Friday, July 29, 2016

Never Too Late To Live Forever

A friend and potential client called me in May. For years she had been saying she wanted to capture her mother's life story before her mother got much older. Her mother repeatedly said she "had nothing important to say". My friend had been pleading with her mother to reconsider, saying her 3 siblings and her viewed the mother's life as one of excitement, turmoil, drama and reconciliation. "You know, Mom, we love you and want to know what happened. How did you and Dad do it with four kids?!?"

With this phone call, I had hoped she was calling to say, "We're ready".

Sadly, she was calling to say Mom had passed away quietly. There had been a flurry of activity to make sure she was comfortable during her last days, and then a week where everyone sat with her and just waited, spoke with her and watched. All the family was there and everyone took turns reminiscing about the good ol' days, the bad ol' days and the odd and unforgettable days that happened in-between. There was much laughter and often sudden sadness when her health took a turn for the worse.

My friend recounted to me a few wonderful tales she had heard about her late father and some of his failed attempts at moving the family out of their old, dilapidated neighborhood. Before they moved to the place where the family lived for the last 30 years, their childhoods were challenging at best. Now, having grown up in a more harmonious environment, they could look back with admiration for his persistence in improving his and his family's lot. I listened patiently when she said she wished she had recorded her Mom's story earlier, or how she wished I could've been there alongside the bed to record it all. It is such a shame to hear this all-too-frequent lament.

I mentioned that while the stories were still fresh and everyone was still around, how about the siblings recording a "DocuMemory"? - a memory biography of sorts. Two days later we were spending a few hours getting all the new info and old clarifications on tape and saved forever. Soon after, we presented the family a living memory movie of the four children's recollections of their beloved mother & father. Accompanied by photos and home movies, this whole-life story motion picture became a custom tribute to a beautiful woman who gave her time, love and determination for her husband and family. Instead of only hearing names and dates and places, the kids created a biography seen from the eyes of the recipients of this this woman's good nature. Each of them mentioned they never consciously felt the emotions that they were feeling now. One quoted Joni Mitchell's "You don't know what you've got til it's gone..." line. They all agreed they felt a unifying sense of closure and completeness, and were flushed with joy instead of mournfulness.

Though never recorded during her lifetime, the family made sure her story would never disappear. Two of the family members who had rarely spoken to each other for decades were now planning trips with their estranged families to "make up for lost years". The joint tribute brought them closer together once more. We have since received a request for 6 more DVDs because their kids want their own copies to remember "Granna".

It's never too late to honor a life lived. There is an old proverb:

"We each die twice. Once when our body dies and once when the last person who remembers us dies". 

Keeping a life story alive by sharing memories touches everyone's life who knew them or will ever be a descendant of them. They, in essence, live forever.

Don't delay. TimesStories. Always moving.

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