Lauren Rutherford Befus ’03 has holes in her story. Helping others close the holes in theirs is her dream job.
Befus’ Grandma Betty Jane lived a rollercoaster life. After she died, her inquisitive granddaughter had questions the rest of the family couldn’t answer. No one had asked, and Betty Jane hadn’t told her stories and secrets.
Working at a daily newspaper, Befus met WWII vets who hadn’t shared their life-shaking experiences either. Later, as a lay pastor officiating at funerals, she heard families tell her over and over, “We wish we knew more about him.”
Then Befus’ father-in-law asked her to write his life story as a Christmas gift for his children. The book she made of his memories “brought the house down,” Befus said. “Right then I knew I’d found my dream work.”
Befus calls herself a “life storyteller” and her business Memory Lane Jane, a nod to the enigmatic Betty Jane. Her deep conviction: Everybody’s story is worth telling. “I’m just there to sit with someone as they tell the story they want to tell,” she said. She does encourage people to “tell the hard parts, too. The successes are great, but what really helps younger generations is knowing how their loved one survived failures, tragedies, and mistakes.”
Though families can record their stories themselves, Befus noted they usually don’t. “Our lives are busy. We typically don’t make time to interview our loved ones—and then suddenly it’s too late.”
Adding photos, newspaper clippings, recipes, report cards, and other memorabilia, Befus turns each story into a book uniquely designed to reflect the storyteller. When her clients hold the finished book, “their first response is usually surprise and awe,” she said. “They can’t believe their lives are so beautiful.”
Befus added that while at Calvin she heard the same message repeatedly: Every life has value, every life matters. “The kindness and respect shown to every person at Calvin fostered kindness and respect in me and led me to this ministry.”