Six-Word Tributes

With our big families, there’s almost always a birthday or anniversary for me to overlook, with fall being a particularly busy time to disappoint people with my forgetfulness. Admittedly, I set a poor example for the wife of a greeting-card artist. But I’m thankful for a friend who told me about six-word memoirs, an initiative from the online SMITH Magazine. Her idea helped our families pay tribute to our parents for their most recent milestone birthdays.

SMITH Magazine began in 2006 as a website to promote personal storytelling and launched its six-work memoir project later that year. You can go to the site to post your own memoir and read thousands from others. My friend changed the idea of writing a memoir of yourself to writing a tribute to another; she and her kids used this poetic form to honor her husband, who loved to write poetry. Craig and I aren’t poets, but I’m an editor, and I love the concept of saying as much as possible with so few words. As my mom planned a family party to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday, I sent out the call for all my siblings, their spouses and our kids to come with our six-word tributes.

Some people were apprehensive … until they started writing Then they couldn’t stop. Even grade-school-aged cousins had fun composing their thoughts. At the party, we gathered in the living room to eat cake and to read Dad our tributes. We let the time flow organically: One person read one, another person followed, usually with a related thought, and on it went until we had finished. We laughed, we cried, we remembered, we asked Dad to say more about the memories we had stirred up. We could never have anticipated how powerful our words would be in expressing a full picture of Dad and our love for him.

That fall, we repeated the tribute for Craig’s dad and mom, who were turning 80 and 75, respectively, and the next year for my mom for her 80th birthday. Each party had its own personality, as our parents do, but each was an evening of celebration, honor and love. Here are some examples:

To Lee’s Dad from Ed: Retired bowler, lawn bowler, Wii bowler.

To Grandpa George from Andrew: Thanks, Grandpa, for the bald gene.

To Lee’s Mom from Cathy: Best mentor ever for modeling hospitality.

To Grandma Rita from Rachel: Colorful shoes, colorful personality, colorful language.

To Craig’s Dad from Michele: Wonderful laugh, shaking shoulders, twinkly eyes.

To Grandpa Tom from Rachel: Outlined tools; everything has a place.

To Craig’s Mom from Craig: Complete compassion, family passion, ankle fashion.

To Grandma Joanie from Amber: Mom’s bed made; Grandma was here.

So today, Craig and I have written our six-word tributes, he to a mentor and former boss, me to a friend.

To Levi from Craig: Man within whom hope springs eternal.

To Julie from Lee: From powerful pen, discovery, growth, beauty.

Now we invite you to post a tribute in the Comment section below (and even send it to that person). We all want to matter to someone. Please take a minute to let another know how they matter to you.


  1. To Lee from the Kolenich’s: A wonderful legacy for your Mom!