations on how to create a Box of Life. Those wanting to learn more can schedule a complimentary consultation with me, and I can share tips on how to get started. Readers can sign up for updates on my forthcoming book and request a complimentary consultation via the consultation request form. Or people can join the growing community of Boxers by submitting a memory to be shared online and on social media via the memory preservation submission tool.

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