July 21, 2017

The continuing impact of Personal Legacy Archives

'I'm going to watch it a million times':

 Dave Pantinella+Sister

Dave Patinella, 44, of Long Beach, California, and his sister Gina Rae Witt, 43, lost their father Guisto Patinella, in 1994 from cancer at age 63. Back in 1971, Guisto had recorded a commercial for Allstate Insurance, but his children had never seen the video. As a wedding present to her brother, Gina contacted Allstate to find the video, and they managed to track it down on an old reel of footage. The company then filmed the siblings' touching reactions to 'seeing' their father for the first time in 20 years

Days Before He Died, This Teen YouTube Star Left Behind A Video That's Inspiring Millions

Ben Breedlove was the kind of kid everyone wanted to be. But he had a heart condition that he knew could make every day his last. What he did with his final days inspired millions.

 Ben Breedlove2

Je suis le bebe (link to YouTube video with English subtitles)

 Francine Christope

Francine Christophe was only eight when she was sent with her mother to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.  She tells a wonderful story about a piece of chocolate that concludes some 60 years later.

Heartbreaking Story Of A Man Who Took A Polaroid Every Day For 18 Years Until The Day He Died

The project began on March 31st, 1979, when the native New Yorker (and then a college student) took a single photograph. He then took a picture every day for the next 18 years, a tradition he maintained right until the day he died in 1997. Armed with a Polaroid SX-70, Livingston went about documenting every facet of his daily life, from friends, family and relationships, to his job as a filmmaker and photographer and the everyday happenings on the streets of New York.

The latter stages of his project became more introspective as he documented his battle with cancer following his diagnosis in 1997. ..Jamie left behind a project comprised of over 6,000 pictures, and in them, he left a truly remarkable life portrait unlike any other.

'If you are reading this, I have passed'

After Mitchell Whisenhunt, 26, of Longview, Texas died from complications due to Marfan's Syndrome, his wife, Ashley Whisenhunt, discovered 30 letters  he left behind for both her and their young daughter. She says the most special letters, however, are addressed to their 1-year-old daughter, for which there are letters each year from ages two to 18. Now they will open one on every birthday and anniversary after he died, so Mitchell will continue to live on in their lives.

Dying of Cancer, Beth O'Rourke' Did a ‘Magnificent’ Thing Before Her Funeral That’s Touching Hearts Far Beyond Those She Loved

Those who knew Beth O’Rourke said the Massachusetts wife and mother of two — who died last week after a seven-year battle with cancer — was nothing if not a big-time planner. Her husband Brendan said, "Beth liked to plan everything. She planned the funeral. She planned anything you can think of. She didn’t want the burden on her family.”  She wrote her own obituary

“I died Thursday, April 16, 2015 surrounded by family, in the arms of my husband and anam cara, Brendan Patrick O’Rourke.  I was 44 years old. I was a survivor. I was blessed in this life with two amazing children; Courtney Elizabeth age 11 and Seamus Brendan aged 8....

“I LOVED my life,” Beth added. “I loved a long run, to sit quietly by the lake, to read and dance and sing and be silly with our children. We loved watching summer storms blow across the water. I loved to chat and laugh with my sisters and friends, until tears ran down our legs! Brendan and I enjoyed many trips together, most enjoyable were those to Ireland, visiting family to share a pint and some good 'craic'.”....Of all the things I did in this life, nothing compared to being with Brendan and our children. I fought every day to stay alive and to be with them. No person could ever ask for a more loving and supportive husband, always my champion, always. I enjoyed every moment we shared; the great ones, the sad ones, the easy and the hard.

But cancer does not care who it takes, who it hurts, or honor or love. It comes into your life and starts to break the threads that hold you and you are left to see pieces of yourself slip away and dreams fade. We were clung only to each other with pure love and faith binding us, in the end is when the most amazing thing happens, cancer loses its strength and grace appears. We need to see it. We accept it, and go with it. Grace and love win, not cancer. ....

Beth ended her obituary with, “Forgive someone today and fill that spot with love.”

Sometimes, someone else captures what you can not.

Heartbreaking video of father singing ‘Blackbird’ to his dying newborn son just days after his wife, 30, died in her sleep

During the pregnancy, Ashley would often feel Lennon moving to music so Chris asked if he could bring his guitar into the NICU and play for his dying son. Lennon James Picco was delivered by emergency C-section at 24 weeks after Chris' wife Ashley unexpectedly and tragically passed away in her sleep. Musician Chris Picco singing Blackbird to his son,  .  Hours after Chris tenderly serenaded his baby son, Lennon died, aged just four days...
"I have been so blessed and honored to love him before he was formed, to cherish him while mommy carried him, meet him face to precious face, and hold his perfect little body while we said "goodbye for now".

 Chris Picco Sings Blackbird

James Wright Foley was a freelance war correspondent during the Syrian Civil War when he was abducted by ISIS in November, 2012, in northwestern Syria.  He remained a captive until he was beheaded in August 2014. Because he American, he was not allowed to send any letters so he asked a fellow hostage, a Danish photojournalist who was due to be released to commit his letter to memory.  Danish photojournalist Daniel Rye Ottosen, 25, spent 13 months imprisoned alongside Foley and, when released, his first call was to Foley’s mum Diane, when he dictated the lengthy letter to her.

Parents of James Foley release the heartbreaking and hopeful final letter he sent home

In his final words to the ones he loved, James Foley thanked his family for getting him through his almost two year hostage ordeal, saying the memories of home 'takes me away and happiness fills my heart'. He mentioned every family member  - his mother, his father and his grandmother, who he was very close to, his brothers and his sisters and his nieces and nephews. He ended on a hopeful note by saying he’d be there for his sister Katie’s wedding.

‘He said he loved them all and he knew they loved him and were praying for him and fighting for his release. "I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all especially when I pray. I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 PM | Permalink

March 16, 2017

An Unconventional Self-Portrait

Druksland, a cartographic display capturing the life story of artist Michael Druk.


The Israeli artist Michael Druks mapped Druksland, a cartographic display capturing his life story. Outlining the shape of his head, Druks’ conceptual map incorporates features you would see on a topographical map, including coordinates, bodies of water, and a map legend. Yet the map also serves as an unconventional self-portrait, the coordinates corresponding to major life events, significant people, and important institutions. Druks shows how the contours of a face could be a more complex terrain than any geology on Earth....

Just like a topographical map, the lines and graduated hues show elevation, while the blue represents bodies of water and the brown indicates mountain ranges. “The eyes are like a lake,” Druks says. “The lips are a bit like a river. The blue can represent either air or water aiming either up or down—outside or inside.” 
An assortment of words and phrases are scattered across his face and head, referencing influential teachers, addresses of apartments, cities, names of family members, friends, schools, galleries, and owners. He also has points with the names of fellow artists, whom Druks thought were important contributors and detractors of the Israeli art scene
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:23 PM | Permalink

March 2, 2017

Mum's List

Husband of dying mother who left a checklist for her children reveals new film about her life reduced him to tears

Kate Greene, from Somerset, died of cancer in 2010 at the age of 38.  She left behind husband St John and two young sons, Reef and Finn.  Her checklist for them included having boys roller skate in a museum. Her story, based on St John's book, is now a new movie, Mum's List

 Mother Kategreene+2Sons

The story of Kate Greene's courageous battle with cancer and the moving 100-strong list of hopes, ambitions and instructions that she wrote for her husband and sons days before she died has captured the public imagination, selling more than 100,000 copies in two just two months.

Four years on, and the story has grown into the new film starring Emilia Fox, and Rafe Spall as St John battles to build a new life without her...As he watches the scene unfold through the gloom of a cinema screening room, St John Greene's eyes fill with tears. There, in the opening sequence of a major new film, is his late wife Kate, played with unbearable realism by actress Emilia Fox.

'I bawled my eyes out when I saw the film for the first time,' he admits today. 'She really did Kate proud. She captured her exactly. That smile. Her exuberance. The passionate, all-consuming love for our kids. It was like watching Kate return to life.'

Mum's List ....ranged from the eminently sensible to the thrilling: 'Try not to let them go into the Forces; always kiss the boys goodbye and good night; buy a family dining table so you can have meals together.'  Item by item, she set down her hopes for her children's future.There were requests for skiing and boating; trips to see the Northern Lights and international sports fixtures; camping, caravanning and picnics in favorite places. And, poignantly, a request her husband find a new wife to help bring up her boys.

In the intervening years St John and his sons have fulfilled many of Kate's wishes, although not yet all. 'One important one was to have the boys roller skate in a museum, hilariously something they always wanted to do,' he says. 'To my astonishment the Natural History Museum happily agreed to close for a bit and let us do just that. That was one of the most fun.....

Mindful that one of Kate's hopes was that he find another woman to help provide a stable family for their sons, he has a new partner. 'We are a family again,' he says. 'But Kate will be forever in our lives.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:45 PM | Permalink

September 12, 2016

Last letter before you die

Your ‘last letter’ before you die: 7 things you must not forget to say by Christine Stoddard

A Stanford doctor has created a project that encourages people to tell their loved ones how they feel about them and provide closure—long before any last words are necessary.....

No one likes to think about death, whether it’s our own or that of a loved one. But one unexpected part of the grieving process can be joy and appreciation for having known a beautiful person or having lived a beautiful life. That’s why Stanford doctor VJ Periyakoil, who specializes in multicultural aging studies and geriatrics, founded the Stanford Friends and Family Letter Project—to help us all banish any potential regret and instead encourage gratitude and love. Last year, Periyakoil and her team created a free “last letter” template in eight languages that anyone may use to recognize, forgive, and appreciate family and friends before they die.

The template addresses seven of what Periyakoil calls “life review tasks”:
Task 1: Acknowledge the important people in your life.
Task 2: Remember treasured moments from your life.
Task 3: Apologize to those you love if you hurt them.
Task 4: Forgive those who love you if they have hurt you.
Task 5: Express your gratitude for all the love and care you have received.
Task 6: Tell your friends and family how much you love them.
Task 7: Take a moment to say “goodbye.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 PM | Permalink

August 30, 2016

The last days of a hiker lost on the Appalachian Trail

She disappeared from the Appalachian Trail in July 2013.  But it took more than 2 years before her body was discovered in October 2015.  Lost for at least 19 days in the Maine wilderness, the 66-year-old died as she had lived: with courage and with grace.
Kathryn Miles tells the story of the last days of Gerry Largay in the Boston Globe ‘When you find my body’

She tore a page from her journal. “When you find my body,” she wrote, “please call my husband George . . . and my daughter Kerry. It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me — no matter how many years from now. Please find it in your heart to mail the contents of this bag to one of them.”
Geraldine Largay survived at least 19 days in the Maine wilderness. George and his kids had always held out hope that, through some miracle, she still might be alive. If it had to be true that she was really gone, they at least wished for a quick death. “It was exactly the opposite,” George says. “That was gut-wrenching. I knew she was one tough cookie; I just didn’t realize how tough she was.”
EVEN IN HER FINAL DAYS, Gerry Largay worried about what might hurt or inconvenience her family. At her campsite, she had chopped up her credit card and buried the pieces so that no one could exploit it. She kept her driver’s license so that it would be easy to identify her. She neatly stacked her pots and pans and sealed the journal she’d been keeping in a waterproof bag, along with the instructions, George please read. XOXO. She folded her glasses and placed them into a storage pocket on her tent. Then she tucked herself into her sleeping bag for the last time.

In her journal, Gerry wrote that she wanted her family to know she was sorry — that no hike was more important than them. She wrote each of them a long letter, putting into words her gratitude for all they had shared and offering thoughts about how they could move forward.

“They are more than love letters,” George explains. “They are life letters.”

My deepest love to you, Gerry wrote in one of the last of them. And to all my friends. I pray to see you all in heaven. 

 Hiker Gerry Largay-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

May 10, 2016

"I'm not sure if you'll ever see this, but if you do, just know that I love you very much"

Wife Finds Note From Dead Husband Written Under Workbench He Made For Her

When we write our loved ones a letter meant to be read after we die we're usually just trying to put our feelings into words whether the letter is ever read or not.  Many of these love letters end up squirreled away in a box somewhere or similarly hidden from sight, so when a letter is found after the loved one has passed away it feels like a minor miracle.

The touching story shared by an Imgur user about a love letter found after his dad's death sounds more like a major miracle- because the letter was written on the underside of a workbench he'd built for his wife.

 Love Under Workbench
The letter reads:

"I love you Becca. Whatever day this is, I hope it's a good one. God truly answered my prayers the day he gave me you. I know that these days are the best I'll ever have, and I'm glad you're in them. I'm not sure if you'll ever see this, but if you do, just know that I love you very much. If there is one thing want in life, it is to be as good to you as you are to me. If I can do that, I'll be the happiest man alive. - I love you beautiful wife. - Mason
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 AM | Permalink

"I'm not sure if you'll ever see this, but if you do, just know that I love you very much"

A charming way to create an artifact of love, but not recommended unless you have children who will scramble under anything unlike your spouse.

Wife Finds Note From Dead Husband Written Under Workbench He Made For Her

When we write our loved ones a letter meant to be read after we die we're usually just trying to put our feelings into words whether the letter is ever read or not.  Many of these love letters end up squirreled away in a box somewhere or similarly hidden from sight, so when a letter is found after the loved one has passed away it feels like a minor miracle.

The touching story shared by an Imgur user about a love letter found after his dad's death sounds more like a major miracle- because the letter was written on the underside of a workbench he'd built for his wife.

 Love Under Workbench
The letter reads:

"I love you Becca. Whatever day this is, I hope it's a good one. God truly answered my prayers the day he gave me you. I know that these days are the best I'll ever have, and I'm glad you're in them. I'm not sure if you'll ever see this, but if you do, just know that I love you very much. If there is one thing want in life, it is to be as good to you as you are to me. If I can do that, I'll be the happiest man alive. - I love you beautiful wife. - Mason
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 AM | Permalink

February 15, 2016

Gifts from one generation to the next

Farmer Boy and the Value of Handing Down Stories

Whose sled is that, Father?” he asks, bewildered. “Is it—it isn’t for me?”

Mother laughs and Father twinkles his eyes and asks, “Do you know any other nine-year-old that wants it?”

It is Almanzo’s ninth birthday. In his family’s farmhouse in upstate New York, his parents have just sent him to the woodshed, where a new sled surprises him.

The reason Almanzo cannot believe it is for him is that he already received his birthday present earlier that morning—a new calf-yoke that Father had made him for harnessing his own little oxen, Star and Bright. His father had helped him put the yoke on the calves, and then told Almanzo he would leave him to figure out the rest.
I don’t remember a thing about my ninth birthday, but I know all about Almanzo Wilder’s from the pages of Farmer Boy. The stories Laura Ingalls Wilder tells in this book about her husband’s childhood are as endearing as they are astounding.

Almanzo’s stories, like the gifts he received on his ninth birthday, are gifts from one generation to the next. They are gifts he gave to his wife and child, and to all of us who meet his boyhood self through these pages. As his calf-yoke signified a bond of trust, so do the stories that entrust to us his personal memories. As his hand-sled entertained and delighted him, so do his youthful adventures entertain and delight all of us who turn the pages where his childhood stays imprinted forever.

We have the treasure of these stories today because Almanzo told them to Laura, and Laura wrote them down. If he had not taken the time to share so many details about his life, would their daughter Rose ever have known so much about her father’s youth, and about her grandparents, aunts, and uncle? Or would the childhood of Almanzo Wilder—which has enchanted readers of Farmer Boy for nearly a century—have been lost to the winds of time?

When I read aloud (again) this book recently with our children, I wondered: When was the last time I told them stories of my childhood? How much do they know about what it was like for me growing up? Have I given them the gift that Almanzo gave his wife and child—the same gift my grandfather also gave to me?
Our children are a part of us—sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and students and friends. When we tell them about ourselves, like Almanzo told Laura and Rose, or like my grandfather told me, we give them a lasting gift—a gift that knits generations together. Through sharing our words and our memories, we leave a part of ourselves with those we already know and love, and with those yet to be born, whom we may never meet in this life but already love.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:10 AM | Permalink

November 24, 2015

Great Thanksgiving Listen

Via The Great Thanksgiving Listen at the History blog,  I found out about the new StoryCorps app which guides you along an interview with an elder anytime.   


Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:58 PM | Permalink

The Power of a Letter with Words of Love

Veteran Moved To Tears When A Letter He Wrote To His Wife During WWII Is Found

 Power Of Letter

Precious mementos such as letters, trinkets and photographs are far too easy to lose during your lifetime, and when one of these beloved items is lost it leaves a hole in your heart that never heals.

Veteran Bill Moore was lonely and missing his significant other, just like most guys stationed overseas during WWII, and just like the others he made himself feel less lonely by writing his beloved Bernadean letters.

When Bill came home he married Bernadean, the letters becoming part of their love's legacy, but somewhere along the way one very important letter disappeared, only to reappear 70 years later in a thrift store in Colorado.

Watch Moore read this letter  and talk about his wife who died 5 years ago in a touching video on YouTube.  His daughter remarks, I could see the true depth of his love."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:51 PM | Permalink

November 1, 2015

"What I care most about is learning your reasons for loving life"

Jacques Lusseyran: Blind hero of the French Resistance who survived Buchenwald,

“When you said to me: ‘Tell me the story of your life,’ I was not eager to begin. But when you added, ‘What I care most about is learning your reasons for loving life,’ then I became eager, for that was a real subject.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:13 PM | Permalink

August 31, 2015

"I wrote myself into existence to stop existence being taken from me"

That's what Kate Gross said about the book she wrote for her sons as a way of telling them who she was .  She died from cancer, aged 36.

Her little book, described as a 'heartbreakingly honest memoir' has become a best-seller and for her husband Billy a "source of strength since she died"

 Kate Gross Husband Billy Sons-Oscar+Isaac

Kate wanted to die well, but she wanted to live abundantly even more, and in the short time left to her she discovered how. “I am wired for happiness”, she wrote, astonished by the wonder to be found in everyday things after her world was turned upside down, when she fell ill on a flight home from California in October 2012.

Taking a taxi straight to hospital it emerged that the digestive trouble she had suffered from for years, missed by doctors, was advanced colon cancer. She was 34. She and Billy had been planning to have another child. After the initial shock, she began the blog that became an inspiration to thousands. I wrote myself into existence to stop existence being taken from me.”

Late Fragments: Everything I want to Tell You (About this Magnificent Life),
The memoir, out in paperback next week, was published a few days after she died, last year, and became an instant bestseller – not, I think, because it taps so intelligently into the stream of literature about death and dying, but because from the hugeness of her heart flow wise, funny lessons on how to live.

The book was initially written for them, a way of telling them who she was, but its insights have reached far and wide.
She had a high-achieving career, first as Tony Blair’s private secretary for parliamentary and home affairs and latterly CEO of his charity Africa Governance Initiative for which she was appointed OBE. “She didn’t always know she was going to die young,” Blair said of her. “But she lived as if she might…”

“I found the book a source of strength after she died,” says Boyle, “because of her clarion call to find joy and wonder in life. I can find her in it and it helps me day-to-day. I see it as a way of the boys knowing how amazing their mum was. Other people say it has changed their lives, they do things differently, they re-discover the things they loved doing when they were young. ”
“When Kate knew she was going to die she talked to people who had lost a parent early – and the overriding news was one of optimism: they grew up to be okay, but they also understood the preciousness of life. That reassured her. It was the thing that had worried us most.”
Drawing on the legacy of happiness she left and the support of family and friends keeps him afloat. “We had a wonderful time together for ten years - although she’s not here now, that cannot be taken away.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:27 PM | Permalink

August 17, 2015

"That box became the most important thing in the world for me"

I've not seen a better example of how a personal legacy archives can affect a child's life

When I’m Gone by Rafael Zoehler

Death is always a surprise. No one expects it. Not even terminal patients think they are going to die in a day or two. ….We are never ready. It is never the right time. …..It was no different with my father. In fact, his death was even more unexpected. He was gone at age 27.  He never told me he was going to die. Even when he was lying on a hospital bed with tubes all over him, he didn’t say a word. My father made plans for the next year even though he knew he wouldn’t be around in the next month.
Then, my father was once again a father to me. With a shoebox under her arm, a nurse came by to comfort me. The box was full of sealed envelopes, with sentences where the address should be. I couldn’t understand exactly what was going on. The nurse then handed me a letter. The only letter that was out of the box.

“Your dad asked me to give you this letter. He spent the whole week writing these, and he wants you read it. Be strong.” the nurse said, holding me.

The envelope read WHEN I’M GONE. I opened it.


If you’re reading this, I’m dead. I’m sorry. I knew I was going to die.

I didn’t want to tell you what was going to happen, I didn’t want to see you crying. Well, it looks like I’ve made it. I think that a man who’s about to die has the right to act a little bit selfish.

Well, as you can see, I still have a lot to teach you. After all, you don’t know crap about anything. So I wrote these letters for you. You must not open them before the right moment, OK? This is our deal…

That box became the most important thing in the world for me. I told my mother not to open it. Those letters were mine and no one else could read them.

I still remember the slap she gave me after I pronounced the word “bar”. I’ll admit that I deserved it. I learned that over the years. At the time, when my skin was still burning from the slap, I remembered the box and the letters. I remembered a specific letter, which read “WHEN YOU HAVE THE WORST FIGHT EVER WITH YOUR MOM”.

Now apologize to her.

I don’t know why you’re fighting and I don’t know who’s right. But I know your mother. So a humble apology is the best way to get over this. I’m talking about a down-on-your-knees apology.

She’s your mother, kid. She loves you more than anything in this world. Do you know that she went through natural birth because someone told her that it would be the best for you? Have you ever seen a woman giving birth? Do you need a bigger proof of love than that?

Apologize. She’ll forgive you.

Love, dad.

My father was not a great writer, he was just a bank clerk. But his words had a great impact on me. They were words that carried more wisdom than all of my 15 years of age at the time.
My father followed me through my entire life. He was with me, even though he was not near me. His words did what no one else could: they gave me strength to overcome countless challenging moments in my life. He would always find a way to put a smile on my face when things looked grim, or clear my mind during those angry moments.

WHEN YOU GET MARRIED made me feel very emotional. But not so much as WHEN YOU BECOME A FATHER.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:03 AM | Permalink

July 30, 2015

Compose a Keepsake Cookbook for the Mourners at Your Funeral

This is a wonderful idea

Heather King quotes from The essay “Funeral Cookbooks” by Alan Davidson, in The Penguin Book of Food and Drink

"There is a custom which I have met only in Thailand, whereby a person composes a small cookbook before her or his death, so that it can be distributed as a keepsake to the mourners attending the funeral.

The recipes, typically no more than a score, are likely to be those which the deceased especially enjoyed. They need not have been composed or used by the deceased, but often are. Sometimes they incorporate little anecdotes and attributions. . . .

The idea is attractive. With what better keepsake could one depart from a funeral? What other would equally well keep one's memory green among friends? If one is to issue some sort of posthumous message, avoiding anything egotistical or hortatory, is not a simple message about enjoyable food the best that could be devised? It is true that one could equally well compose a list of 'books I have enjoyed,' but that might seem didactic, even patronising; whereas a little bouquet of recipes arrives on a more relaxed note."

And then Heather offers her own recipe for Tuscan Rosemary and Pine Nut Bars which I will definitely try.

¼ cup pine nuts
½ cup (1 stick) utter, cut in 10 pieces
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary or1 teaspoon dried
1 cup flour

Spread pine nuts on baking sheet and toast, stirring once or twice, at 350 degrees until a shade darker and fragrant, about 5 minutes. (Watch carefully; pine nuts burn easily.)

Melt butter in microwave or in medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar, rosemary and pine nuts. Stir in flour to make dough; it will be stiff.

Pat dough evenly into ungreased 8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees until golden and firm at edges, about 20 minutes. Cool pan on rack about 2 minutes, then use sharp knife to cut bars into 16 squares. Let cool in pan at least 10 minutes before removing with small spatula. (Store, tightly covered, up to 5 days or freeze up to 1 month.)

16 cookies. Each cookie 105 calories….
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

April 27, 2015

"When I opened the box, it was like a museum."

When Phillip Toledano was six, his sister was killed in a fire. Forty years later, he found a way to bring her back.  The Lost Child

Three decades later, Toledano’s mother died. Three years after that, his father followed. “When your parents die, they leave you with a lot of unopened boxes,” he tells me. “Literally and metaphorically. You can choose to open them or not. I chose to open them all.” The premise of When I Was Six is a literal box found among his mother’s effects – a scruffy, Sellotaped cardboard item from which Toledano drew objects, cards, official documents and family photographs. All of them related to Claudia. “When I opened the box,” he says, “it was like a museum”.

And a museum, in a way, is what he has made of it, systematically photographing its contents, discovering in the process not only his dead sister but his parents and their desire to shield him from grief. In the pages of his book, each piece – a piggy bank, a pencil with her name on it, a note to their mother – is shot in partial shadow, as if left lying on a window sill, and only occasionally coming into view, or consciousness. Interspersed with these images are landscapes concocted by Toledano to look like they are shot in space – reflecting his childhood preoccupation, but also what he calls the “static hiss” that characterised the years after Claudia’s death.

 Lost Child
“I’m talking about very obvious things,” Toledano tries to persuade me, “parents and death and aging and children”. But in his devotion to commemorating private moments long-term, in respecting the everyday as well as the traumatic, Toledano is producing an extraordinary document. If Richard Linklater’s film Boyhood was impressive for its loyalty to a lifelong idea, then Toledano’s has an added shiver of reality. At a time when everyone photographs everything and every photograph is ephemeral, Toledano’s images, however apparently quotidian, uphold the opposite: they are intended against the act of forgetting.
There is a sort of chronological double-take at work in When I Was Six, because although some of the material relates to Claudia’s death, much of it was amassed throughout her life, long before Toledano’s mother could have known it would become a memorial. “My mother was like that,” Toledano says casually, “she kept everything.” But I wonder if Toledano is now doing something similar, not hoarding objects perhaps, but becoming, through his photographs, an archivist of his own life. “I’ve never thought about that,” he says, laughing. “But I guess I’m similar to my mum: she kept the things, and I keep… the feelings.”
It’s important to Toledano that these events can be spoken about. Already, the raft of responses he’s had to his books have, in his own description, made his life better. “People rely on the McWord vocabulary of ‘I’m sorry for your loss’,” he suggests. “I despise all those words – ‘I lost my grandfather’. Lost him where? In the supermarket? I don’t want to use the suburbia of words, I want to use the word that’s in the heart of the thing.”
And so, he says, while most art is in a literal sense fairly useless, this work of his has turned out to be useful to other people. For that unintentional effect, he’s incredibly grateful. “We live behind such high walls most of the time, and art has the ability to destroy them in a very quick blow. It’s beautiful when that happens.”

Phillip Toledano's new book When I Was Six is not yet available in the U.S.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2015

Grief hasn't changed

Mummies in Korea are rare.  So when archeologists uncovered a 500-year-old mummy, they were surprised to find a letter from his wife on top of the body

The Letter to Won's Father

 Letter To Won's Father

To Won's Father
June 1, 1586

You always said, "Dear, let's live together until our hair turns gray and die on the same day. How could you pass away without me? Who should I and our little boy listen to and how should we live? How could you go ahead of me?

How did you bring your heart to me and how did I bring my heart to you? Whenever we lay down together you always told me, "Dear, do other people cherish and love each other like we do? Are they really like us?" How could you leave all that behind and go ahead of me?

I just cannot live without you. I just want to go to you. Please take me to where you are. My feelings toward you I cannot forget in this world and my sorrow knows no limit. Where would I put my heart in now and how can I live with the child missing you?

Please look at this letter and tell me in detail in my dreams. Because I want to listen to your saying in detail in my dreams I write this letter and put it in. Look closely and talk to me.

When I give birth to the child in me, who should it call father? Can anyone fathom how I feel? There is no tragedy like this under the sky.

You are just in another place, and not in such a deep grief as I am. There is no limit and end [to my sorrows] that I write roughly. Please look closely at this letter and come to me in my dreams and show yourself in detail and tell me. I believe I can see you in my dreams. Come to me secretly and show yourself. There is no limit to what I want to say and I stop here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

Nearly 20 years after his death, Morrie Schwartz lives on

 Prof  Morris Schwartz

Nearly 20 years after his death, Morrie Schwartz lives on.  In the throes of a fatal illness, Morrie Schwartz was that rare voice eager to talk about his impending death.

"The story of a retired Brandeis sociology professor, stricken with ALS — Lou Gehrig’s disease — who was given 12 to 18 months to live, was surprisingly upbeat. Rather than curling up in the fetal position, Morrie Schwartz irreverently held a memorial service for himself so he could hear friends tell him what he meant to them while he was still alive. Always the teacher, Morrie — that’s what he wanted to be called — decided to use whatever time he had left to conduct an ongoing class for friends and colleagues who’d stop by his Newton home — lessons on how to live as he stared death in the face.

What no one knew at the time, least of all Morrie, was that nearly 20 years after his death, he’d still be teaching, all around the world, because of an improbable cascade of events — including the publication of a best-selling book about him, “Tuesdays With Morrie.”

It began with Jack Thomas’s story in the Globe.
Over the next six months as the disease progressed, Ted Koppel had three nationally televised conversations with Morrie where he talked of ALS robbing him of his ability to walk, to wipe his behind, and eventually to swallow. But Morrie was determined never to let his descent into dependency rob him of his dignity.

“The truth is,” he said, “once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2015

Ghost Dad


Photographer Adds Father Who Died Before Seeing His Son To Family Portrait

Sierra Sharry and Lane Smith were supposed to have a son in 2014, but Lane died in a tragic accident. Sierra recently asked a photographer to insert Lane into a family portrait of her and her son. Kayli Rene was more than glad to help. Kayli used a warm family portrait of Sierra and her baby son Taos and merged it with a picture of Lane. The photo went viral shortly after Kayli posted it on her business’ Facebook page.

On the day of the tragedy in July 2014, the couple was going to a jet boat race, since Lane’s family was there, and Lane was nothing if not a family man. Sierra had to leave early, since the July heat wasn’t good for then 8 month pregnant woman. Unfortunately, Lane suffered an accident and passed away.

After posting the image, Kayli has received a veritable onslaught of messages from people interested in similar projects, as well as general well-wishers. There’s a fund set up to support Sierra and Taos, too. As for the picture, here’s what Sierra herself had to say: “Thanks to Kayli I now have a picture of my little family. It brought me to tears as I know it will many if y’all. This is how I picture us. Taos and I living our lives the best we can with Lane ALWAYS watching over our shoulder.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:12 PM | Permalink

February 14, 2015

Print out your most treasured photographs or risk losing them

Print out your photos or risk losing them, warns Google boss

He may have helped to build the internet, but Dr Vinton ‘Vint’ Cerf has urged computer users to print out their most treasured photographs, or risk losing them.  The Google vice president warned that as operating systems and software become more sophisticated, documents and images stored using older technology will become increasingly inaccessible.

He went on to say that our dependence on technology could lead to the 21st century being a new dark age in history, with any evidence of our culture lost in a digital 'black hole'.  In centuries to come, future historians looking back on the current era could be confronted by a digital desert comparable with the dark ages - the post-Roman period in Western Europe about which relatively little is known because of the scarcity of written records.

If you want to pass on your most treasured photos, you must print them out and save them in archival boxes.  It's easy enough to do.
Over time, go through your digital photos, copying only the best and store them on a flash drive.  You can then take them to a camera store or even Walgreen's to have them printed out.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:55 PM | Permalink

February 12, 2015

“I remember! You smell the smells. You hear the sounds. You feel like you are back in time and place.”

Goodwill Worker Sifting Through Donations Makes Remarkable Find After Noticing It ‘Didn’t Belong’

What did she find? A series of love letters — all addressed to a woman named Rosie Hill.

The letters were written in 1973 by Hill’s now ex-husband as he served in the Vietnam War. The 64-year-old wasn’t even aware they existed. “I didn’t even know we had those,” she told the CBS Evening News.

The letters found Hill at the perfect time. She told the CBS Evening News that she is slowly losing her memories because of an unknown illness.  “It seems like a lot of my life is gone and I can’t find it,” she said.

However, as the 64-year-old reads the letters, she is flooded with former memories.

“I remember!” Hill exclaimed. “You smell the smells. You hear the sounds. You feel like you are back in time and place.”

 Lost Love Letters
YouTube link

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

January 23, 2015

"Don’t make the same mistakes my parents did"

Bethany Mandel offers Eight Parenting Lessons I Learned From My Parents’ Early Deaths
Don’t make the same mistakes my parents did. Prepare for death, so if it happens, your children will be as secure as possible.

1. Buy life insurance
2. Make a Will and Arrange Guardians for Your Kids
3. Write Down Your Recipes - The tastes of your childhood can disappear with your parents.
4. Print Photos and Make Albums
5. Write Down Family Stories
6. Give the Gift of Genealogy and Family History - Family history is important to me, probably because I have so little family left.
7. Compile Immediate Family Medical Histories
8. Make Memories, Not Money, the Priority

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink

November 21, 2014

He was just Grandpa Freddy. I didn't know he was a leading biophysics thinker

What other people can add to your Personal Legacy Archives.  What a gift Jane Richardson is making.

What Wikipedia Taught Me About My Grandfather

To me, he was Grandpa Freddy. To the scientific community, he was Frederic M. Richards, a leading biophysics thinker—something I never knew until I visited his entry after he died.

To me Frederic M. Richards was Grandpa Freddy, a jolly man who always wore a silly brown jacket with elbow patches, who delighted in showing me how to spin the lazy Susan at the breakfast table, who insisted I help him move a one-ton rock up his path, who challenged me to fruit-eating contests. To his parents and siblings he was the weird youngest son. To a generation of biophysicists he was, apparently, a defining thinker.

One of the wonderful parts of Wikipedia is that not only can you see the revision history, you can also see who made the changes. It turns out that in this case, almost the entire article was written by “dcrjsr,” or Jane S. Richardson, a 73-year-old biophysicist at Duke University and past president of the Biophysical Society.
Richardson is an important woman. It took us some time to find a time to talk between her research and speaking engagements. But once we did connect she was happy to talk. As busy as she was, though, editing Wikipedia was something she cared about a lot. “This is one of the things I’m looking forward to when I retire,” she told me.

Richardson started the Biophysics project because she felt that working on Wikipedia entries was something all scientists should be doing. “All of us refer to [Wikipedia],” she said.” Early on we were really negative about it, but most of us aren’t any more. In general it really is the place to start whenever you’re looking up something.” She also said the article would likely have influences she could never predict. I’m an example. “I would never have thought that this biography would be illuminating to his grandson,” she said.
That story isn’t in the Wikipedia page, of course. Those pages are written to show a public face, to explain what they’re known for and give a hint of who they are. But of course they don’t show the whole thing, and in their private lives people can be completely different. We all know that, even if we occasionally forget. But we also forget that what we know of our family is incomplete. A sense I’ve had my whole life of who my grandfather is can be transformed by the addition of a single fact from a stranger writing on the Internet. All the pieces are needed to see the whole structure. The problem with people, as opposed to proteins, is that we never know for sure we have all the pieces.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 AM | Permalink

June 7, 2014

Dying girl wrote secret message to her family on back of mirror

 Athena Orchard 13

Heartbroken family find inspirational 3,000-word secret message written on back of mirror after daughter, 13, dies of cancer

After their daughter lost her fight with cancer, Dean and  Caroline Orchard knew they had to face the devastating task of sorting through her belongings.

What they didn’t know was that  they would discover something that would make them feel closer to 13-year-old Athena than ever.
On the back of her bedroom mirror, the little girl had secretly written a 3,000 word message for her parents and siblings.

In it, she gives advice for them to live by and reveals her unshakeably positive attitude, writing: ‘Every day is special, so make the most of it. You could get a life-ending illness tomorrow so make the most of every day. Life is only bad if you make it bad.’

Mr Orchard, 33, said: ‘I started reading it but before long I had to stop because it was too much. It was heartbreaking.’

Athena was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, at the age of 12, after collapsing just before Christmas in the kitchen of the family’s home in New Parks, Leicester. She had an emergency seven-and-a-half hour operation to remove a tumour on her spine, followed by months of chemotherapy targeting the cancer in her spine, shoulder and head.

She lost her hair and much of her strength – but not her positive outlook. In marker pen on the back of the mirror, she wrote: ‘Happiness depends upon ourselves. Maybe it’s not about the happy ending, maybe it’s about the story. The purpose of life is a life of purpose. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.’
Despite treatment, Athena’s condition deteriorated quickly, and she died at home last week, surrounded by her family.

Days later, her parents discovered her message while moving the mirror that stood against her bedroom wall.
Mr Orchard, who gave up work as a landscape gardener when his daughter became ill, said: ‘I couldn’t believe it, I saw all this writing, it must have been about 3,000 words. It’s so touching. When I first saw it, it just blew me away.
Athena, who leaves behind six sisters and three brothers – Naysa, one, Letissia-Dior, two, Indika-Mayah, four, Tiana, five, Harley, eight, Porscha and Ethan, 11, Clayton, 14, and Ria, 17 – also wrote movingly about love, saying: ‘I’m waiting to fall in love with someone I can open my heart to. ‘Love is rare, life is strange, nothing lasts and people change.’
‘We’re keeping the mirror forever. Just reading her words felt like she was still here with us. She had such an incredible spirit.’

 Family Athena's Mirror
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:17 AM | Permalink

Heartbreaking letters of the men who didn't make it through D-Day

'If I don't come home, there's so much I mean to tell you…': Heartbreaking last letters of the men who didn't make it through D-Day revealed

The heroics of the men who fought valiantly to take Sword, Gold and Juno beaches on D-Day will never be forgotten but the stories of those who died are less well-remembered.

Now letters written by men preparing for D-Day and who didn't make it home are to be brought to life in a poignant documentary made to mark the 70th anniversary of the landings

Ahead of the assault on Normandy beaches, which would help mark the beginning of the end of World War Two, Captain Skinner wrote to his wife of eight years with whom he had two young daughters, Ann and Jane.

'As you know anything may happen at any moment and I cannot tell when you will receive this,' he noted. 'All the things I intended to say must be written.'

You and I have had some lovely happy years that now seemed to have past at lightning speed but I, and I'm sure you as well, can look back on them with some kind of contentment, knowing that in our love and need of each other, we have injured no-one,' he said.

'Although I would give anything to be back with you, I have not had any wish to back down from the job we have to do.

…'There is so much I mean to tell you, much of what you have heard before, but I mean it even more today.

'I shall always be grateful to the powers above for having been able to be with you, to have been loved by you. I'm sure I will be with you again soon and for good. Give my fondest love to my Ann and my Janey.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:42 AM | Permalink

April 14, 2014

Soldier's time capsule from WW1

Sealed for a century: 'Time capsule' from soldier who died on the Somme contains possessions that his parents couldn't bear to see - including the German shell that killed him

Private Edward Ambrose, from Hertfordshire, was killed on the Somme, just days he arrived at the front in 1916
After a telegram telling of his death, his last belongings were sent back from the trenches to his heartbroken parents  But the family left the case unopened, finding its contents too painful to look at, and it was placed in an attic for years.

After visiting a local historical exhibition, Private Ambrose's nephew has now opened the package for the first time.  The case includes black and white photos of his family, letters from his parents, a half-smoked pipe and cigarettes.  The items, including a locket with photos of Private Ambrose and his sweetheart, Gladys, will go display later this year

 Wwi-Soldier's Time Capsule

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:23 AM | Permalink

February 22, 2014

Soldier who wrote book of wisdom for his sons

Cancer-stricken soldier who wrote book of advice for his sons after he'd gone dies after battle with disease

A Minnesota soldier who wrote poignantly of his life and of his battle with cancer after an illustrious military career in a book of letters addressed to his sons has died at 41.  Army Lieutenant Colonel Mark Weber wrote the widely lauded Tell My Sons: A Father’s Last Letters to his three boys after learning he had stage IV gastrointestinal cancer three years ago.

His saga began at the young age of 38 just before the decorated soldier was to serve as a military advisor in the Afghani Parliament. Upon his diagnosis, Lt. Col. Weber decided to pen a letter to his three sons to pass along the wisdom that life as a military hero had taught him.  The national bestseller detailed Weber’s difficult childhood as well as his battle with cancer. It is based on decades of the soldier’s journals, starting from before his children were even born.
The book is comprised of nine letters in total, all designed to help his sons and any other reader through their life’s journey. Amazingly, the self-published book quickly sold 10,000 copies.  It was then picked up by big name publisher Ballantine and became a New York Times National Bestseller.

As his success as a writer quickly began to parallel his success in the military, Weber continued his fight to stay with the family his book makes clear he dearly loved. Told in 2010 he had only four months to live, Weber held on until Thursday, when family members in St. Paul say ‘Mark’s wish to die at home, embraced by love, and a view of his beloved garden was granted to him.’

On Memorial Day, Weber was strong enough to address thousands gathered for ceremonies at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.  But soon after he was moved into hospice care.  Weber was featured in the Father’s Day issue of Parade Magazine just days after his death, in which he wrote about his relationship with his own father.

‘When I think about my own mixed emotions and imperfect memories of my dad, I do wonder what you all will remember about me,’ wrote Weber. ‘This is a timeless consideration that is best illustrated by a quote attributed to Mark Twain: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:43 PM | Permalink

January 30, 2014

Devoted Dad Proves His Love

Dying dad, 44, writes 800 notes so that his daughter will get one in her lunchbox every day until she finishes high school

A father who has been diagnosed with cancer has vowed to write 800 notes for his daughter so that she has one in her lunch box every day until she leaves high school.

 Napkin Note

Garth Callaghan, 44, from Glen Allen, Virginia, has been writing short messages on napkins for his daughter Emma, 14, since she was in kindergarten - and now she looks forward to them every day.

So after Mr Callaghan was diagnosed with cancer three times in the past two years - kidney cancer twice and prostate cancer once - he realized that, if he lost his battle with the disease, he never wanted her to go without.

Now he is on a mission to write 800 of the notes - which are each compiled on simple white napkins and popped in her lunch bag - in case he doesn't reach her graduation.

 Garth With Emma
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 PM | Permalink

January 25, 2014

"Keeping life alive, and passing it on"

That we are living through a dark age. An age, if you like, of ‘endarkenment’ — and I don’t necessarily mean that negatively. The world is aflood with dark psychic fluid, everything’s stained with it. We all say we hate the stuff, but we don’t act that way, we splash in it. It’s an age in which, for reasons we can’t comprehend, everything’s being turned inside out, everything’s imploding and exploding at once, and we can’t stop it.

And it’s going to continue, it’ll go on for a long, long time, longer than we’re going to be alive. So we can’t find peace, we can’t ‘win,’ it’s not going to be all right. Not for us. But that doesn’t have to rob us of purpose; in fact it’s the opposite, it implies a great purpose: That what each of us must do is cleave to what we find most beautiful in the human heritage — and pass it on. So that one day, one day when this endarkenment exhausts itself, those precious things we’ve passed on will still be alive, stained perhaps but functional, still present in some form, and it will be possible for the people of that day to make use of them to construct a life that is a life — the life of freedom and variety and order and light and dark, in their proper proportions (whatever they may be). The life that we’d choose now if we could.

And that to pass these precious fragments on is our mission, a dangerous mission — that if you were going to volunteer for crucial, hazardous work, work of great importance and risk, this might be the job you drew. And it isn’t a bad job at all. Actually, it’s the best job. And his mother, and me, and our friends — ‘And you too, man,’ I said, ‘I can see it in your eyes’ — that’s what we’re doing here. Trying to do. And it’s no small thing, it’s the best, man, it’s one of the few things left to be proud of.
Maybe the most important thing to remember right now is that many people are doing this work. It's more public in a writer or an artist or an environmentalist, but anyone who loves something life-giving and tends it — to garden, or to read, or to brew beer, or (even this is becoming lost) to take long walks — is, as Pasternak put it, keeping life alive, and passing it on.

Michael Ventura, The Age of Endarkenment, Whole Earth Review, Winter 1989 via The Great Zero Gate

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:45 AM | Permalink

January 23, 2014

“I decided I wanted to have one of the most organized good-byes in recorded history and I think I will be successful.”

Former Kansas City Star Reporter Martin Manley creates a website to explain his suicide

“I decided I wanted to have one of the most organized good-byes in recorded history and I think I will be successful.” — Martin Manley, 1953-2013

Jim Romensko  reports that he was only 60.

Kansas City Star reports former sports statistics reporter commits suicide at Overland Park police station

Kansas City sportscaster sparks hunt for $200,000 stash of gold after fans mistake GPS coordinates revealed on morning he killed himself as a treasure map

From his website.  He had no health issues, no legal issues, no financial problems, he did not feel lonely and he was not depressed.

Suicide Preface  " I decided I wanted to have one of the most organized good-byes in recorded history and I think I will be successful."
"The key has always been to do it before it becomes impossible to accomplish what I’m doing now – because then it’s too late and I would simply be along for the ride to the inevitable cliff. And, that has always been an unacceptable conclusion to my life. I became convinced that had I waited even another few years, I would never have been able to produce this site."

Why suicide? "Because I can."  And he "wanted to go out on top."  He was afraid of growing older. He was afraid of losing his memory.  He was afraid of losing control.  He began thinking about what he could accomplish by being dead.  He wanted to leave money to people he cared about.  He was sick of watching the suffering of the world.  Economic collapse was inevitable.

Why not  Frankly, I didn’t have any major problem that would cause me to do it.  No loved ones would be affected.  He wasn't married. He had no children. His parents had died.  His brother and sister both had independent lives and no children.  Except for brief periods he was never really happy.

Why 60? His life insurance would expire in 2014.  Divorced twice, he decided to die on his birthday August 15th, two weeks before his rental lease expired.  He wouldn't have to renew his renter's insurance, his car insurance, his drivers' license or his license plate.  He hated winter.  By planning his death 14 months in advance, he was able to leave his legacy in the form of this website which documents his life.

Health  I didn’t miss a scheduled day of work in over 30 years leading up to my death…..I’ve never eaten properly. My personality is so obsessive that once I started working on something…When I was working in the 1980’s I started skipping lunch because it meant taking a break and I didn’t want no stinking breaks. I never ate breakfast so it turned into a lifestyle whereby I would eat once a day – supper.

My religion So, how can I justify committing suicide. Here’s a hint… I can’t.

It’s also my hope that this web-site will be more than just a memorial to my life and those around me. That somehow, someway, it will be an inspiration – not to leave life prematurely, but to have a more fulfilling life and one that centers more around others than oneself. If I could bottle the last 14 months and apply it to a much earlier age, I would have been a far superior contributor to society!
I can say without fear of contradiction that since June 11, 2012, I have been much more focused on others than myself. I’ve done many things that I otherwise would not have done solely based upon the fact that I was not going to be around much longer and wouldn’t have many more opportunities. Knowing it was coming to an end helped me focus on what was most important.
I’ve just never led my life as one should who is truly faithful. That is, as I said at the top of this section, the real issue when it comes to ending one’s life – a lack of (enough) faith.

So, I hope nobody will read this site and be motivated into committing suicide. This site is not here to justify it and it’s not here for that reason.
I pray that God will forgive me and through his grace via the sacrifice of his Son, I will be saved.

I found Martin Manley's website fascinating and very sad.  If only he had kept death before him daily, he would have lived a much happier life.  Instead, organizing his good-byes and timing his suicide became such an obsession that he refused the gift of the life given to him.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:23 PM | Permalink

December 4, 2013

The Last Letter of a Loving Mother

From Letters of Note,  Your Loving Mother

On January 22nd of 1919, during her freshman year at college, 19-year-old Margaret Mitchell received word that her mother had fallen ill as a result of a deadly flu pandemic that was sweeping the globe, along with instructions from her father to return home. A few days later, she did just that, only to be greeted at the train station by her brother with the tragic news that their mother had succumbed to pneumonia the day before. As they travelled home from the station, he passed her the following letter.

January 23, 1919

Dear Margaret,

I have been thinking of you all day long. Yesterday you received a letter saying I am sick. I expect your father drew the situation with a strong hand and dark colors and I hope I am not as sick as he thought. I have pneumonia in one lung and were it not for flu complications, I would have had more than a fair chance of recovery. But Mrs. Riley had pneumonia in both lungs and is now well and strong. We shall hope for the best but remember, dear, that if I go now it is the best time for me to go.

I should have liked a few more years of life, but if I had had those it may have been that I should have lived too long. Waste no sympathy on me. However little it seems to you I got out of life, I have held in my hands all that the world can give. I have had a happy childhood and married the man I wanted. I had children who loved me, as I have loved them. I have been able to give what will put them on the high road to mental, moral, and perhaps financial success, were I going to give them nothing else.

I expect to see you again, but if I do not I must warn you of one mistake a woman of your temperament might fall into. Give of yourself with both hands and overflowing heart, but give only the excess after you have lived your own life. This is badly put. What I mean is that your life and energies belong first to yourself, your husband and your children. Anything left over after you have served these, give and give generously, but be sure there is no stinting of attention at home. Your father loves you dearly, but do not let the thought of being with him keep you from marrying if you wish to do so. He has lived his life; live yours as best you can. Both of my children have loved me so much that there is no need to dwell on it. You have done all you can for me and have given me the greatest love that children can give to parents. Care for your father when he is old, as I cared for my mother. But never let his or anyone else's life interfere with your real life. Goodbye, darling, and if you see me no more then it may be best that you remember me as I was in New York.

Your Loving Mother

Can a parent give a greater gift then to leave such a letter behind for each child?  What comfort Margaret Mitchell must have taken from this letter.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:03 AM | Permalink

June 26, 2013

The musical lessons of one short life

Zach Sobiech’s Simple Message — in Song — Affects Millions Worldwide

Zach Sobiech was virtually unknown in 2009, when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that took his life at age 18 on May 20.

But the Lakeland, Minn., teen’s positive attitude about facing death, humility and kindness touched millions of people across the globe, largely through his farewell song Clouds, which quickly became a YouTube sensation, garnering more than seven million views and capturing the No. 1 spot on iTunes the week after his death.

More than a thousand people attended his funeral at the Church of St. Michael in Stillwater, Minn. They joined his parents, Rob and Laura, and three siblings in singing the song that touched the world: “We’ll go up, up, up, but I’ll fly a little higher. We’ll go up in the clouds, because the view is a little nicer up here, my dear. It won’t be long now.” The song bears witness to the Catholic young man’s resolution that his illness had a purpose and that God’s plan isn’t always clear from our view on earth.

Laura Sobiech said her son did a lot of soul-searching and reflecting on what it means to have faith, especially after his cancer diagnosis.
“Weeks before he died, in a conversation with me and our parish priest, he said that he understood faith isn’t just something you do, but that faith is something that can help you. Faith isn’t just action; it’s a gift,” she said.

Despite holding out hope for a miracle, the Sobiech family relied on their faith to get through the grim reports, nearly a dozen surgeries, months of hospital stays and, finally, his agonizing death at home.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

June 18, 2013

Portraits of Things to show a Life in Objects

This is a wonderful idea for your Personal Legacy Archives.  What portraits could you make of your parents, your children or yourself?

A life in objects: Family ‘portraits’ capture the essence of a loved one by picturing their most treasured possessions

You can tell a lot by looking at someones possessions - personality, interests, likes and passions.

One Italian photographer has decided to paint a portrait of her family, but instead of using actual photographs of her relatives, we are left to imagine how they might appear based on what they own. From leather satchels and handkerchiefs to blocks of cheese and cookware, Florence-based artist Camilla Catrambone's family album is curiously captivating.

 Lives In Their Objects

The series is simply titled 'Portraits of my Family,' and displays a whole host of everyday treasures.

'I‘ve always been fascinated by objects, and I think somehow every person is represented by their personal objects, the objects they choose, the ones they are attached to, and the way they use them tells you a story,' Ms Catrambone states on her website.

'When I started doing this project, I felt that the objects belonged to my relatives, starting from the ones of my beloved grandparents, were still full of energy and were capable of reminding me moments I shared with them. I started to feel the need to use them to go back to a precise memory. In order to do that I started to reorganize these objects, to recall a specific image I had of that person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:32 PM | Permalink

May 28, 2013

Some questions to ask your parents

From Quora, What are the best questions to ask one's parents (or other older relatives) before they pass away?

Here's a sample of what people said.

Go through the family photo album with your elderly relatives and ask them to identify every person and place you do not recognize, and WRITE that down (post-it notes that you can stick right on the photo are great until you can get better organized).
With a number of recent losses in my family, I've been startled to find out much I didn't know.  Here's how I phrase the query: Is there anything that if I were to find it out later, you would have regretted not telling me?
When my parents passed away last year (along with my sister) I didn't really realize how many things I would've liked to have known about them and their preferences and how much of their insight I would miss. When I'm faced with a difficult decision, I always think of what they'd do in the back of my mind and while that does help,
Ask about their first car-  what they bought, what they paid, where and how they got the money.  You'll not only learn about their taste in cars, but about how they view their financial world. 

Ask about their wedding- how did he propose, what did she wear, did they have a honeymoon?  This will link you to them through your own romances.

Ask about one of the worst times of their lives;  "one of" because few people get to be elders without going through more than a few horrible events.  The answers will inform you as to what really mattered to your parents, and why.

Get the recipes-  I cannot stress this enough.  It's beyond sad to say "My Mother made the best insert-food-here but I never got her recipe."  Ask for their favorite memory of each of their children-  even that sibling you don't like.
My grandparents are on the verge of death, and one of the questions I made sure to ask them was about marriage (see my answer to "what's the secret to a lasting marriage").
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:48 PM | Permalink

May 26, 2013

Letters to my sons

Words to live by  A dying GI writes letters to his sons.  An example of the great gift  parents can leave to their  children of any age.  You can imagine how these letters will be treasured for decades to come.

Lt. Col. Mark Weber prepared his family for the worst countless times during his 23-year Army career — but now faces a battle he knows he can’t win.

In December 2010, doctors diagnosed Weber, who had survived 19 years in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, with Stage 4 intestinal cancer.

Told he had only two months to live, the decorated soldier set out to write a farewell letter to his three sons, Matthew, now 17, and twins Joshua and Nick, 12.

“Along the way, I hope you’ll consult these pages as often and as casually as you would if I were still here and you could pick up the phone,” he writes. “These pages reflect observations and perspective rather than advice or instruction.”
* “We’re taught early in life that being afraid is something to be ashamed of. This is wrongheaded. Fear is healthy. Fear keeps us alive. When I went through the Army’s airborne and air assault schools and learned to jump out of planes and slide down ropes hanging from helicopters, I did not want to be sitting next to any trooper who wasn’t just a little afraid about what he or she was going to do.”

* “Strength is about getting something done, even when you have iron-clad excuses or reasons for not doing it. Your mom has a hard time seeing how she exemplifies this, but she has shown it to us every day.”

* “Everyone has things they don’t want to do—there’s no crime in that. But there’s a big difference between ‘can’t’ and ‘don’t want to’ when it comes to facing the path of comfort or the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge . . . I am proposing that ‘can do’ is often just one or two short steps beyond ‘can’t do,’ and the territory in between is fertile ground for personal growth and professional achievement.”

* “The value of noticing and caring about what is right in front of your face—simple, common social graces. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you,’ for starters, but also giving credit to others when and where credit is due, taking a personal interest in those you serve or who serve you, and ‘unplugging’ from gadgets and the churn around you in order to give a person your full attention. These are simple to talk about but harder to do, and they not only lead to success but encourage others to help you succeed or manage your failures.”

* “There is a time and a place for crying and laughing. And figuring out how to cry and laugh at hardship or death is as kill worth honing into a fine art when you’re young.”

* “Pain and suffering—self inflicted or otherwise—is not merely a rude interruption of your journey, but one of the very purposes of the journey.”

* “If I’m truly and finally proud of anything in my life, it is that I lived it in constant striving, continuous searching, and willing struggle, while conducting as honest an exploration of this world as I knew how to do.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 PM | Permalink

May 24, 2013

A photo he will treasure for the rest of his life

This photo of an unidentified man will be framed and prominently displayed for the rest of his life

San Francisco Giants fan catches foul ball with right hand while holding baby with his left

 Dad Catches Foul Ball

Go the link to see the video

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 AM | Permalink

March 21, 2013

“I’m not going to be here forever and I want Zac to know me”

Roger Ailes on his looming death and the mementos he's collected to leave his son.  Excerpts from the new book, Roger Ailes Off Camera by Zev Chafets

One day in his office, Ailes showed me a photo of Zac in a school play. The boy was made up as Teddy Roosevelt, in a suit and a fake mustache. Ailes studied the picture wistfully. The most painful fact of Ailes’s life is that he isn’t likely to see his son as a grown man. “I never really knew much about my father’s life, what it was really like,” he says. “I’m not going to be here forever and I want Zac to know me.”

Since Zac was four, Ailes has been putting things away for him in memory boxes; there are now nine, stuffed with mementos, personal notes, photos, and messages from Ailes to his son. They are meant to be opened when Ailes is gone. I was curious to see what Ailes was leaving behind. He was reluctant to show me, but he finally brought one of the boxes to his office. I had been expecting an ornate trunk, but it turned out to be nothing more than a large plastic container stuffed with what appeared to be a random assortment of memorabilia. There was a pocket-size copy of the U.S. Constitution in which Ailes had written, “The founders believed it and so should you”; photos of Zac and Ailes’s wife Beth on family vacations; an itinerary of their trip to the White House Christmas party; and a sentimental 14th-anniversary card from Beth (“It’s important for him to know that his mommy loved his daddy,” Ailes said), on which he had scrawled a note to Zac: “Your mother is a beautiful woman. Always take care of her.” I saw a printed program from a Fourth of July celebration in Garrison in which father and son had read patriotic texts aloud, a few articles and press releases about Ailes’s career, and a couple of biographies of Ronald Reagan. Tossed in with the other stuff was a plain brown envelope that contained $2,000 in cash and a note: “Here’s the allowance I owe you,” which Ailes said was an inside joke sure to make his son smile. There were also a few symbolic gold coins, “just in case everything goes to hell,” he told me. “If you have a little gold and a handgun, you can always get across the Canadian border.” Zac is still too young for a pistol, but he sometimes accompanies his father to the shooting range at West Point for target practice.

At the bottom of the box there was a copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War with paternal advice inscribed on the first page:

Avoid war if at all possible but never give up your freedom—or your honor. Always stand for what is right.
If absolutely forced to fight, then fight with courage and win. Don’t try to win … win!
Love, Dad

“This is advice Zac might need to hear from me in 10 years and I won’t be here to give it to him,” Ailes said as he closed the box. “I’ve told him, if he has a problem or he feels he needs me, to go off to a quiet place and listen, and he will hear my voice.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 AM | Permalink

November 29, 2012

Reuniting photos lost in Sandy with their owners

The memories washed away by Sandy: Hundreds of precious family photos found in aftermath of hurricane - now one woman wants to reunite them with their owners

Hurricane Sandy destroyed countless homes in New Jersey, knocking many from their foundations and sending furniture and belongings floating into the streets. Many of the items were lost forever but one local woman, whose own house was damaged beyond repair, is on a mission to reunite Sandy victims with one important thing - their memories.

Jeannette Van Houten, from Union Beach, is collecting old photos, many damaged from salt water, and uploading them on Facebook in the hope that the families they belong to will come forward to claim them.  Sandy destroyed metal and wood and steel and concrete,' Ms Van Houten told the New York Daily News. 'But we're finding these pieces of paper, these photos, and their images are still beautiful.'

The 42-year-old began the project the day after the storm struck, when she found a box full of damaged family photos on the ground.    She cleans the pictures then scans them and uploads them to Facebook and, mostly through word-of-mouth, she has managed to connect several local families with their treasured memories.

She now has a collection of more than 3,000 photos online, which Union Beach residents can browse through, looking for their loved ones' faces.

 Sandy Mother Baby

Good for her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:31 PM | Permalink

November 1, 2012

Take photos of your aging parents

How to shoot a photo of an aging parent to remember

 Woman Portrait-Wheelchair Steve Bedell portrait by Steve Bedell

Sometimes the realization comes almost too late — you sense that your parents or other loved ones may soon be gone, and it dawns on you that you don’t have any recent photos to remember them by.

1. Help your loved one get dressed for the occasion.
            Women, especially, may feel more relaxed in front of the camera if you’ve helped them apply some makeup or they have had their hair done (many nursing homes have salons).
2. Shoot in a cozy room, or at least in a comfortable position
3. Be sensitive to quirks and vulnerabilities
          If they have injuries or scars or IV tubes that make them self-conscious, reassure them that you’ll try to keep those things out of the photo.
4. Bring in friends or other family members to engage with the person.
          Never say “cheese!” Interacting with others will help animate their features and make them look — and feel — more cheerful and lively
8. Forget the flash.
9. Don’t take pictures of people eating.
15. Use these photo sessions as a chance to connect.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 PM | Permalink

Photos to remember

It's remarkable how a few lines of description enliven a photograph and make it meaningful.  We all have thousands of photographs - digital and printed - that we've saved in photo boxes, albums, on CDs, online and in iPhoto.  Most of these will be lost and forgotten after we're gone, but those set aside with a line or two that lay bare the meaning that particular photo has for us  will likely last and be passed on.

I'm So Lonesome



I am so awful lonesome and I wish that you were here': Black and white pictures with notes by their owners give touching insight into the lives of past Americans

Author Ransom Riggs has sorted through thousands of photographs at flea markets to compile his book Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past

'I have an unusual hobby: I collect pictures of people I don't know,' explained Riggs.

But he admitted he has a particularly odd way of sifting through thousands of photographs he comes across in thrift shops and flea markets, as he does  not even look at the image on the front if the words scribbled on the back do not interest him.

'When you're looking through bins of thousands of random, unsorted photos, every hundredth one or so will have some writing on it,' he said.

'It's generally just identifying information ("me and Jerry at the Grand Canyon, 1947"), but every once in a while I'll find a something surprising, emotional, candid, hilarious, heartbreaking - a few words that bring the picture to life in a profound new way, transforming a blurry black-and-white snapshot of people who seem a million miles and a million years away into an intensely personal sliver of experience that anyone can relate to.

'It becomes something not just to look at, but to listen to.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2012

Interactive gravestones. "We've all got a story to tell."

Interactive gravestones link to online tales of life

Summing up the life of a dearly departed relative with just a terse description etched in stone may become a thing of the past with the introduction of interactive codes on gravestones.

One funeral company in the southern English town of Poole is offering to add quick response (QR) codes to headstones which will link smartphones to online memorials illustrated with pictures, videos and contributions from family and friends.  Chester Pearce funeral directors said QR barcodes enable visitors to learn a lot more about the person buried beneath gravestones than the age, dates of birth and death and the odd biblical passage or literary quote usually written on them.
"It's about keeping people's memories alive in different ways," managing director Stephen Nimmo told Reuters.  "When you lose somebody, whether it be suddenly or ongoing, you can really struggle with things. Talking about them is very important, keeping their memory going is very important and this is just an add-on to that."…."We've all got a story to tell,"

QR codes, a barcode that can be scanned with smartphones or QR scanners, allow users to pull up information on the internet and are frequently used in advertising and marketing campaigns.    "It's a new technology, it's something that there will be people who like it, there will be people who don't and that's the same in everything that we do," Nimmo said.

He said he has seen demand growing for QR codes as they catch the imagination of the public.  Chester Pearce charge about 300 pounds to create a code that can also be placed on gravestones, benches, trees or plaques and is linked to a page on their QR Memories website.

Gill Tuttiet, 53, was one of the first customers in Poole to use the technology for her late husband Timothy.  "Tim was quite outward-going and game for anything. I think this is the way forward and Tim would have wanted that, and it's making a process that's hard possibly easier," Tuttiet said.

The website linked to the code shows a profile of the departed, pictures, videos and tributes from family and friends.  Close friends and family given a password are also able to add personal messages of their own.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 AM | Permalink

August 16, 2012

The Soundtrack of Your Life

I loved this story.  A variation of six songs of me would be a fine addition to your Personal Legacy Archives

You Are What You Hear:  What Your Favorite Music Says About You

Think back over the soundtrack to your life. Those songs you heard in grade school and church, on first dates and at dances, in college dorms and convertibles, at weddings and graduations — it's all part of your musical makeup.

And today, the mysterious power of music seems to be even more personal and pervasive. With help from iPods, downloads, clouds and smartphones, we can literally "soundtrack" our lives any time, anywhere.

Six Songs of Me: Just why music matters so much to us …

In the 100 years or so since recorded music has been widely available, our lives have become suffused by it: we are born and die to music, we eat and shop and travel and make love to music, we work and play to music. Some of our most powerful memories are either of music, or are accompanied by music – and sometimes, even as listeners, we seem almost to become the music that we hear: "Music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all, but you are the music while the music lasts", as TS Eliot wrote.
Philosophers have been puzzling for millennia over what it is about those organized but apparently meaningless sounds that we find so compelling, joined more recently by anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists and neuroscientists. It's tempting to think that it might be something physical – something about the orderly patterns of vibrations – that gives music its compelling force, and right back to Pythagoras and the idea of a harmonic series, philosophers and scientists have chased this mathematical/acoustical explanation. But consider the vast sonic differences between the music of different cultures, or those within our own culture, and this soon seems pretty implausible. The idea that music might be some kind of universal language – attractive as it may seem when you see children and adults of all races and nationalities enjoying a concert in the park together – may run into difficulty when you try to get Gilbert and Sullivan fans to express any enthusiasm for dub step, or jury members of the Chopin Piano Competition to rate the traditional beiguan music of Taiwan.

Rather than searching for the holy grail of a mathematical or acoustical explanation, it seems more fruitful – and actually much more interesting – to think about the rich and complex manner in which music is embedded into social functions. This happens in micro social and macro social ways: music can make its appeal at the level of whole nations (national anthems at the Olympics remind us of that) and individuals. T

The Guardian is starting the project called Six Songs of Me where readers are invited to submit answers to the following.

What was the first song you ever bought?
What song always gets you dancing?
What song takes you back to your childhood?
What is your perfect love song?
What song would you want at your funeral?
Time for the encore.  One last song that makes you, you.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:33 PM | Permalink

July 12, 2012

Looking forward and back

It is highly unlikely that you filmed yourself at 12, but Jeremiah McDonald did and we can enjoy his conversation with his 12-year-old self.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:48 AM | Permalink

June 28, 2012

"'It is astounding to receive something this moving, touching, nostalgic, and thoughtful.'

Wonderful examples of what could be  in your family's legacy archives.

Oh, The Places You'll Go!' Dad's tear-jerking graduation gift to daughter is a book of messages from every one of her teachers… which took 13 YEARS to collect

For many teenagers, their high school graduation day is the opportunity to ask for a big, extravagant gift from their parents.  What Brenna Martin got was very different. It wasn't a car, a holiday or that piece of jewelry she had always wanted.  Instead, the senior got something much, much more special.  Brenna's father Bryan handed her the most  'moving, touching, nostalgic, and thoughtful' present she had ever had.

 Brennamartin Pla
It was gift that was 13 years in the making which he'd managed to keep hidden the whole time. The copy of Dr Seuss children's classic 'Oh, The Places You'll Go!' is adorned with a series of annotations.  The comments are threaded among the passages of Dr Seuss's well-known rhymes and were written by every adult who has taught Brenna at school, starting with her kindergarten teachers.  Brenna's graduation present has a cash value of less than $20, but to her, it was 'truly priceless.'

 Brennamartin Pla Book

My early teachers mention my "Pigtails and giggles," while my high school teachers mention my "Wit and sharp thinking.." But they all mention my humor and love for life.

'It is astounding to receive something this moving, touching, nostalgic, and thoughtful. I can't express how much I love my dad for this labor of love.'

On second thought, unless you are talented at drawing, you probably won't be drawing a picture of your son every day from tantrums to dentist trips like this woman did, but what a family treasure it is.  Go see the other drawings the talented at her blog Doodlemum.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:55 PM | Permalink

March 14, 2012

"It is the sum of all love"

Gerard Vanderleun writes of his 95-year-old mother  In My Mother's Small House Are Mansions of Memory


The image above is of what once was a bulletin board. It is kept in my mother's kitchen in her apartment to the rear of an unassuming but decent collection of apartments in the small city of Chico, California.

It's too bad the image of it is so small here on the page. But no matter how much I might enlarge the image of it, it could never be as big as what it represents. Although small in scale it is larger than the lives it chronicles. It is the sum of all love.
My mother only adds the things of love to this board, never the things of disappointment, failure, heartbreak or betrayal. To do so would be a betrayal of the trust that keeping this board brings with it, and, to my mother at least, a waste of life.

My mother does not waste life.
If you knew all the pieces here as I do, you could review them and see the tokens of a life that begins before the end of the First World War and rolls along right up until today. It's a very big life to be contained on such a small board in such a small apartment, but my mother's genius when it comes to this collage is that, no matter how full it gets, she always finds room to add one more moment.

We don't know how she does it. It's a gift.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:25 AM | Permalink

February 2, 2012

"'I've been getting bad feelings though and well if you're reading this... " ......"

The heartbreaking collection of last letters to loved ones from soldiers who never came home

These are the final, moving letters written by soldiers to their families just before they died.

The brave servicemen penned the missives to be read by their loved ones if they were killed.

Dedicated historian Sian Price spent three years travelling the world and reading through 30,000 heart-rending letters to compile the touching collection.

The letters, spanning from the 17th century to the present day, reveal the timeless truths of war in the words of fallen heroes throughout the ages.

Miss Price searched through museums, libraries and military archives in the UK, Australia, Japan, Germany, France, the U.S., South Africa, Italy, Canada and New Zealand to find the most poignant writings.

Her book 'If You're Reading This...Last Letters From the Front Line' collates 70 letters from soldiers who never came home.
PFC Jesse Givens, from Springfield, Missouri, drowned aged 34 inside a tank after a sand bank caved in on him in May 2003 in Iraq.

His farewell letter to his wife Melissa arrived three weeks after his death and just a few days after the birth of the son he would never meet.

On paper stained with muddy water, he wrote: 'I never thought I would be writing a letter like this, I really don't know where to start.  'I've been getting bad feelings though and well if you're reading this...

'I searched all my life for a dream and I found it in you. The happiest moments in my life all deal with my little family. You will never know how complete you made me.

'Bean, I never got to see you but I know in my heart you are beautiful. I will always have with me the feel of the soft nudges on you mom's belly, and the joy I felt when we found out you  were on the way.

'I dream of you every night, and I always will. Don't ever think that since I wasn't around that I didn't love you. You were conceived of love and I came to this terrible place for love.'

Historian Miss Price, 35, from Cardiff, wrote: 'They are the most amazing letters. There is something very beautiful about reading the intimate thoughts of these men who knew they could be about to die.

'The common theme that binds them all is love
. Almost all the letters from the whole 300 years express the writer’s love for someone, whether it is their wife, mother or children.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:57 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 30, 2012

Time's almost up to clean up your Facebook page

You WILL reveal your past! Facebook's timeline feature becomes mandatory for all users - with just 7 days to 'clean up'

Facebook's Timeline - a new look for people's Profile pages which exposes their entire history on the site - will become mandatory for all users.

The 'new look' has been voluntary up until now.

From now, users will simply be notified that they are being 'updated' via an announcement at the top of their home page, which users click on to activate Timeline.

As with voluntary switches to Timeline, those who are 'updated' will have just seven days to select which photos, posts and life events they want to advertise to the world.

Via the official Facebook blog, the site announced, 'Last year we introduced timeline, a new kind of profile that lets you highlight the photos, posts and life events that help you tell your story.'

'Over the next few weeks, everyone will get timeline. When you get timeline, you'll have 7 days to preview what's there now.
'This gives you a chance to add or hide whatever you want before anyone else sees it.'

Timeline has been criticised for showing off pictures and posts that people might have wanted to forget.

Facebook's controversial 'timeline' feature is supported by just one in ten users

Survey reveals huge lack of support for changes to profile pages

51 per cent admit to being worried about the new feature

One commenter :

I shut my account yesterday.... Having read an awful lot of information in relation to Facebook and the way our data is used to gather knowledge about all of us and who is actually using it. I decided enough was enough.... My daughter has been told not to post any of her art work on her page by her lecturers, as once you do you no longer own it, they do .... the same goes for all our photos, videos, and comments.... We should be in control of our personal lives and ourselves as beings not them.... I was never a big user, and I am very glad now. Finally I also worked out that a conversation between friends should be just that, face to face not just typed on a page for all the world to see, how is that real.... its not !
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 AM | Permalink

January 14, 2012

Who's Your Favorite?

See what fun this father had in making a video of his baby girl Maddie.  Not only  a priceless family treasure, it's a worldwide hit on YouTube.

Mike Tippet, dad and interviewer, comments

'I shot this on the eve of my daughter Maddie’s first birthday. My wife had originally asked me to put together a photo montage of baby’s first year (yes, I’m ‘that guy’ in our family) but I settled on doing an interview instead.

'The original idea was to conduct one every birthday as a sort of year in review to have as a digital keepsake.

'I just hope she gets better at taking direction when she’s older.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 AM | Permalink

January 13, 2012

"'Definitely I’ve found a reconnection with him, it’s just incredible."

Because he was only one when his father was killed in a car crash, Adrian Ludley couldn't remember the sound of his father's voice.

But in 1970 his father had recorded an unknown French song with the lyrics: 'We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.' a version that was never released after the car crash.   

so singer Terry Jacks recorded it instead and got a 1974 hit, selling 10 million records.
Now Adrian Ludley, 43, has finally found a copy of his dad’s studio recording, thanks to a local appeal - meaning he can finally hear his dad for the first time.

A BBC Inside Out documentary reveals Adrian's extraordinary search for the song and it’s remarkably poignant lyrics - of a son saying farewell to his father for the last time.

Viewers see Adrian break down in tears as he listened to his late father singing the ominous words 'Goodbye Papa, it’s hard to die'.

He said: 'Nothing could top this in my life, this is just amazing. It’s the best experience ever.

'Definitely I’ve found a reconnection with him, it’s just incredible. The perfect closure for my search.'

'Goodbye Papa, it's hard to die': How original recording of hit song allowed son to hear his father's voice for the first time

The power of voice.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:13 AM | Permalink

January 7, 2012

Beckham and tattoos

Well, this is one way you can create a Personal Legacy Archive of the best parts of your life.  Only problem is you can't pass it on.

A life in tattoos: David Beckham's strange obsession with exhibitionist body art and the meanings behind each design

Here's just one.

 Beckham Tattoo

Left upper chest, Jesus and cherubs, Harper, 2011: David added a portrait of Jesus - styled to look like Beckham - being lifted from his tomb by cherubs, said to be representations of his three sons. And when daughter Harper Seven arrived, the proud dad had her name etched above it

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:35 PM | Permalink

December 28, 2011

"The strong voice of Great-Aunt Ada has completely converted me to family history"

Lisa Jardine, a professor of Renaissance Studies in London, tells how she became  A Convert to Family History.

For several years, my sister Judith has been researching the family history of the Flattos - my father's mother's family - inspired by the boxes of faded family photographs discovered among my parents' possessions, dating from the beginning of the 20th Century, and inscribed with locations ranging from Lodz in Poland to Kyverdale Road in London.

Her attempts to identify and connect the sitters in the photographs has led her deep into genealogy, and obliged her to learn about European history in the early decades of the 20th Century. She has journeyed intrepidly to the ends of the District and Metropolitan Tube lines, to Jewish cemeteries at East Ham, Rainham and Bushey, to read genealogical data off the family gravestones.

I confess that, as a professional historian, I did not always take her efforts seriously - in genealogy, so much depends on guesswork and surmise, so many of the documents defy interpretation. ..
In one of our family boxes, for example, is a formal wedding photograph of my grandmother, Celie Flatto, barely in her 20s, with her new husband Abram Bronowski. Taken in 1906, it is stamped with the address of the photographer's studio: 436 Whitechapel Road, London.

  Abram&Celie London1906

But her eldest son, my father, was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1908. He did not arrive in London with his parents and two siblings until 1920. Nothing in the records explains why the couple were in London earlier nor why they had returned to Poland.
Then, last summer, Judith telephoned me. She had discovered that two nieces of Grandma Celie were still alive and happy to meet us.

So in early October we went to tea with Ruth and Dorothy, sharp-as-mustard octogenarian daughters of Celie's much-younger sisters, Ada and Mary. Over biscuits and cups of tea they studied Judith's cache of photographs, casually identifying people she would never have been able to match to her family tree. "Oh look, that's me with my mother and Auntie Rose," and "There are my aunts, all dressed up to go out dancing."
I study the period 1500-1800. All those who play a part in the stories I endeavour to reconstruct are long dead. What a thrill, then, to encounter the miracle of oral history - of having a person in front of you who was actually there.

And then, out of the blue, Ruth recalled that 30 years ago, when her mother Ada - born in 1895, so then in her 90s - was living with her, she had sat her down and recorded several hours of reminiscences about her family. Perhaps she might be able to locate the cassette tapes and we might be interested in hearing them?

So it was that I was able to listen to four hours of a voice from the past recounting, with absolute clarity and lucidity, events of more than 100 years ago. Daughter Ruth is there too, firmly steering her mother back to the point, whenever she tends to digress - a tour-de-force in gentle interviewing guidance.
The strong voice of Great-Aunt Ada has completely converted me to family history. She has put together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle and given me a real sense of inhabiting my own history as British.

We did not wash up on England's shores by chance. In dangerous, prejudiced times, Britain welcomed my family not once but twice as economic migrants.

Like anyone else who has begun to explore their roots, I am, of course, determined to find out more. I will certainly never be disparaging about family history again.

What a treasure there was in those reminiscences recorded 30 years ago by a woman in her 90s.  I'm sure it was a pleasure for Great Aunt Ada to record her family stories, the real treasure was unearthed 30 years later. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:10 PM | Permalink

December 27, 2011

"Thousands of family pictures are useless when sitting, forgotten and disorganized, on a computer heading toward extinction"

Some very good advice

Oh Snap!: Stop Taking So Many Family Photos and Start Editing Them in More Interesting Ways

This holiday weekend, millions of family photos will be taken. Some images will make it onto Facebook or Picasa or even Flickr. Most, however, will sit on memory cards and computer hard drives for months, unviewed. 2011 was the year of too much picture-taking and too little picture-editing. When it comes to personal photos, I’m guilty of the same.

But it’s not too late. In fact, it’s the passage of time that often provides enough perspective to edit family photos in meaningful ways. I was reminded of this while looking through photographer Chris Verene’s book, Family.

Don't miss the slideshow of the images Verene made and the captions to them

Sometimes it’s the seemingly bland moment that makes what follows poignant. Often, images that seemed exciting in the moment get tossed, Verene says. Unable to let go on his own, after he'd pared 1,000 pictures of a subject down to 100 and then down to 2, he'd call over someone who had little familiarity with that story to see what spoke to them.

Digital photos have made us all excessively snap-happy. This makes editing harder. But as Verene demonstrates, taking the time pays off. Thousands of family pictures are useless when sitting, forgotten and disorganized, on a computer heading toward extinction. But when carefully—and honestly—selected, they can move even a total stranger.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 AM | Permalink

October 8, 2011

"I wanted my kids to know me"

No public service is planned for Steve Jobs.  A small private one was held Friday.

According to this article Steve Jobs's secret legacy: plans for four years of new products.

Also coming is an authorized biography by Walter Isaacson, due out Oct 24    Why did this famously private man decide to cooperate with Mr. Isaacson?

Isaacson reported in a posthumous tribute to be published in Time this week

"I wanted my kids to know me," Mr Isaacson recalled Mr Jobs saying, in a posthumous tribute the biographer wrote for Time magazine. "I wasn't always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did."


Isaacson said he visited Jobs for the last time a few weeks ago and found him curled up in some pain in a downstairs bedroom. Jobs had moved there because he was too weak to go up and down stairs, “but his mind was still sharp and his humor vibrant,”

Steve Jobs' final wish: to get to know his children before it was too late

Mr Jobs, who was 56, is survived by his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, their three children, Eve, Erin and Reed and his sisters Patti Jobs and Mona Simpson. He also has a 33-year-old daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, whose mother was a high-school girlfriend, Chris-Ann Brennan.
Friends say that he spent recent weeks at home in Palo Alto, California, with his immediate family, who will now oversee the fate of his $6.5 billion fortune. Though many potential visitors were rebuffed, he found time to say farewell to a handful of close friends.

One of his final outings was to Jin Sho, a favourite sushi restaurant, where he dined with Dean Omish, a physician and friend. "He was aware that his time on earth was limited. He wanted control of what he did with the choices that were left," Mr Omish told the New York Times.

"He was very human. He was so much more of a real person than most people know. That's what made him so great," he added. "Steve made choices. I asked him if he was glad that he had kids, and he said, 'It's 10,000 times better than anything I've ever done'."
Mr Jobs died from pancreatic cancer. He had recently started a new drug regime and told friends that there was some cause for hope. But his sister, Mona Simpson, said he was resigned to his fate, adding: "His tone was tenderly apologetic at the end. He felt terrible that he would have to leave us."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

September 16, 2011

Old Friends

Your personal legacy archives can help  Old Friends as  Robin of Berkeley found out when she put together a photo story book for her best friend who was stricken with a catastrophic illness, her mind now ravaged by disease.

I assembled a bunch of pictures of Teri and me throughout the decades. I put them together in a photo book, one that allowed me to write next to the picture who was the person in the frame. I’d write, “Here’s you and me and that hot guy, Jeff, that you dated.” Or, “Here we are looking all young and happy, the world being our oyster.”

My husband helped me put the whole project together. While he’s generally a stoic type, I saw him fighting back tears as he saw that every picture of Teri and me showed us holding each other, clinging to each other actually, like sisters, always so close in body and mind.

I can’t even imagine losing Teri, not just her but someone carrying our memories. I need someone else to hold with me the remembrances of when we were young, when we were carefree and naive, of all of our adventures and misadventures. I suppose I will one day be the one to hold the memories myself, which I will carry as close to my heart as I possibly can.

Sadly, it often takes disaster to snap us out of denial; it generally takes a loss or a potential loss to make us realize what life is really about: love and truth and strengthening our relationship with God every single day. And that true love never dies; that it remains alive in our hearts even when bodies turn to dust.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:46 PM | Permalink

What a letter can mean

He Had a Great Career

The sun shone brightly that September morning as the brothers stood next to the grave of their late father.  Just a few minutes before, the grave had been surrounded by family and their father’s business friends and their ears filled with the kind words of Father Benton, their parish priest.  These words of praise for their father’s life ringing in their ears left them feeling empty and uncomfortable as they stared at the granite headstone.

“I would only say this to you, but I don’t know how I should feel right now.”  Mike declared to Greg as they walked back to their car.  “Dad spent our entire lives on an airplane, chained to his office or playing golf with his buddies on the weekend.  I feel like we didn’t even know him.  I know this sounds selfish, but I feel cheated!”

Greg nervously took the pages from his mother’s hand and saw what looked to be a typed letter to him and his brother from their father.  It was dated September 12th- the day before he was found dead of a heart attack on the running trail near his office.  He began reading…
I have been reflecting a lot lately on my life and the kind of husband and father I have been.  It is probably no surprise to you that I give myself a failing grade.  I realize very clearly that I have not been there for you and your mother over the years.  It is easy to justify and rationalize our actions and I have done that for years.  I convinced myself that our big house, nice cars, great vacations and the lifestyle I provided for us was worth my slavish devotion to my career.  In many ways I am acting exactly like my own father.  I thought this justified all of my absences and the sacrifices I forced our family to make over the years.  I now realize that I have been living a lie… it was not worth it.
I want you to promise me something... Please learn from my example!  Be a better father, husband and steward than I was and don’t waste the years ahead of you.  I wish someone had gotten my attention when I was much younger and helped me not waste the greatest years of my life.  I hope to do that for you in the years ahead.

I have seen the light and I hope to make amends.  Again, please find it in your hearts to forgive me.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:12 PM | Permalink

August 11, 2011

Organizing your family's genealogical records

Overwhelmed by a mountain of boxes of family archives you inherited from your grandfather or aunt?

Diane Haddad at Genealogy Insider gives some good advice for organizing your family archives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:09 PM | Permalink

June 7, 2011

Parachute Wedding Dress


From the newsdesk at the Smithsonian, Parachute Wedding Dress, 1947    Just lovely

This wedding dress was made from a nylon parachute that saved Maj. Claude Hensinger during World War II. 

In August 1944, Hensinger, a B-29 pilot, and his crew were returning from a bombing raid over Yowata, Japan, when their engine caught fire. The crew was forced to bail out. Suffering from only minor injuries, Hensinger used the parachute as a pillow and blanket as he waited to be rescued. He kept the parachute that had saved his life. He later proposed to his girlfriend Ruth in 1947, offering her the material for a gown.

Ruth wanted to create a dress similar to one in the movie Gone with the Wind. She hired a local seamstress, Hilda Buck, to make the bodice and veil. Ruth made the skirt herself; she pulled up the strings on the parachute so that the dress would be shorter in the front and have a train in the back. The couple married July 19, 1947. The dress was also worn by the their daughter and by their son’s bride before being gifted to the Smithsonian.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:59 PM | Permalink

June 6, 2011

Legacy of a New York photographer

He began in 1997 and took a Polaroid picture every day of his life even on his deathbed.

The days of his life: New York photographer takes Polaroid picture every day for 18 years until his death from cancer at just 41

'They often don’t mean anything by themselves,' Mr Crawford told the New York Times. 'But when you put them all together, they take on a life of their own.'

While Ms. Reid, who met Mr Livingston in 1985, said: 'When I look at a picture that I was involved in or know about you’re just sent right back in time and you just remember everything about that day.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:46 PM | Permalink

May 5, 2011

"I'm dead, and this is my last post to my blog"

A blogger publishes his own last words and turns his blog into an archive.

"I'm dead, and this is my last post to my blog" wrote Derek Miller of Vancouver, Canada.

In advance, I asked that once my body finally shut down from the punishments of my cancer, then my family and friends publish this prepared message I wrote—the first part of the process of turning this from an active website to an archive.

If you knew me at all in real life, you probably heard the news already from another source, but however you found out, consider this a confirmation: I was born on June 30, 1969 in Vancouver, Canada, and I died in Burnaby on May 3, 2011, age 41, of complications from stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. We all knew this was coming.

It turns out that no one can imagine what's really coming in our lives. We can plan, and do what we enjoy, but we can't expect our plans to work out. Some of them might, while most probably won't. Inventions and ideas will appear, and events will occur, that we could never foresee. That's neither bad nor good, but it is real.

I think and hope that's what my daughters can take from my disease and death. And that my wonderful, amazing wife Airdrie can see too. Not that they could die any day, but that they should pursue what they enjoy, and what stimulates their minds, as much as possible—so they can be ready for opportunities, as well as not disappointed when things go sideways, as they inevitably do.
The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out. I don't look back and regret anything, and I hope my family can find a way to do the same.

What is true is that I loved them. Lauren and Marina, as you mature and become yourselves over the years, know that I loved you and did my best to be a good father.

Airdrie, you were my best friend and my closest connection. I don't know what we'd have been like without each other, but I think the world would be a poorer place. I loved you deeply, I loved you, I loved you, I loved you.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:24 PM | Permalink

March 22, 2011

Hidden Treasure

Revealed: Treasure trove of amazing pictures that were kept hidden from the world

She scoured the streets day and night, venturing into strange and sometimes dicey neighbourhoods. She wore a hat, sturdy shoes and a camera, always a camera, around her neck and at the ready.

Fractions of seconds, captured by Vivian Maier a half century ago or more - fleeting moments of life on the streets at a time when men wore fedoras and dragged on Lucky Strikes, when women favored babushkas, when families piled in Studebakers and DeSotos for Sunday drives.

Maier observed it all without judgment. This was her hobby, not her job. But over the decades, it also was her life. She shot tens of thousands of photos. Most were never printed. Many weren't even developed. And few were seen by anyone but her.
She and her photos seemed destined for obscurity until a young man with an eye for bargains stopped by an auction house one day. He paid about $400 for a huge grocery box stuffed with tens of thousands of negatives.
John Maloof had stumbled upon an undiscovered artist whose photography is now being compared to the giants, a reclusive woman who, in death, is attracting the kind of attention and acclaim she would have shunned in life.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:04 AM | Permalink

February 16, 2011

"His last meal was ice cream" Omer Baumgater R.I.P.

I suspect Mr. Baumgater wrote his own obituary and quite enjoyed it.  Good for him!

Omer L. Baumgartner 

 Omer Baumgartner

AMES, Iowa - Noted Midwestern raconteur Omer L. Baumgartner passed away at this home in Ames, Iowa on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. He was 90 years old. Mr. Baumgartner had lived a long and passionate life dedicated to rambunctious performances and dairy products.

Born on a dairy farm in Walnut, Ill., Baumgartner was prodigious with the movement of manure from an early age, and exercising these and other talents, earned recognition for his National 4-H Grand Champion Dairy Heifer, Clementine's Ramona, in 1930 at the age of 10.

After this debut, and as the Depression raged, Baumgartner cut his teeth in the livestock industry while attending hundreds of county and state fairs, showing and selling cattle, frying oysters, skinning rabbits, and drinking whiskey.

While still a freshman at the University of Illinois, he successfully quelled the great dairy upraising of 1938, averting a desperate ice cream shortage in Chicago, and was immediately recruited, without finishing college, by the state's Guernsey Breeders Association as a field agent.

Despite never learning to cook anything other than fried oysters, Baumgartner attained the rank of captain during World War II for running mess halls feeding over 5,000 in Tennessee and Alabama for the Army Air Corps. He was wildly popular with the troops for his mess hours bongo drum performances accompanied by dancing girls.

Baumgartner notably worked for L.S. Heath and Company, running the dairy division and inventing Heath Bar ice cream in 1951. He also co-ran Wilkinson's Office Supplies with his wife Jattie Wilkinson Baumgartner, serving one-third of the state of Illinois and parts of Iowa.

Baumgartner disliked vegetables his whole life. Despite consuming more than 2,000 pounds of butter, he never suffered from any kind of heart disease. His last meal was ice cream.

via Ace

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:04 PM | Permalink

January 1, 2011

Act of Love: Birthday Letters

For some time now, I've recommended that parents write each year to their children on their birthdays.

Parents are the curators of the lives of their young and adolescent children, so they should document their growth and development each year as an act of love.

Here's a wonderful example. The Girl is Seven.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:36 PM | Permalink

December 22, 2010

Heather must remarry

Get Religion is where I go to see how the mainstream press handles stories that have a religious angle. Often I find well-written juicy stories from the heartland that otherwise I would never come across. Like this one. Mother of 5, widowed at 31.

The featured story is Eric's last wishes in the Des Moines Register.

In bed beside him lay his wife, Heather, three months pregnant and barely starting to show. It wasn’t yet 5 a.m., and Heather was fast asleep. So were their four boys, ages 1 through 6.

Eric was scared, confused. He’d just had a terrible dream: That he died too young. That he left behind a wife and five children, and so many unfinished things. And that he needed to do something about it before it was too late.

He got out of bed. He crept past the boys’ bedrooms, down both sets of stairs of their split-level home in Ankeny, and into the basement toy room. He was surrounded by Legos, board games, cars, trucks, a plastic kitchen. His blond hair, or what was left of it after 31 years, was askew. Then Eric Jacobs — a father who devoted every Sunday to family day, an evangelist who’d handed over his soul to Jesus Christ, a man whose life was filled with joy and promise — turned on the lights, sat on the floor next to the furnace closet, looked into a camera mounted on a Dell laptop, and clicked record.

The link above is part 1.

Part 2 'Pray and pray often'

Four months after that dream, on a chilly evening in November, Eric had been a passenger on a small plane that tumbled out of the sky and into an Indiana cornfield.

That was two days ago. Yesterday, she’d told their four boys, ages 1 through 7, that their father had died. Heather was seven months pregnant. She felt dazed, sick to her stomach, unable to sleep. And now this.


  Eric Jacobs takes a deep breath. He centers the camera on his face. “Hello, everybody,” he says calmly. “If you’re watching this, something bad’s probably happened to me. I had this dream last night, or, this morning, only a few minutes ago, that I died early. And I don’t know what to take of it.” The family watched in silence, one floor above where Eric had made this video months before. It felt like Eric was in the room with them; it felt like he was beamed in from heaven. “I don’t know if this is God’s way of saying, 'Record this,’ and it was divinely inspired, or if I’m just paranoid,” Eric says. “So I wanted to record my thoughts while I had them. And then if it was divinely inspired, then this is God’s way of showing that he truly does work through people’s lives. And I want you to show this to people to witness to them. Because my life was cut short.”


“OK, Heather, this is tough,” he says. “But I need to tell you that I don’t expect you and I don’t want you to be single. Raising these boys is way too tough. Your job — if you choose to accept it — no, you don’t get to choose, you have to accept this: I need you, I want you to remarry.” He’s crying. “I’m not crying out of jealousy. I’m crying because I’m thinking of being gone from you.” A dozen times, he says this: That Heather must remarry. That she must find a good Christian man to be a spiritual leader for their boys. That if he’s not a Christian, she should keep looking. At one point, he brings his nose to the camera for emphasis. At another point, he closes his eyes to pray for her future husband.

Part 3 'I cannot imagine a day of my life without you'

Eric was always with her, but as time went on, Heather realized she needed to tuck those memories away. She’d packed his clothes in boxes in the basement; she’d removed her wedding band and put it in her jewelry box.

Still, she didn’t want to dive right in. She needed to do her homework about this guy, learn more than just the basics: that he was 42, had five kids and worked at a Des Moines veterinary supply company. The baseball coach was Dan’s boss, so Heather asked the boss’s wife about Dan. He’s a great guy, she said, a hard worker, a solid Christian. But then she mentioned a huge roadblock: Dan was divorced. Three times.

What struck me about the story was how helpful that video was in helping the entire family to cope with the sudden loss of Eric and how to grow beyond that to get on with their lives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

December 8, 2010

Elizabeth Edwards, R.I.P.

Elizabeth Edwards had a rich and difficult life and she died too young at 61.


New York Times obituary by Robert McFadden, A Political Life Filled with Cruel Reversals

Elizabeth Edwards, who as the wife of former Senator John Edwards gave America an intimate look at a candidate’s marriage by sharing his quest for the 2008 presidential nomination as she struggled with incurable cancer and, secretly, with his infidelity, died Tuesday morning at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C. She was 61.

They separated this year after he admitted to fathering a child in an extramarital affair. Her family confirmed the death, saying Mrs. Edwards was surrounded by relatives when she died. A family friend said Mr. Edwards was present. On Monday, two family friends said that Mrs. Edwards’s cancer had spread to her liver and that doctors had advised against further medical treatment.

Mrs. Edwards posted a Facebook message to friends on Monday, saying, “I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope.” She added: “The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that.”

In a life of idyllic successes and crushing reverses, Mrs. Edwards was an accomplished lawyer, the mother of four children and the wife of a wealthy, handsome senator with sights on the White House. But their 16-year-old son was killed in a car crash, cancer struck her at age 55, the political dreams died and, within months, her husband admitted to having had an extramarital affair with a campaign videographer.

In the Daily Mail Elizabeth Edwards dies surrounded by family as she loses her cancer battle

Yesterday doctors sent Mrs Edwards home to be with her family after telling her any further cancer treatment would be 'unproductive'.

She was said to have prepared their three children for when she is gone and has written heartfelt letters to them.

Mrs Edwards was surrounded by her siblings, nieces and nephews and close friends. They spent her last hours talking and looking at old photographs.

-- A friend of the family said in a statement yesterday that Mrs Edwards was in good spirits, and was not in pain.

-- President Barack Obama said he spoke to John Edwards and the Edwardses' daughter, Cate, on Tuesday afternoon to offer condolences.

'In her life, Elizabeth Edwards knew tragedy and pain,' Mr Obama said in a statement.

'Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of such adversity would have given up. But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will long remain a source of inspiration.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:53 PM | Permalink

October 16, 2010

"I was ready to die for it"

The lengths people will go to save important artifacts.  In Venice, California, a woman fought off a mugger to save a video of her dead child who died ten weeks earlier of cancer,

'I was ready to die for it': Moment grieving mother fights off violent mugger's attack as he tries to steal her phone... with a video of her dead baby on it

She said: 'When it happened I just, I was totally ready to die. I did not care. I was like, that recording is on that phone with Minty babbling and saying mommy and laughing.'

Despite the ordeal, the woman escaped with only minor cuts and bruises.

Her attacker is still on the loose after making his escape  - empty handed - in a van and police are still trying to hunt him down.

The incident happened on September 19, the 10-week anniversary of the Minty's death.

'It was literally to the minute, to the day that Minty had died,' the victim added.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

October 12, 2010

Ethical will to communicate what we think is important to those we love

You leave your family more than an estate. An ethical will, an extralegal, nonbinding document, is meant to communicate values and family feelings.

Bequeathing Smart Strategies in Barron's

TOM ROGERSON, director of family wealth services at BNY Mellon Wealth Management in Boston, keeps a copy of a handwritten, 10-page document on his desk. When he first saw it, he says, it made him weep.

The letter, from a father to his son, is nearly 25 years old. It describes the impact of his conversion to Christianity late in life, and outlines his hopes for his son.

"That was my first experience, before I knew the term," Rogerson says. "But it turns out this was an ethical will. It is a great example of what an ethical will is designed to do."

My  colleague Susan Turnbull at Personal Legacy Advisors is interviewed

"The impulse to communicate what we think is important to those we love is as old as the human race," says Susan Turnbull, founder and principal of Personal Legacy Advisors, a firm that advocates nonbinding personal-legacy documents as a component of estate and philanthropic planning.

"What struck me was that it was the missing piece of estate planning," she says. "A will is written in formal legalese that is very limited in scope. It has no personality, and there is no life or warmth in it. Love and affection and gratitude may be implied by the document, but are never stated."

"An ethical will takes a 30,000-foot view of your life," Turnbull adds, "and tries to capture the essence of what has been important to you, and the lasting messages you want to leave."
"The ethical will is written to help other people, for the benefit of the heirs, but the process the author goes through to create it is as valuable as the document itself," Turnbull says. "The author has the opportunity to pause and reflect on his life in ways he might otherwise never do."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:20 PM | Permalink

September 30, 2010

Mum's Manual

The wish list of a dying mother: Cancer sufferer leaves husband the 100 things he must do with their two young sons... and tells him to 'find another woman'

Kate Green died at 37 after two years of battling with breast cancer, leaving her husband and two sons, 4 and 6.

In the last months of her life she drew up a long list of instructions, hopes and ambitions for the boys, which St John has now devoted himself to fulfilling.

They include specific experiences she wants them to enjoy, such as visiting the beach where she holidayed as a child, attending an international rugby match, and going to Switzerland where St John proposed to her.

Others are heartbreakingly simple, including finding a four leaf clover, learning to play a musical instrument and growing sunflowers.

Kate also outlined basic principles she wants instilled into the boys, such as always being on time, treating girlfriends with respect and always making up after a row.

The 'mum's manual' also spells out what she wants avoided - smoking, riding motorbikes and joining the Armed Forces.

Other wishes include buying a dining table so they always eat together and always kissing the boys goodnight twice before bed.

Amazingly, she also urges St John to find another woman so the boys grow up with a female influence in their lives.


Here are a few of her instructions and the things she loved the way she wrote them

Mummy liked walks down the river bank

Would like school photos bought every year

Would love the boys to find 4 leaf clovers

Take the boys to see an international rugby match

Need to set up certificate boxes for swimming badges, school achievements etc

Mummy liked walks along the beach and Mendips, rockpooling and walks in the woods and finding creatures of all kinds.

Mummy loved moths, snakes and slowworms Orange cub biscuits, jam and jelly, lemon curd

Kiss goodbye even if leaving for a short time
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:41 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2010

"They are hungry for reality," students and LifeChronicles

Just a couple of weeks ago, I read a Boston Globe story about Karyn Slomski, a young mother of 4-year-old Maggie and 6-year-old Brendan , who was dying of cancer. 

Slomski, who has advanced breast cancer, approached her social worker at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute about making a video as a way for her husband and children to remember her....“It tears me up that they won’t have a mom, and this is a way I can leave a small piece of me with them.’’
“I want them to be able to see me when I’m gone, to see us all together as a family,’’ said Slomski, 38, as the videographer prepared for the session. “I wanted something more than pictures, for them to remember me. And to remember how happy we all were.’’

It was just two weeks ago that the video was made.  Yesterday, Karyn Slomski died. But she parted with lasting words, a little piece of herself in a living memory made possible by LifeChronicles.

I posted about  the article and video that will last - Beyond a Lifetime, but I wanted to do more.  I wanted to focus on Life Chronicles and its founder Kate Carter who  travels the country to record interviews with the dying as memories for their children.  She  So I called her up and interviewed her.


Kate is like many who find new passion and purpose in mid-life and the seeds of her re-blooming will touch families for decades to come.

Approaching 40, after any number of jobs when she was younger, Kate wanted to do something different, something she had never done before.  She began an internship in TV production to learn all about the field, but when she completed it, she didn't know what to do.  Since she didn't much care for commercial television, she did something uncharacteristic for her, she waited.  For two years.  Then a friend of hers whose husband died of Lou Gehrig’s disease six weeks earlier was told that she had breast cancer and the prognosis was poor.  She had three children, 16, 13, and 10, who were about to be orphaned.

Kate knew what she could do.  She could capture the essence of her friend on videotape, the very best of her and all that she wanted her children know.  That’s how Life Chronicles began.    The initial focus on the terminally ill (with referrals coming from hospices and cancer centers) broadened to include life chronicles of seniors, some of them in early stages of Alzheimer’s, and the parents of children who must stay in hospital for an extended period of time.

Some 400 interviews have been made, every one a means to keep the memories of a person vivid and  alive.  Every one, an immeasurable treasure to a family.    The gift returns to the giver and Kate says that she is never more connected to the universe than when she is talking with a terminally ill person.

Life Chronicles, a non-profit 501(c)3, doesn’t charge families of the terminally ill for interviews because Kate knows very well that families are often a financial crisis as well.    Despite these difficult financial times for fund-raising,  Kate charges ahead,  shooting out blast emails for donations of  miles so she can fly cross country to interview a mother of two who will be dead in less than a month.  Supporting her are many student volunteers across the country.  Even those who were just looking for experience to add to their resumes, have been  transformed by the experience of listening to people reflect on their lives as they are about to die.

Kate says, “They are hungry for reality.”  They want to know about real life and drink in the profound and positive messages they hear from the old and the dying.  One student wrote, "For one hour I was completely absorbed into the life of someone else in a way I had never been before.  I vividly remember every detail of her apartment, just as I recall every detail of her life story. As we left, tears streaming down my cheek, I understood how much this taping really meant to her; I helped this stranger pass her message on. …. What started as a required internship assignment evolved into a deep understanding that community is a gathering of unique individuals who share their lives together. We create our legacies with and through each other.”

Life Chronicles began to bring comfort to families in crisis, yet, the very process of doing so has opened up the lives of the student volunteers.  After videotaping the life chronicle of an elderly and beloved priest whose life was rich with wisdom, Kate had an epiphany when she realized that young people aren't hearing these lessons.
"We need to go where the young people are and they are on the Internet."

And so Life Space was born as a way to "refresh and restore values in our society through the power of video".
The 400 interviews already are being harvested with clips organized by topic.    And what topics: overcoming adversity, living through the Great Depression, experiencing World War II, experiencing loss, the power of selflessness, the meaning of life and much more. 

LifeSpace isn't live yet, but students are being trained and equipped to expand their archive and a model is being developed that can be replicated anywhere.  Even better, a LifeChronicles kit is being created that schools can use on their own so their students can go out into their communities and capture life stories, life lessons, and values from the dying and from a generation rich in wisdom and love of life and family.  From one generation to another,  heart speaks to heart.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:48 PM | Permalink

"They are hungry for reality," students and Life Chronicles

Just a couple of weeks ago, I read a Boston Globe story about Karyn Slomski, a young mother of 4-year-old Maggie and 6-year-old Brendan , who was dying of cancer. 

Slomski, who has advanced breast cancer, approached her social worker at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute about making a video as a way for her husband and children to remember her....

“It tears me up that they won’t have a mom, and this is a way I can leave a small piece of me with them.’’
“I want them to be able to see me when I’m gone, to see us all together as a family,’’ said Slomski, 38, as the videographer prepared for the session. “I wanted something more than pictures, for them to remember me. And to remember how happy we all were.’’

It was just two weeks ago that the video was made.  Yesterday, Karyn Slomski died. But she parted with lasting words, a little piece of herself in a living memory made possible by LifeChronicles.

I posted about  the article and video that will last - Beyond a Lifetime, but I wanted to do more.  I wanted to focus on Life Chronicles and its founder Kate Carter who  travels the country to record interviews with the dying as memories for their children.  She  So I called her up and interviewed her.


Kate is like many who find new passion and purpose in mid-life and the seeds of her re-blooming will touch families for decades to come.

Approaching 40, after any number of jobs when she was younger, Kate wanted to do something different, something she had never done before.  She began an internship in TV production to learn all about the field, but when she completed it, she didn't know what to do.  Since she didn't much care for commercial television, she did something uncharacteristic for her, she waited.  For two years.  Then a friend of hers whose husband died of Lou Gehrig’s disease six weeks earlier was told that she had breast cancer and the prognosis was poor.  She had three children, 16, 13, and 10, who were about to be orphaned.

Kate knew what she could do.  She could capture the essence of her friend on videotape, the very best of her and all that she wanted her children know.  That’s how Life Chronicles began.    The initial focus on the terminally ill (with referrals coming from hospices and cancer centers) broadened to include life chronicles of seniors, some of them in early stages of Alzheimer’s, and the parents of children who must stay in hospital for an extended period of time.

Some 700 interviews have been made, every one a means to keep the memories of a person vivid and  alive.  Every one, an immeasurable treasure to a family.    The gift returns to the giver and Kate says that she is never more connected to the universe than when she is talking with a terminally ill person.

Life Chronicles, a non-profit 501(c)3, doesn’t charge families of the terminally ill for interviews because Kate knows very well that families are often a financial crisis as well.    Despite these difficult financial times for fund-raising,  Kate charges ahead,  shooting out blast emails for donations of  miles so she can fly cross country to interview a mother of two who will be dead in less than a month.  Supporting her are many student volunteers across the country.  Even those who were just looking for experience to add to their resumes, have been  transformed by the experience of listening to people reflect on their lives as they are about to die.

Kate says, “They are hungry for reality.”  They want to know about real life and drink in the profound and positive messages they hear from the old and the dying.  One student wrote, "For one hour I was completely absorbed into the life of someone else in a way I had never been before.  I vividly remember every detail of her apartment, just as I recall every detail of her life story. As we left, tears streaming down my cheek, I understood how much this taping really meant to her; I helped this stranger pass her message on. …. What started as a required internship assignment evolved into a deep understanding that community is a gathering of unique individuals who share their lives together. We create our legacies with and through each other.”

Life Chronicles began to bring comfort to families in crisis, yet, the very process of doing so has opened up the lives of the student volunteers.  After videotaping the life chronicle of an elderly and beloved priest whose life was rich with wisdom, Kate had an epiphany when she realized that young people aren't hearing these lessons.
"We need to go where the young people are and they are on the Internet."

And so Life Space was born as a way to "refresh and restore values in our society through the power of video".
The 700 interviews already are being harvested with clips organized by topic.    And what topics: overcoming adversity, living through the Great Depression, experiencing World War II, experiencing loss, the power of selflessness, the meaning of life and much more. 

LifeSpace isn't live yet, but students are being trained and equipped to expand their archive and a model is being developed that can be replicated anywhere.  Even better, a LifeChronicles kit is being created that schools can use on their own so their students can go out into their communities and capture life stories, life lessons, and values from the dying and from a generation rich in wisdom and love of life and family.  From one generation to another,  heart speaks to heart.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:15 PM | Permalink

September 4, 2010

"The power of music"

How a personal story of an experience in WW2 is preserved for the future like the treasure it is.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

August 28, 2010

Storycorps Animated

I've written often about Storycorps, a non-profit organization that believes in the stories of lives and its mission to provide Americans with opportunities to record and share them.

Since 2003, Storycorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 stories, recorded each on a free CD to share, and preserved them all at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Recently the New York Times highlighted them again, The Stories Speak for Themselves, but Pictures Help,

THEY are conversations broadcast every Friday morning on NPR’s “Morning Edition”: snatches of lives recorded by StoryCorps, often poignant, sometimes profound and utterly captivating for many listeners. But they have never made the leap from radio to television, until now.

Storycorps has parted with an animation studio, the Rauch Brothers, who animate some of the stories for later viewing at the Storycorps site, YouTube, and eventually broadcast on PBS's POV.

The results are wonderful, both charming and intimate.

"Being married is like having a color television set, you never want to go back to black and white"

It’s hard to exaggerate what a departure these animations represent for Mr. Isay, a man so ardent in his devotion to the human voice that he has suggested that it might be the container for the soul. Cameras are barred from the booths where StoryCorps conducts its mostly two-person, 40-minute interviews, on the grounds that they would make participants self-conscious.

But, after seeing a DVD of how it could be done, Storycorps founder, David Issay said

"It was this incredibly magical thing, and I was hooked.”

via Ronni Bennett's Interesting Stuff at Times Goes By.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

August 24, 2010

Beyond a lifetime

Here is a sad and wonderful story in the Boston Globe, Videos capture memories to last beyond a lifetime.

Like she does most every night, Karyn Slomski gathered her young children close to her and read to them — first a story about a day of kindergarten for her 4-year-old daughter, Maggie, then Dr. Seuss for 6-year-old Brendan.

This storytime was different than the rest. It was recorded on video, intended as a living memory.

Slomski hasn’t told her children yet, but she is dying and could have only weeks to live. They know their mother is sick, that something called cancer has ravaged her body over the past four years. But they don’t yet know she will soon be gone.

“I want them to be able to see me when I’m gone, to see us all together as a family,’’ said Slomski, 38, as the videographer prepared for the session. “I wanted something more than pictures, for them to remember me. And to remember how happy we all were.’’

The videographer, Kate Carter, travels the country to record interviews with the dying as mementos for their loved ones. Carter formed the nonprofit group, LifeChronicles, in 1998 after the death of a close friend with three children. She had worried that other children would lose the memories of their parents, and has now recorded hundreds of videos that chronicle lives nearing their end.

The group provides the videos for free and supports itself through private donations. On this trip, Carter flew across the country on frequent-flier miles donated by a supporter of the program.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 PM | Permalink

July 22, 2010


Lost Kafka writings resurface, trapped in trial

It seems almost Kafkaesque: Ten safety deposit boxes of never-published writings by Franz Kafka, their exact contents unknown, are trapped in courts and bureaucracy, much like one of the nightmarish visions created by the author himself.

The papers, retrieved from bank vaults where they have sat untouched and unread for decades, could shed new light on one of literature's darkest figures.

In the past week, the pages have been pulled from safety deposit boxes in Tel Aviv and Zurich, Switzerland, on the order of an Israeli court over the objections of two elderly women who claim to have inherited them from their mother.

"Kafka could easily have written a story like this, where you try to do something and it all goes wrong and everything remains unresolved," said Sara Loeb, a Tel Aviv-based author of two books about the writer. "It's really a case of life imitating art."

But the newly emerged writings won't see the light of day until the Israeli court unravels the tangled question of the collection's rightful owner.

The case boils down to the interpretation of the will of Max Brod, Kafka's longtime friend and publisher. Kafka bequeathed his writings to Brod shortly before his own death from tuberculosis in 1924, instructing his friend to burn everything unread.

But Brod, who smuggled some of the manuscripts to pre-state Israel when he fled the Nazis in 1938, didn't publish everything. Upon his death in 1968, Brod left his personal secretary, Esther Hoffe, in charge of his literary estate and instructed her to transfer the Kafka papers to an academic institution.
Instead, for the next four decades, Hoffe kept the papers in her Tel Aviv apartment and in safety deposit boxes in Tel Aviv and Zurich banks.

But the Israeli National Library has long claimed the papers, saying Brod intended for the collection to end up in its hands. It filed an injunction against the execution of Hoffe's will.

"As long as Esther Hoffe was alive, she was responsible, she could still say, 'I am handling it,'" said Heller, the library's lawyer. "The late Mrs. Hoffe did not do what the late Mr. Brod asked her to do and deposit the documents in the national library. ... The will was not honored, it was desecrated."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:15 PM | Permalink

June 2, 2010

"I haven't heard my father's voice since I was 4 years old. It doesn't exist [on tape]. It hurts not to hear him."

If you ever doubted the importance of your personal legacy archives, read Families with a Missing Piece

"I'd give up a year of my life for just half a day with my parents," says Jonathan Herman, a 33-year-old health-care executive in New York. He lost both his parents to cancer before he was 13.

When polled, 57% of adults who lost parents during childhood shared Mr. Herman's yearnings, saying they, too, would trade a year of their lives. Their responses, part of a wide-ranging new survey, indicate that bereavement rooted in childhood often leaves emotional scars for decades, and that our society doesn't fully understand the ramifications—or offer appropriate resources.
When surveyed about how they processed their grief, adults whose parents died when they were young speak of touchstones. They were helped by looking at old videos with surviving family members, by listening to favorite music and by writing memories of their parents in journals. Some chafed at more-formal approaches; 33% said talking to therapists or school guidance counselors were the "least helpful" activities.
After their parents die, some of the children might find it painful to look at these last photos of them enjoying life as a family. But Mr. Herman, who lost his dad when he was 4 and his mother when he was 12, says such images can be a gift later in adulthood. For years, he resisted watching the video of his 9th birthday. But he now finds it cathartic to see his mother healthy, hugging him and calling his name.

"I haven't heard my father's voice since I was 4 years old," he says. "It doesn't exist [on tape]. It hurts not to hear him." He admits he feels a touch envious of children who lose parents today, because they have so many more digital images to hold on to.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:54 PM | Permalink

December 29, 2009

There's a Novel in Your Living Room

That's what Hugh Hewitt says "Be sure to read it while you still have it."

Much as any columnist hates to say it, for most of you there is a better use of your time. If you have an aging mom or dad, or an elderly relative of any sort under the roof, you've got a novel in your living room, and I hope you take some time to at least skim its table of contents today.

Time is marching on, and with it all the familiar stories. But chances are you haven't really heard them in a long time, if ever. Chances are your Rose Marie is honored and served, but rarely listened to at length, much less made the focus of a family conversation.

My suggestion is that you give it a try, but do so with a purpose. See if you can't keep Aunt Joan or Gramps focused on the story of their lives, so that at the end of an hour, you know the outline of their life --where they were born, where they lived, the names of their school and favorite teachers, and whether they had a pet and where they had their first kiss.

Here's Rose Marie's call.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 AM | Permalink

December 12, 2009

"There's little grace in email"

Through Letters, a Family History Unveiled

A reporter's seven-year correspondence with his 93-year-old cousin, illustrator Sam Fink, reveals a family's past and the beauty in old-fashioned letter writing

"There's little grace in email," Sam tells me when I stop by to visit in November. "Part of grace occurs when a letter drops through the slot in the door and you decide how to open it." He says he plans what he'll write in his letters when he goes to bed, then starts typing in the morning. "I love the sound of the clackety clack of a typewriter."
Sam wanted me to know about our family. His mother Tillie, who died in 1989 at age 97, was one of six siblings born before 1900. In his retelling, the clan became fantastical characters. Tillie was so determined to keep her ailing mother Betsey from committing suicide that she'd tie a string around her and her mother's arms when they went to bed, so Tillie would know if the old woman stirred. Two of Tillie's brothers were so clueless about their tea-totaling mother's anguish that they'd bring her brandy, which she'd rub into her knees to try to relieve arthritic pain.

What most amazed me about Sam Fink is his creative spurt at age 89.

While Ms. Tabori wasn't interested in an illustrated alphabet he had been pushing, she looked over Sam's other works and says she was knocked out by his earlier volume on the Constitution. She wanted to republish it, this time richly colored. The assignment, at age 89, led to a remarkable burst of creativity, in which Sam published four illustrated books over the following three years on the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, Exodus and a passage from an Annie Dillard book.

"The Constitution of the United States of America" features a whimsical sketch of a human spine to represent the country's backbone. To tie the Gettysburg Address to the aspirations of the founders, he drew tiny figures of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence and had them stand on a quill held by Lincoln. He says the famous documents embody freedom to him, the kind of freedom that let his illiterate grandmother immigrate to the U.S., and helped his family prosper.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

December 1, 2009

Awkward family photos

I love this new blog Awkward family photos.  Some make you wince; others are flat out hilarious.

If you have a photo  like the one below submitted by Clare, it deserves inclusion in your personal legacy archives.

Otherwise, you'd better better off leaving out the awkward ones.  Personal legacy archives are for the photos you love, not the ones that make you cringe.

 Awkward Family Photo

“This is my mom, dad and brother in Sydney.
Posing on a bridge, my brother set the camera on timer, and ran back to join my parents.
However, he had too much momentum and fell back into the pond.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:28 PM | Permalink

July 29, 2009

Letter to my children

Whittaker Chambers , an American writer and editor, was once a Communist party member and Soviet spy.  After he  renounced communism, he became an outspoken opponent and became most famous or infamous for his testimony against Alger Hiss ten years later, a U.S. State Department employee whom he accused of being a Soviet spy. 

In 1952, Chambers's book Witness was published to widespread acclaim. The book was a combination of autobiography, an account of his role in the Hiss case and a warning about the dangers of Communism and liberalism. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called it one of the greatest of all American autobiographies, and Ronald Reagan credited the book as the inspiration behind his conversion from a New Deal Democrat to a conservative Republican.

President Reagan awarded Chambers posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to "the century's epic struggle between freedom and totalitarianism.

The excerpts below is a letter to his beloved children, from the forward to Witness.

I see in Communism the focus of the concentrated evil of our time. You will ask: Why, then, do men become Communists? How did it happen that you, our gentle and loved father, were once a Communist? Were you simply stupid? No, I was not stupid. Were you morally depraved? No, I was not morally depraved. Indeed, educated men become Communists chiefly for moral reasons. Did you not know that the crimes and horrors of Communism are inherent in Communism? Yes, I knew that fact. Then why did you become a Communist? It would help more to ask: How did it happen that this movement, once a mere muttering of political outcasts, became this immense force that now contests the mastery of mankind? Even when all the chances and mistakes of history are allowed for, the answer must be: Communism makes some profound appeal to the human mind.
The revolutionary heart of Communism is not the theatrical appeal: "Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain." It is a simple statement of Karl Marx, further simplified for handy use: "Philosophers have explained the world; it is necessary to change the world."
How did you break with Communism? My answer is: Slowly, reluctantly, in agony. Yet my break began long before I heard those screams. Perhaps it does for everyone. I do not know how far back it began. Avalanches gather force and crash, unheard, in men as in the mountains. But I date my break from a very casual happening. I was sitting in our apartment on St. Paul Street in Baltimore. It was shortly before we moved to Alger Hiss's apartment in Washington. My daughter was in her high chair. I was watching her eat. She was the most miraculous thing that had ever happened in my life. I liked to watch her even when she smeared porridge on her face or dropped it meditatively on the Hoor. My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear-those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through my mind: "No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design." The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind. But I never wholly forgot it or the occasion. I had to crowd it out of my mind. If I had completed it, I should have had to say: Design presupposes God. I did not then know that, at that moment, the finger of God was first laid upon my forehead.
The crisis of Communism exists to the degree in which it has failed to free the peoples that it rules from God. Nobody knows this better than the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The crisis of the Western world exists to the degree in which it is indifferent to God. It exists to the degree in which the Western world 'actually shares Communism's materialist vision, is so dazzled by the logic of the materialist interpretation of history, politics and economics, that it fails to grasp that, for it, the only possible answer to the Communist challenge: Faith in God or Faith in Man? is the challenge: Faith in God.
My dear children, before I close this foreword, I want to recall to you briefly the life that we led in the ten years between the time when I broke with Communism and the time when I began to testify-the things we did, worked for, loved, believed in. For it was that happy life, which, on the human side, in part made it possible for me to do later on the things I had to do, or endure the things that happened to me.

Those were the days of the happy little worries, which then seemed so big
The farm was your kingdom, and the world lay far beyond the protecting walls thrown up by work and love.
Thus, as children, you experienced two of the most important things men ever know-the wonder of life and the wonder of the universe, the wonder of life within the wonder of the universe. More important, you knew them not from books, not from lectures, but simply from living among them.

via American Digest

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:01 PM | Permalink

July 21, 2009

Six questions

Rod Dreher points to the documentary "Anna' where Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov asked his daughter the same questions each year from the time she was six until she was 17 and so documenting her growing moral awareness and maturity.

For young parents, this is a great way to capture the lives of your children over time

Here are the six questions:

What do you love the most?

What do you hate the most?

What scares you the most?

What do you want more than anything right now?

What do you expect from life?

What does the homeland mean to you?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:10 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 17, 2009

Time Capsules

The Past is Alive in Time Capsules

Most of us want to be remembered, appreciated, and looked up to. We want a part of our past to be left behind for others to find and to ponder. The existence of time capsules has allowed us to do this.
there are those that are unintentional and wind up being discovered thousands of years later after they were placed in the ground

1939Timecapsulecupaloy 1

See what's in some famous time capsules at  the link.

Wow! There's an International Time Capsule Society

Via Neatorama

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 PM | Permalink

July 12, 2009

Secrets Swallowed

Joseph Bottom of First Things on The Judgment of Memory

Every memoir of childhood is necessarily overshadowed by parents, and I could find, were I to turn my mind that way, stories of my father's drinking, his pretension, his bounce.

But my father, being dead, is not here either to be triumphed over by my telling of those stories or to defend himself against them. The death of parents leaves their honor in their children's hands, and the cruel accuracies we might fling in anger against them while they are alive seem even more wrong to use against them once they are gone. “To the living, we owe respect; to the dead, only truth,” Voltaire once opined. It's a good line: high-minded, confident, sententious in the way only enlightened French philosophes could manage with any aplomb. But it also feels exactly backward, particularly about those we knew and loved. To squabble with our vanished parents about how they lived their lives seems more than a metaphysical nullity. It is, in fact, a moral failing.

If love is true—that is to say, a true thing: a really existing object to which the universe itself must bend—then there remains a place for reticence, and secrets swallowed, and the dead allowed to keep their darkness to themselves.
Memory may be our best tool for self-understanding, but only when we remember how weak a tool it really is: prone to warping under the narrative drive of storytelling, vulnerable to self-interest, susceptible to outside influence.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:02 PM | Permalink

June 8, 2009

Haunting video released in murder trial of Meredith Kercher

'You send your daughter away to study and she doesn't come back. We will never, ever get over it.'

A quite spectacular murder trial is underway in Italy.  British student Meredith Kercher was found murdered in her apartment in the Umbrian town of Perugia, her throat cut.  She shared the apartment with an American girl from Seattle with an 'angel face', Amanda Knox, who is charged with the murder along with her former lover, Raffaele Solllecito.    Another man, Rudy Guede, described as an "Ivory-coast drifter," was charged in the murder as well and is now serving a 30-year sentence.

Details of the murder can be found in a Wikipedia entry.

Kecher's family released a music video starring the murdered British student that's quite eerie.  Haunting I would call it.

 Meredithkercher Musicvideo

He said: 'It was made by a group of Meredith's friends sometime during 2007 - I think she knows the lead singer.
'The people on the video are friends of hers who were at Leeds University and it is unreal to see her in the video and to know that a few months later she was murdered.

'It was a very emotional experience for them to come and give evidence but they coped very well.

'They just wanted the court to know what a special and much loved person Meredith was not just to her family but all her friends as well.'

In the opening sequence, Meredith is seen walking down a flight of stairs and makes several other appearances including a haunting scene where she walks through a set of doors and looks straight at the camera.

In another shot, she again looks directly at the camera before glancing at the singer, as snow appears to be falling around.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

June 1, 2009

Ancient Manuscripts

Ancient Manuscripts in a Digital Age The slideshow

In an increasingly digital era, researchers are racing to track down and digitize rare, ancient manuscripts. Father Columba Stewart, a Benedictine monk from Minnesota, is at the forefront of the fight. He's traveled to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Georgia to search for endangered Christian manuscripts to digitize before they are looted or destroyed. Similar efforts are under way around the world as companies and foundations finance major efforts to digitally preserve culturally significant artifacts

 Benedictine Preserving-Ancient Manuscripts

The article

While conservationists are quick to stress that pixels and bytes can never replace priceless physical artifacts, many see digitization as a vital tool for increasing public access to rare items, while at the same time creating a disaster-proof record and perhaps unearthing new information.

One of the most ambitious digital preservation projects is being led, fittingly, by a Benedictine monk. Father Columba Stewart, executive director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John's Abbey and University in Minnesota, cites his monastic order's long tradition of copying texts to ensure their survival as inspiration.

His mission: digitizing some 30,000 endangered manuscripts within the Eastern Christian traditions, a canon that includes liturgical texts, Biblical commentaries and historical accounts in half a dozen languages, including Arabic, Coptic and Syriac, the written form of Aramaic. Rev. Stewart has expanded the library's work to 23 sites, including collections in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, up from two in 2003. He has overseen the digital preservation of some 16,500 manuscripts, some of which date to the 10th and 11th centuries. Some works photographed by the monastery have since turned up on the black market or eBay, he says.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

May 18, 2009

Lawyer forsees his murder, makes YouTube video

Two days after Rodrigo Roseburg made this video in Guatemala City, while riding his bike, he was shot and died on the street.

Guatemala in uproar after lawyer predicts his own murder.

"If you are hearing this message," Rosenberg begins, "unfortunately, it is because I have been murdered by the president's private secretary, Gustavo Alejos, and his partner, Gregorio Valdez, with the approval of Álvaro Colom and Sandra de Colom [Guatemala's president and first lady].

"I do not want to be a hero," Rosenberg says at one point during the sensational video that was distributed at his funeral on Monday, but he has now become a martyr in a nation weary of drug running, money laundering and corruption, and with one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Rosenberg explains that he was a lawyer who would have preferred to continue quietly practising his profession, but it was the murder of two clients in April that led directly to his own death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 AM | Permalink

May 16, 2009

The final frontier of reality television

Maureen Callahan says The final frontier in reality television has been crossed with the broadcast Friday of "Farrah's Story"

But amid this week's non-stop media coverage of the special, replete with a red-carpet premiere and interviews with her on-again paramour Ryan O'Neal - who, ever the gentleman, referred to Fawcett in the past tense - one question has yet to be asked: Is this weird? Or is this just the natural progression of things, the logical next step in a culture where the pace of oversharing and electronic communications are perfectly, symbiotically matched?

Fawcett herself, as she has throughout her career, comes off as extremely likeable and well-intentioned, if - like most celebrities of her era - a bit unhooked from the actual world. She rails against the lack of funding for research into cancers such as hers, and bemoans the lack of experimental treatments in the US. Yet it does not register with her that her wealth and fame, which afford her private jets to Germany and an international team of doctors, are unavailable to the vast majority of cancer sufferers, and that, if not for her station in life, she would not have had extra time. She does not seem to wrestle, at all, with the notion that there may be some experiences best kept private, that the unintended consequences of oversharing can be a cheapening and coarsening of the most meaningful moments.

Fawcett's story, of course, is real, and it will be interesting to see how many Americans watched, and if the nation's attitudes towards death - really the last taboo - begin to change. Maybe death will be discussed more openly, or maybe most people will decide that it's too ghoulish, too voyeuristic, to watch a deathbed goodbye, to watch an American icon of youth and beauty waste away.

I didn't see it, but I don't think I would have watched.  I know these people have lived all their lives before a camera, but to me making such private moments public lacks dignity.  Watching someone die is a profound and deep moment.  Making a private video for family members is one thing, making a public show about it is another.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 PM | Permalink

May 12, 2009

Telegrams today


If you're making a digital scrapbook and wish you had a telegram to include or if you just want to send an old-fashioned telegram today you can for $4.70, all from your computer at TelegramStop

via Book of Joe.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 PM | Permalink

May 2, 2009

A Partisan Tombstone

Nathaniel Grimsby, born in 1811 in Kansas, though old when it broke out, fought in the Civil War becoming a second lieutenant and a "picturesque figure".

From When Kansas Was Young by Thomas Allen McNeal

He was a Republican without variableness or shadow of turning.  To his mind, politically speaking, the Republican party was summum bonum, while the Democratic party was malum in se.  Whatever there was of good in the political acts of the past third of a century, he attributed to the Republican party, and whatever there was of evil to the malign influence of the Democratic organization.  With most men political activity stops with the grave, but old Nathaniel Grigsby, as the weight of years bowed his back and the frosts of time, silvered his hair, knowing that his years were nearly numbered, devised a plan by which his political opinions might be transmitted to coming generations, carved in imperishable granite, to be read long after his mortal body had returned to the earth from which it came and his spirit had joined the immortals.  He carefully prepared the inscription for his tombstone and exacted the promise it should be graven on the shaft which marked his grave

Grimbsy Tombstone 1

 Grimsby Tombstone 2

Hat tip to Paul, Thoughts of a Regular Guy

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

Goodbye Mother Pie

Sadly, MotherPie, one of my favorites,  is winding down her blog.  With all best wishes in her new transition which may have something to do with 12 Mighty Orphans.

You can see why I will miss her with these excerpts from two of her last posts. 

Life, Time and Significance

Sometimes it takes literally years and years and years to understand or even know what has been significant.  Time must pass to understand the larger meaning of a thing, to put perspective on life, to see how beginnings actually end.

That has certainly been the case with the inspiring and true story of
12 Mighty Orphans.

Martin Luther King's briefcase shows us the totemic significance of what was carried on anyone's last day before sudden death.

 Mlk's Briefcase

Strength to Love.  That is the book he authored (a collection of his sermons) that was in Martin Luther King's briefcase, right, open as he packed it, in his hotel the day he was shot.  These never before released photos from the day he died by Henry Groskinsky for Life magazine.

"Strength to Love" (Martin Luther, Jr. King)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 AM | Permalink

April 27, 2009

"In the Green Room to the River Styx"

Christopher Buckley on Growing Up the Only Child of the Charismatic and Complicated Buckleys

One realization does dawn upon the death of the second parent, namely that you’ve now moved into the green room to the River Styx. You’re next. Another thing about parental mortality: No matter how much you’ve prepared for the moment, when it comes, it comes at you hot, hard and unrehearsed.

This excerpt in the New York Times Magazine is part of Chris Buckley's New Book "Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir"

 Losing Mum And Pup

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:09 AM | Permalink

March 27, 2009

Lessons from Oakland

Thousands attend funeral of the 4 Oakland police officers slain last week

...some 19,000 law-enforcement officers from coast to coast gathered along with grateful community members at the Oracle Arena in Oakland for a final send-off for their brothers in blue.

All four veteran officers died Saturday when a wanted parolee, 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon, opened fire in separate incidents just hours apart in East Oakland.

Police Shot Funeral Oakland.Lrg

A rumbling cortege of motorcycle officers escorted each hearse to the arena, keeping a tight and sharp formation just as Dunakin would have liked it, his colleagues said. They passed underneath a giant American flag hanging between the extended ladders of two Oakland fire trucks. Hundreds of police vehicles, from bomb-squad trucks, motorcycles, Ford Crown Victoria and Dodge Charger cruisers, filled the parking lot.

There were police cars from Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston and New York and a rainbow of uniforms that filled the arena and the adjacent Oakland Coliseum, where an overflow crowd watched the service on two big screens.

Their badges wrapped with black bands of mourning, hundreds of officers in dress uniforms lined the steps outside the arena and saluted as one by one, honor guards escorted four flag-draped caskets inside, followed by the officers' families. A sign at the complex read, "Forever Heroes."

Many officers dabbed at their eyes with white gloves as the caskets were placed in front of a flower-adorned stage beside their pictures. The police motorcycles of Dunakin and Hege and two pairs of empty boots sat nearby.

After the funeral, the officers were to be honored with a 21-gun salute from a military cannon, and 20 helicopters from across the nation were to fly in a "missing man" formation. Miles-long formations of police cars, their emergency lights whirling,

The four slain

Oakland police Sgt. Mark Dunakin, or "Dunny," as everybody called him, was a big teddy bear and die-hard Ohio State Buckeyes and Pittsburgh Steelers fan who proudly patrolled the streets on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Traffic Officer John Hege was a "beer and brownie man" who combined his love for the department and the Oakland Raiders by working overtime at the Coliseum during home games.

SWAT Sgt. Ervin Romans was a former Marine Corps drill sergeant, a "tactical guru" and expert marksman who instilled the importance of safety on the hundreds of officers he trained.

Sgt. Daniel Sakai juggled the duties of being a patrol sergeant and a SWAT entry team leader, yet still insisted on working out and running with officers preparing to take a grueling physical test.

Police Shot Calif Motorcycles

8 hour caravan from Orange County.

Last Saturday, 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon shot and killed officers Erv Romans, 43, Mark Dunakin, 40, and Dan Sakai, 35. A fourth officer, John Hege, 41, was taken off live support after being declared brain dead.

Mixon was wanted for a parole violation, and opened fire during a traffic stop before heading home and opening fire on SWAT officers who were pursuing him with an AK-47, officials said.


When the caravan arrived, the cars and motorcycles drove past Oracle Arena in a singe-file line and shone their lights in a display of respect.

The Bookworm said some 80 police officers from Boston and even representatives from Scotland Yard were expected.  The Bookworm is a new blog for me that I discovered via links from the Anchoress and American Digest .  She said something at the end of her post that warmed my heart.

I always view tragedies like this as reminders — reminders not to wait until it’s too late to say how you value someone.  No matter the heart-felt outpouring at today’s memorial service, friends, family, colleagues and politicos will be saying things that Sgts. Mark Dunakin, 40, Erv Romans, 43, Daniel Sakai, 35, and Officer John Hege, 41, won’t be around to hear.

When my Mom turned 80, I temporarily stole her address book and wrote to every living person in it asking them to send a letter with a personal message and a remembrance about her.  Photos would be welcome too.  My sister, who is artistic, then assembled the dozens of responses in a beautiful album.  My mother almost cried when she got the album and (this is true) carried it with her everywhere she went for almost a year.  To know, not only that her friends loved and valued her, but why they did so, meant everything to her.

Don’t wait until those near you die before you open your mouth and say the things you should have said before.  Tell your family members you love them — and tell them why.  Give your friend a true compliment — a deep one, about his or her personality, not just the usual “great shirt,” or “nice hair” kind of thing.  Praise a colleague’s work.  These things matter, and one of the greatest regrets we always have when people die is all the things we should have said before.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:18 PM | Permalink

The Secret Scripture

It is funny, but it strikes me that a person without anecdotes that they nurse while they live, and that survive them, are more likely to be utterly lost not only to history but the family following them.  Of course this is the fate of most souls, reducing entire lives, no matter how vivid and wonderful, to those sad black names on withering family trees , wit half a date dangling after and a question mark.

My father's happiness not only redeemed him, but drove him to stories, and keeps him even now alive in me, lie a second more patient and more pleasing soul within my poor soul.

I loved this book set in Ireland and the beautiful, lyrical  prose of its author who was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2008.

Sebastian Barry writes about the beautiful Roseanne Cleary McNulty, a 100-year-old woman in a mental asylum for far more than fifty years who is secretly writing the story of her early life (the Secret Scripture of the title)  and hiding it under the floorboards in her room. 

Dr. Grene, a psychiatrist in charge of deciding what is to happen to each of the patients when the asylum closes- and so Roseanne's fate- becomes fascinated by Roseanne's resilience and lack of bitterness and soon begins to uncover  the truth of why she was sent to the asylum in the first place. 

"The Secret Scripture" (Sebastian Barry)

 The Secret Scripture

Here's another few snippets:

It is always worth itemizing happiness, there is so much of the other thing in life, you had better put down the markets for happiness while you can.
We are never old to ourselves.  That is because at close of day the ship we sail in is the soul, not the body.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink

March 26, 2009

When you interview your elderly parents

Some tips on Drawing Out Wisdom from Parents

Even though my parents lived into their 70s and 80s, I could never bring myself to ask them some important questions about the lessons they’d learned in life. Like many of my generation, I went straight from prolonged adolescent rebellion to reluctant adult caregiving without pausing to wonder what grown-up wisdom my parents might have to offer…until it was too late.

Henry Alford didn’t make that mistake. The author of “How to Live: A Search for Wisdom From Old People” not only persuaded his mother and stepfather to talk candidly about their lives, he managed to get all kinds of colorful and famous people over age 70 — including Phyllis Diller, Harold Bloom and Edward Albee — to share the wisdom, and in some cases the folly, of their life experiences. His 262-page book is filled with their insights, along with deathbed confessions, excerpts from diaries and an exploration of the meaning of wisdom itself

Whether your parents are eccentric, crotchety or boring, Mr. Alford’s techniques may help you get them to open up and share their wisdom. Here’s what he told me.

• “Explain to them specifically why you want to interview them, and what people who read or watch the interview stand to gain from the experience.” Tell them if you want to keep the stories all for yourself. Or perhaps you want to pass them on to your children.

• “Pace yourself — don’t open with a question about sex, war crimes or contemporary recording artists.”

• “Exhibit the manner or behavior you’re hoping to elicit — be philosophical to incite philosophizing, be potty-mouthed to incite potty-mouthism.”

• Do not expect earth-shattering revelations. If your parents are eating out of trash cans or busy putting together Ponzi schemes, you probably are already on to them.

• Do not fear that delving into the past will precipitate a family rift — unless one is on the verge of happening anyway, which was the situation in Mr. Alford’s family. Shortly after his interview, Mr. Alford’s stepfather overdosed on sleeping pills, which caused Mr. Alford’s mother, furious that her husband of more than 30 years had abandoned his commitment to sobriety, to throw him out of the house, end the marriage and move by herself to a retirement community 580 miles away.

• As they reflect on their life experiences, urge your parents to go beyond pearls of wisdom and clichés like “Life is a journey,” “Do what you love,” or “Accept what you can’t change.” Instead, urge them to relate their own personal, idiosyncratic nuggets of wisdom. Mr. Alford dubs these summations of life’s wisdom “elderisms.” (In his book, he explains the “rules” for constructing a proper elderism are like those for creating an aphorism: it must be brief, definitive, personal and have a twist.)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:48 PM | Permalink

March 2, 2009

"Lost in an historical abyss"

Close to 30,000,000 people were killed by the communists in the USSR, not including deaths from the Second World War.

Russian civil war (1917-1922) 9,000,000 deaths.
Soviet Union under Stalin (1924-1953) 20,000,000 deaths.

Jon Utley's father was one of them.  Jon was only two years old when his father, Arcadi Berdichevsky, a Russian trade official, was sent to a Soviet labor camp by the Soviet secret police.  Because his mother was a British intellectual , she was able to escape with her young son and from there to the USA.

Beginning in 2004,  Jon Utley began a search to find out what happened to his father.  Reason.TV now is making available online the 30 minute documentary Jon Utley's Search for his father which I highly recommend.

So much of what happened under the communists has been "lost in an historical abyss", so it's heartening to see Russians in the north, the Komey republic,  constructing memorials to the executed prisoners who built much of their cities and piecing together files so that descendants can find out what happened to their parents and ancestors who died as prisoners in labor camps.

Jon Utley found the place where his father was executed.  He saw the surroundings, the land and considered a great gift to do so before he died.  There he found a sense of peace, a continuity of being with his long-dead father.

Seventy years later, witness is still being made.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 PM | Permalink

January 27, 2009

Widow finds husband's secret treasure

He kept a locked chest in the garden shed and always "politely refused to say" what was in it when his wife asked.

After he died and she was clearing out some things when...

"My curiosity got the better of me. I didn't know what would be inside.
What Mrs Rowlands found was a treasure trove of children's toys dating back to when her husband was a boy and that he had kept lovingly under wraps for over 70 years.

Mr Rowlands had packed away his favourite things in the chest when the Second World War broke out and kept them in there but never told anyone of the wonderful array of 1920s and 30s games, wooden toys and animals.

Mrs Rowlands said: "Inside was a clockwork train set, clockwork helicopter, soldiers made of lead and wooden farm and zoo animals all from the 1920s and 30s.

"It was amazing. There were home-made farm buildings, a wooden alphabet, and game of snakes and ladders and ludo.
"I also found a small tin containing marbles, broken toys, nuts and bolts - just the things which might have been found in the pockets of a small boy during the 1930s."

 Her Husband's Treasure

Widow find's dead husband's secret toy treasure trove hidden in shed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

January 26, 2009

The Love of a Father

Here's a sweet story and a radio piece about the bus driver dad in southern California who sent a postcard every day to his daughter attending college at Mt. Holyoke.     

Please Respond to My Enquiries, Thank You

 1000 Postcards

Of course, she was the envy of her fellow students.  How everyone hungers for the love of a father.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:11 PM | Permalink

January 10, 2009

One in 8 Million

The New York Times has begun a wonderful new feature called One in 8 Million.  Each is a two-minute story about one person in New York City.

Using still photos with an audio voiceover, these stories are wonderful examples of how you can build your own Legacy Archives with stories about yourself and your family

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:46 AM | Permalink

January 6, 2009

Remembering their songs

Recording studio in hospital about more than music

Just down the hall from the chemo infusion rooms at Texas Children's Hospital, Jalen Huckabay was about to slip into another world, away from the wearying regimen of pokes, prods and pinches she'd endured since being diagnosed with lymphoma in November.For the next few hours, the curly-haired, cherub-faced 16-year-old would become a songwriter.

Purple Songs Can Fly, a one-of-a-kind program at one of the country's largest pediatric cancer care facilities, gives patients a chance to record their own songs in a fully equipped recording studio at the hospital.

It had been less than two hours since Jalen entered the Purple Songs studio. Her initial reluctance had evaporated. Now, she wanted everyone to hear the song.

"MYD's my yippin' dog. Got her last Christmas on the 23rd ... If you give her a bath. She attacks the towel. If you make her mad. She will growl ... Yip. Yip. Yip. Yip."

Kruse had taken Jalen's lyrics, and added a bouncy music track with a thumping bass and lively melody meant to evoke the antics of a mischievous dog. Then Jalen recorded several vocal tracks, creating the illusion of back-up singers. It was Jalen's idea to throw in a few yips for fun.

"That's the most animated I've ever seen her," Dreyer said later. "She's been transformed today and that giddiness will sustain her through her chemo session.

"We're trying to get kids through cancer, so the more fun we can make it, the better their response is to everything," Dreyer said. "It will give them a chance to get beyond this."

Don't you think those recordings will be treasured for years.  Those songs will be especially valuable to their families if some of the children don't survive for long.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:28 AM | Permalink

December 18, 2008

Your daily routine

As you ponder what to save in your personal legacy archives, a description of your daily routine is always revealing and often interesting as this blog Daily Routines proves.

Dip in and see how writers, artists and other interesting people organize their days.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:00 AM | Permalink

From baby blogs to baby books

From online baby blogs to printed baby books

To wit: Kidmondo, which we covered this summer, has since added a print option to its offerings. Through a partnership with custom publishing platform Sharedbook, Kidmondo now gives parents a fast and easy way to turn all the content they create online into a "KidBook" in the brick-and-mortar world. Users can pick which parts of the online journal they want to include in the book as well as customizing the content, cover, titles and more. Pricing for the KidBook begins at USD 28 for a perfect-bound softcover book with 20 full-colour pages and free US shipping. Hardcover is also available, and additional pages can be added for USD 0.50 each. KidBooks are currently available only in English, but Kidmondo hopes to accommodate other languages in the future, it says.

BabyChapters, meanwhile, is another site that lets parents share their baby's precious moments with family and friends in a safe and secure way, and also offers an online-offline combination. After creating their free online baby book, parents can select the chapters they'd like to include in a hardcover print version. Prices begin at USD 27.95 for a 24-page book, with a 20 percent discount for additional copies. Los Angeles-based BabyChapters launched in April.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2008

Quick bites of Goethe

As heirs to Western civilization, our common legacy as is so vast and so great, we can not take it all in.    At best, we dip into it from time to time, sometimes as a citizen when we vote or speak against the government without any fear ; sometimes as believers when we gather in faith communities to worship God without any thought that we may be endangering our lives.  Other times we are transported in a museum before a Renaissance painting or a Greek sculpture or in a symphony hall listening to Bach's St. Matthew's Passion.

But often we depend on others to communicate the greatness of someone long dead but whose legacy still nourishes minds and hearts.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was such a man. 

According to George Eliot, Goethe was "Germany's greatest man of letters. —poet, critic, playwright, and novelist—and the last true polymath to walk the earth."  I suppose he holds a similar position in the German imagination as Thomas Jefferson, another polymath, holds in the American imagination. 

 Goethe By Steiler, Karl Joseph

The Reader's Companion to World Literature says
Goethe comes as close to deserving the title of a universal genius as any man who has ever lived.  though he will be considered here as a man of letters, it is important to remember that he had an intelligent grasp of all the arts, that he successfully carried burdensome responsibilities as a public administrator, and that his scientific interests led him to make significant contributions to mineralogy, optics, comparative anatomy and plant morphology.

Today we look to bloggers who write about what they love.  Elizabeth Powers is the Goethe girl, a writer and literary scholar with a Ph.D in German literature and a consultant to the Metropolitan Museum.  She loves Goethe and has begun a blog Goethe Etc. that vibrates with sympathy with this great man and, like him, is interested and learned about many things. 

Maybe that's how we ordinary people can preserve Western civilization.  By writing about what we love and value, sharing our appreciation with the world and passing it on to the people we love.

Maybe we only have time for quick bites of what we most need - the accumulated wisdom of the past.  For me, quick bites are quotes and here are some:

On Character:  Talents are best nurtured in solitude; character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.

On Courtesy: There is a courtesy of the heart; it is allied to love.—From it springs the purest courtesy in the outward behavior....There is no outward sign of true courtesy that does not rest on a deep moral foundation.

On Happiness: The most happy man is he who knows how to bring into relation the end and the beginning of his life.  One has only to grow older to become more tolerant. I see no fault that I might not have committed myself.

On Kindness: Kindness is the golden chain by which society  is bound  together.

On Life:  Life is a quarry, out of which we are to mold and chisel and complete a character. Life is the childhood of our immortality.

On Love: We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.

On Immortality:  Those who hope for no other life are dead even for this.

On Architecture: I call architecture frozen music.

On Nature: Nature is the living, visible garment of God.

On Riches: Riches amassed in haste will diminish, but those collected by little and little will multiply.

On the Bible: It is a belief in the Bible, the fruit of deep meditation, which has served me as the guide of my moral and literary life.—I have found it a capital safely invested, and richly productive of interest.

And others I liked
Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.

Which is the best government? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.

First and last, what is demanded of genius is love of truth.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:11 PM | Permalink

November 28, 2008

Remembering a Dakota Thanksgiving

Would that we all had the talent that Joseph Bottum does in recalling a long-ago  Dakota Thanksgiving.  Better yet an Aunt Eleanor.

Aunt Eleanor turned to look at me directly, and her face was hard with something I couldn’t quite understand. “And do you see why? It’s because they were parents. And that’s what it means to be a parent. They had already given up their lives for their child’s, from the first moment he existed.”

She sighed again and looked back out at the river. “In that blizzard, the bill finally came due, and they knew they had to pay it—the way you will pay it, when your time comes. The way your mother and father will pay it, when they have to. That’s what I want you to remember the next time you’re angry with them, the next time you want to scream because they won’t let you do something, the next time you feel as though nobody understands how grown up you’ve become.”

She glanced over at me and smiled, pulling her cloth sleeve up over her hand to wipe the windshield. “Come,” she said, “it’s time to get back home.”

Years later, I came to see my great-aunt’s story as the answer to utilitarianism and the ethics of calculation, the solution to those “lifeboat cases” we were supposed to ponder in freshman philosophy courses. But at the time I knew only that she was trying, in her way, to let me in on the secret, the mystery of adulthood. We turned away from the cold, gurgling river and drove back up the hill to the house on Elizabeth Street. Dinner was just beginning, and the arguments were already starting to swirl around the quarrelsome table. But my father winked at me across the half-carved turkey. And just as I realized how hungry I was, my mother set before me a plate filled with bright orange yams, green beans, the dark drumstick meat I loved, cranberry sauce, sage dressing—the kind of meal a fourteen-year-old boy imagines every meal should be. My parents were happy that Thanksgiving, I think, and why not? They had each other, they had their children, and they had their family, however much it squabbled and fought, gathered around them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink

October 21, 2008

Winston Churchill's Death Letter

Following the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, in the summer of 1915, Winston Churchill volunteered for the Western front and like other soldiers left a death letter.

Revealed: Churchill's tender letter to Clementine to be opened if he was killed on the Western front.

He celebrated the love he felt for Clementine, his wife of seven years. He wrote to her: 'You have taught me how noble a woman's heart can be.'

He was also dismissive of his own mortality, imploring Clementine: 'Do not grieve for me too much... death is only an incident, and not the most important...'

And, in a flash of the bullish nature that would see him rally the nation as war leader in 1940, he begged his wife to guard his papers from his 'Admiralty administration'.

'Some day I should like the truth to be known,' he wrote, confident history would vindicate him over Gallipoli, the failed attempt to capture Constantinople to gain a sea route to Russia, which led to huge British and Commonwealth casualties.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 AM | Permalink

October 7, 2008

Memory Boxes

She made memory boxes for her two young sons containing keepsakes like a bottle of her perfume and a recorded song and letters telling them how they should behave like avoiding "negative moaning, consider other people's feeling and not to be afraid to make mistakes.

Now, Sandra Carey-Boggins has died of breast cancer.

She was informed the disease had spread to such an extent that it was beyond treatment. But after being told the news, she embarked on a journey to fulfill as many of her lifetime ambitions as possible.

A month after being told her condition was terminal, she married Tom, her partner of four years. She also took part in kayaking, power-boating, quad-biking, hot air ballooning and a holiday to New Zealand.

Her mother, Mavis Wise, said: 'She passed away very peacefully.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:25 AM | Permalink

August 18, 2008

Toxic Photo Soup

A recipe for Toxic Photo Soup: Layer 1,000 photos in a large, watertight plastic storage tub. Place high on basement shelving unit. Fail to notice small, leaky basement window nearby. Marinate, unattended, three to four years. Open and serve.

Yield: 1,000 blank sheets of sopping photo paper and four gallons of black, stinky, toxic rainwater-chemical soup.

Yes, it's time to digitize your photos.  David Pogue has advice on various services to scan your photos in Your Photos, Off the Shelf at Last.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:42 AM | Permalink

Removing Memories

I Was There.  Just Ask Photoshop

REMOVING her ex-husband from more than a decade of memories may take a lifetime for Laura Horn, a police emergency dispatcher in Rochester. But removing him from a dozen years of vacation photographs took only hours, with some deft mouse work from a willing friend who was proficient in Photoshop, the popular digital-image editing program.

In an age of digital manipulation, many people believe that snapshots and family photos need no longer stand as a definitive record of what was, but instead, of what they wish it was.
“What we’re doing,” Mr. Johnson said, “is fulfilling the wish that all of us have to make reality to our liking.”
Alan D. Entin, a clinical psychologist in Richmond, Va., uses patients’ family photographs as raw material to inspire discussion and analysis of their roles and relationships within their family.

“They’re a record,” he said. “They have existed over time and space. They are important documents.”

To alter them is to invite self-deception, he said. “The value to accepting a photograph of yourself as you are is that you’re accepting the reality of who you are, and how you look, and accepting yourself that way, warts and all. I think the pictures you hate say as much about you as pictures you love.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:14 AM | Permalink

August 15, 2008

Days with My Father

This photographic journal of an artist's last days with his father is both beautiful and moving, if a bit bewildering in its navigation.

 Days With My  Father

Philip Toledano's Days with My Father,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

July 31, 2008

The World's Biggest Family Tree

He spent 30 years tracing his family tree all the way back to William the Conquerer.

Ah yes, Roy's scrapbooks. The 76-year-old has quite a few of them. He has just finished compiling what is thought to be the world's biggest family tree.

It takes in 9,394 relatives, including King Henry I and Alfred the Great, and stretches back 1,500 years, all the way to AD500 when Cerdic of Wessex (another of his ancestors) was on the throne.

Compiling it has involved three decades - Roy started in 1980 - of poring over old papers from rarely disturbed filing cabinets in county records offices, inspecting inscriptions on graves, and struggling to read old-fashioned script in parish registers and wills. The project has cost Roy £20,000.

That's 45 generations!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:24 PM | Permalink

July 29, 2008

Why do women hate photographs of themselves?

Why do women hate photographs of themselves?

Talking to my friends, I realise that most of us have hundreds of pictures of our children, our partners, our friends, but scarcely a single one of ourselves.

My friend Helen - slim, attractive and stylish - confessed to me recently that she is photo-phobic. “From looking at our photographs, you'd think my husband was married to the au pair. If I died tomorrow, my children would hardly have a single photograph to remember me by,” she says.
“Photographs aren't very representative of what we look like in reality,” she says. “It is just a record of one static moment. People are never completely still like they are in a photograph, and animation changes the way we look. In studies, people are often rated as significantly better-looking in person than in photographs, and that's because of personal qualities, such as confidence.”

Ironically, for all my dislike of cameras, I regret that I have so few photos as records of my personal history. I have scarcely a single picture of myself in my twenties, for example.

And oddly, when I look at old photos of me, ones that I loathed at the time I now think look fine. Where once I saw old and fat, I now see young and slim. So, tell me: why will I still be sitting at the PC deleting this year's crop as usual?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 PM | Permalink

June 23, 2008

ScanCafe for digital copies of treasured photographs

Kevin Kelly's blog Cool Tools is a favorite of mine because I'm always finding good information about products and services that make life easier.

 Scancafe 2

He's found a service that can scan your old photos and slides cheaply called Scancafe.

Here is how it works: You pack up your images and mail them to ScanCafe's headquarters in Northern California.  They count them up, and repackage them before shipping the pieces to India.  In India they are scanned, touched up, rotated and then privately posted to your account at their website.  You then go through the images online and select the ones you want to keep.  You are allowed to dismiss (and not pay for) up to 50% of the total for that order.  You can reject the images because you aren't happy with how they look online, or simply because you don't want the image.  In the specific  case of original photo negatives, there is no reliable way to communicate which image(s) you want on the strip, so ScanCafe will scan the entire strip of negatives.  You'll have to reject the particular frames you don't want (but no more than 50% of the total order.  Combine them with slides to keep your percentage down.)

After you've made your selection, ScanCafe will send the originals back to the US and then from CA they will ship you a DVD/CD with your images and your originals.  It takes 7-8 weeks door to door.  The quality of the scan is great for everything except huge billboard enlargements.  The photos are scanned at 3000 dpi which gives a file about the quality of a 7 megapixel digital shot.  You can scoop the final jpeg images into iPhoto or Flick'r or Blurb books.  They are rotated into correct up-down/sidways orientation by hand.

Some people are concerned about sending their precious originals to India - or anywhere for that matter.  They should not be. ScanCafe has a very elaborate tracking and shipping system that would work even if you were shipping jewels.  Their scanning facilities in Bangalore are more organized than you are.  I have more trust in this system that I would handing them over to any neighborhood scanner.

I have a big crate of old slides and photo albums just waiting to be scanned.  So far, I've taken a number of slides to my neighborhood camera store for a specific project and been pleased with the results.    If any of you have used ScanCafe, I'd be interested in your experience.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:33 PM | Permalink

June 18, 2008

You are a Witness to History

Adriana Lukas muses on the new museum in Hungary dedicated to Nazism and Communism in House of Terror.

I believe that the best and only way to understand Communism and Nazism is through the lives of individuals who were affected by it not through a historical methodology or chronological exposition.

Everyday life is as important to understanding of what happens as are historical milestones. It might help people realise how little it takes for the society to find itself in a grasp of a toxic ideology and how gradual the decline can be, how unnoticed the erosion of freedom, dignity and moral strength.

You too are a witness to history.  What will you say about the history you've seen to your children and your children's children?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 AM | Permalink

June 16, 2008

New Mother Discovers Her Own

How my baby helped me discover the tragic mother I never knew

For good or ill, most of us see flashes of our mothers in our daughters  -  but for me it's both shocking and exquisitely sweet, because my mother has been dead for more than 30 years.

I never knew her, and that's why it's so wonderful to find shades of her again now. She's there in the glint of my daughter's smile, in her infectious laugh and sparkiness; but most of all, she's there in the love I have for Nancy.
But I knew, however painful it might be, that I had to find the true essence of my mother.

Tentatively, I asked my mother's brothers and sister to write down their memories of her. (Sadly, my grandmother is now dead and my grandfather is very old.) I needed to know who my mother was. I needed to discover what she would have wanted for me.

I needed to know mundane details about her. Which hand did she write with? What made her happy? What made her laugh? For the first time in over 30 years, I wanted her existence to be acknowledged.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

June 15, 2008

The Presence of My Father

Because he was the most important man in my life,  it doesn't seem so long since he's been gone even though my father died sixteen years ago.

In fact, I got a letter from him, or part of one, just last month.

In the course of getting ready to sell the family house after my mother's death, some fifty years of accumulated stuff had to be gone through and decisions made as to where all the stuff was to go.

Going through some old files, my brother Kevin found a sealed letter written by my father to be opened only after his death.  Never opened, it contained a last will and testament written by my father in January of 1961 just before a trip he was to take to California with my mother.

Apprehension before a long trip is common, instinctively connected to the apprehension of our own mortality.  As Katherine Mansfield wrote, "Whenever I prepare a journey, I prepare as though for death.  Should I never return, all is in order."

Just before a long trip is when most people write or revise their wills.

My father was only 38 and the father of seven young children when he wrote the will we just found.

He hadn't traveled much since the war where he was a Flight Officer in the Army Air Force.  While recuperating from an illness, he met and, a month or two later,  married my mother, an Army Air Force nurse.    I came soon after.  We moved to Vermont when he began college on the GI Bill.    By the time he had finished law school and passed the bar, a fifth baby arrived, little Colleen.  At the same time, he also got the highest mark on the civil service entrance exam, a congruence of events that elicited an invitation from Governor Herter to come in and receive his gubernatorial congratulations.

 Dad Governor Herter

He supported all of us on the salary he received from from his day job at the Massachusetts Board of Conciliation and Arbitration which handled industrial and job disputes.  With his new civil service ranking, he was appointed Chairman of the Board.

Only a few years later, he was invited to join the American Academy of Arbitrators and that was the occasion of the trip to California - to attend his first conference and take my mother with him as a sort of vacation, a rare separation from all of us.

So I understand the apprehension he must have felt and the pressing need to write a will, appoint guardians, and record where his accounts and policies were.  What I did not expect were his notes "a few words to each child."  What came back with resounding force was the importance of his Catholic faith and passing it on.  His presence is palpable in what he said and in his handwriting which is as recognizable to me as my own.  I imagine his writing this late one night at the kitchen table.

This is what he said:

Jill, you've been a wonderful daughter, your sense of values are superb. Always have God come first, be kind & considerate and charitable & use your wonderful intellect. All my love.

Kevin, you always tried hard to be good and you were never really bad.  Work hard and try hard and you'll be a fine man. Your religion is the best gift we have given to you & always cherish it as you have in the past.  All my love.

Debby, in many ways the most thoughtful and kindest of all.  But exasperatingly thoughtless at other times, we've always loved you deeply Deb and we know you'll rely upon God to direct your life.  All my love.

Billy, a good boy, we're blessed with wonderful children and Billy, you've got the makings of a fine man.  Enjoy sports with Kevin & Robbie, be true to God & your faith & remember to work hard for a solid goal in life.  All my love.

Sweet Colleen, our most affectionate & a good girl, be kind & thoughtful always & do a good, good job in school as Mother and I want you to make us proud.  Say your prayers & cherish your faith.  All my love.

Dear Robbie, you've been a good boy & always kind to little Julie.  Kev & Billy will help you & teach you gams & when you go to school we know you'll work hard.  Be a good Catholic boy.  All my love.

Dear little Julie, with your imagination & inquisitiveness you'll be a wonderful student.  Jill, Debby & Colleen will teach you how to be a good girl.  All my love.

I was 15, Kevin 12, Debby 10, Billy 9, Colly 7, Robby 4, Julie almost 3.

We were fortunate to have him around for an additional thirty years so this will and these notes never came to light until now.    A gift to all of us, reminding how powerfully and wonderfully we were all loved.  A reminder of how heroic raising children can be.

When I first read it, I burst into tears, so moved was I in hearing from him .

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:18 PM | Permalink

June 6, 2008

A place for reticence and secrets swallowed

Some good advice for those writing their life stories.

The Judgment of Memory by Joseph Bottum

There is some dispute about who coined the description of bad biographies as adding a “new terror to death.” It may have been John Arbuthnot, describing the torrent of miserable, catchpenny books that eighteenth-century publishers issued immediately after the death of anyone famous. Regardless, the phrase ought to have been reserved for the way deceased parents have been treated in the recollections of childhood published over the last decade and a half. Who would risk bringing up literary children, if the reward is those children’s adding this new terror to their parents’ deaths?
The death of parents leaves their honor in their children’s hands, and the cruel accuracies we might fling in anger against them while they are alive seem even more wrong to use against them once they are gone. “To the living, we owe respect; to the dead, only truth,” Voltaire once opined. It’s a good line: high-minded, confident, sententious in the way only enlightened French philosophes could manage with any aplomb. But it also feels exactly backward, particularly about those we knew and loved. To squabble with our vanished ­parents about how they lived their lives seems more than a metaphysical nullity. It is, in fact, a moral failing.

If love is true—that is to say, a true thing: a really existing object to which the universe itself must bend—then there remains a place for reticence, and secrets swallowed, and the dead allowed to keep their darkness to themselves.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

May 29, 2008

Archiving children's artwork

A new business run by two entrepreneurial moms has popped up to digitally archive your children's drawings reports Springwise.


How it works? Parents send in their kids’ drawings and theART:archives team professionally photographs each one and sends back a DVD catalogue that can be viewed on a computer screen or TV.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

May 15, 2008

2007 selections for the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress selects each year the 25 recordings that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" to preserve for all time.  The 2007 selections for the National Recording Registry were announced this week.

Among the selections are Harry S. Truman’s legendary address to the Democratic National Convention in 1948; a collection of more than 1,000 radio broadcast recordings by Ronald Reagan before his election to the White House; the first trans-Atlantic radio broadcast in 1925; Michael Jackson’s "Thriller," the best-selling album of all time, produced by the legendary Quincy Jones; the "Sounds of Earth" disc that traveled with Voyager through space; Herbie Hancock’s "Headhunters," which expanded his appeal and became a cross-over hit; one of the few gospel recordings performed by Thomas Dorsey; and the first recording of "Call it Stormy Monday, but Tuesday is Just As Bad."

The full list of the 25 selections are below the fold along with their cultural significance. 

Which, if any, would you pick for your own personal legacy archives.  I'm not sure, but my favorites below are  the original cast recording of My Fair Lady, Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison, Tracks of My Tears by Smokey Robinson and the Sounds of the Earth from the disc prepared for the Voyager spacecraft in 1977.

1. The First Trans-Atlantic Broadcast (March 14, 1925)
Representing a technological breakthrough, this early orchestral broadcast originated in London, traveled by land line to station 5XX in Chelmsford, crossed the Atlantic where it was picked up by an RCA transmitter in Maine, and relayed to stations WJZ in New York and WRC in Washington, D.C. Although the fidelity is low, the recording is significant as a documentation of a technical achievement and a very rare instance of an extant example of a complete radio broadcast of the 1920s. The entire 37-minute broadcast survives on discs in the collections of the University of Maryland’s Library of American Broadcasting.

2. "Allons a Lafayette," Joseph Falcon (1928)
"Allons a Lafayette," a lively two-step, was the first commercial recording of traditional Cajun music. Accordionist Joe Falcon and guitarist Cleoma Breaux, his future wife, recorded this song in a New Orleans field session on April 17, 1928, for Columbia Records. Falcon began playing the accordion as a child and soon became a well-known and sought-after dance hall musician, performing throughout Louisiana and other states. His recording career ended soon after Cleoma’s death, but he continued to play and perform with his second wife, Theresa, until his death in 1965.

3. "Casta Diva," from Bellini’s "Norma"; Rosa Ponselle, accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Giulio Setti. (recorded December 31, 1928 and, January 30, 1929)
The gifted American soprano Rosa Ponselle was known for her brilliant portrayal of Norma, Bellini’s Druid priestess who sacrifices herself on the funeral pyre of her Roman lover. A native of Connecticut, Ponselle made her Metropolitan Opera debut at the age of 21, playing Leonora opposite Enrico Caruso in "La Forza del Destino." Previously, she and her sister Carmela appeared in vaudeville and in New York film theaters. The breadth of range, warmth and beauty of Ponselle’s art represented vocal perfection to many listeners and earned her a long and successful operatic and recording career.

4. "If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again," Thomas A. Dorsey (1934)
The acknowledged father of modern gospel music, Thomas A. Dorsey made only a handful of gospel recordings himself. Recording first as "Georgia Tom" and "Barrelhouse Tom," Dorsey was a noted blues artist and composer during the 1920s and early 1930s. In 1932, he dedicated the remainder of his life exclusively to gospel music. In four sessions in 1932 and 1934, Dorsey recorded several songs for Vocalion, including his popular composition, "If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again," which were released under his own name. His voice, although well-suited to his earlier blues and jazz recordings, was said to have lacked the qualities needed for gospel music and he made no further recordings, concentrating instead on songwriting and publishing. (Thomas Dorsey is not related to big-band leader Tommy Dorsey.)

5. "Sweet Lorraine," Art Tatum (rec. February 22, 1940)
People who listened to an Art Tatum record often wondered if it featured multiple pianists. Tatum's cascading runs up and down the keyboard, the scales, arpeggios, broken bass lines and two-fisted piano choruses, often taken at blistering speeds, gave this impression. Although contemporary critics found his playing "ornate" and devoid of improvisation, Tatum won his spurs as a jazz pianist. "Sweet Lorraine" is one of his signature tunes. Its relaxed tempo allows one to hear and follow all the typical Tatum action, including the harmonies and dissonances that give any Tatum performance undisputed originality.

6. Fibber’s Closet Opens for the First Time, "Fibber McGee and Molly" radio program (March 4, 1940)
The hall closet at 79 Wistful Vista, home of Fibber McGee and Molly (played by Jim and Marion Jordan) was the source of one of radio’s most successful running gags and America’s best-known pile of junk. The effect played on the strength of the sound medium. Frank Pittman, the program’s sound-effects engineer, created the comic catastrophe. The initial click of the door latch tantalizingly opened the routine. Then the thump of several boxes hitting the floor followed and grew to a crescendo of falling bric-a-brac increasing in speed and intensity until the victim was buried under a mountain of pots, pans, fish poles, dumbbells, skates, pie pans and coffee pots. The coda of the avalanche was the tinkling of a little bell. The gag was so effective that crowded, cluttered storage areas in homes are still compared by some to the closet of Fibber McGee.

7. Wings Over Jordan, Wings Over Jordan (1941)
The Wings Over Jordan choir was founded in 1935 by Rev. Glenn T. Settle, pastor of the Gethsemane Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1937, they began appearing on the radio program, "The Negro Hour," singing spirituals and other traditional gospel songs on local station WGAR. By 1938, the choir had become nationally known, broadcasting on CBS. The show, renamed "Wings Over Jordan," featured prominent African-American artists and scholars as well as choir selections. It ran until 1947. Many of these radio programs can be studied and appreciated today because they were pressed as electrical transcriptions and for broadcasts by the Armed Forces Radio Network.

8. Fiorello LaGuardia reading the comics (1945)
Fiorello LaGuardia, the effervescent mayor who is credited with building modern New York City, regularly took to the radio to communicate directly with the citizens of the city. One of LaGuardia’s most recounted acts as mayor was when he read the comics to the children of the city on WNYC radio during the 1945 newspaper delivery strike. He performed animated, dramatic readings, describing the action in the panels, creating different voices and adding excitement with various sound effects. This benevolent image of LaGuardia was immortalized in the opening scene of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical "Fiorello!" Surviving recordings of LaGuardia reading the comics are held in the WNYC Collection of New York’s Municipal Archives.

9. "Call it Stormy Monday but Tuesday is Just As Bad," T-Bone Walker (1947)
The first recording of this blues standard was made by the Black and White label in Los Angeles on Sept. 14, 1947. Backing up Walker on the session are Lloyd C. Glenn on piano, Bumps Myers on tenor sax and Teddy Buckner playing a muted trumpet. This lineup adds a strong jazz inflection to the recording. The song was reinterpreted with great success by a wide range of blues, rock and jazz recording artists, including Bobby Blue Bland, Lou Rawls, The Allman Brothers and Kenny Burrell.

10. Harry S. Truman speech at the 1948 Democratic National Convention (July 15, 1948)
Prior to the 1948 Democratic Convention, President Truman’s popularity was low and political commentators were sure that Thomas Dewey would easily win the presidential election. One of Truman’s advisors admitted that the president had a "speaking problem" -- he relied too heavily on prepared scripts and his delivery was rushed and occasionally unintelligible. In this speech, Truman worked only from a loose script and, as a result, he found his natural voice. In a down-to-earth and direct manner, which included colloquialisms from his home state of Missouri, the feisty president predicted, "Senator Barkley and I will win this election and make the Republicans like it. Don’t you forget it." The applause lasted for a full two minutes. Defying many predictions, Truman won re-election.

11. "The Jazz Scene," various artists (1949)
At a time when many 78-rpm discs were still sold in plain brown sleeves, producer Norman Granz released this limited-edition album set that included commissioned line drawings by David Stone Martin, large photographs by Gjon Mili and 12 sides of the most innovative jazz of the time. While illustrated album sets were not new at the time, the lavishness of this release was unique. Among the artists represented on the set are Duke Ellington, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Machito and Coleman Hawkins (who plays an unaccompanied tenor sax solo). The presence on the album of Machito’s selection "Tanga" points to the increasing significance of Afro-Cuban jazz in the late 1940s. During that time, Charlie Parker had recorded with Machito and his arranger/trumpeter Mario Bauza. Many other jazz musicians, most notably Dizzy Gillespie, would make important recordings of Afro-Cuban jazz.

12. "It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," Kitty Wells (recorded May 30, 1952)
An "answer song" to Hank Thompson’s country hit "Wild Side of Life," which criticized a woman who gave up true love for the lure of the honky-tonk, Kitty Wells’s "It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" argues that wayward men are to blame when women stray. Wells’s breakthrough hit established her as a major star and, more importantly, markedly broadened the range of subject matter considered appropriate for female country singers. The recording paved the way for increasingly frank songs by Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and other female country music stars.

13. "My Fair Lady," original cast recording (1956)
The original cast recording of "My Fair Lady" marks a high point in almost every aspect of the collaborations that produced it. It boasts a magnificent score by lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe—witty, intelligent, beautiful, and romantic. Brilliantly orchestrated by Robert Russell Bennett and Philip J. Lang, it captures landmark performances by Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway. The recording itself was wonderfully produced under the supervision of prescient producer Goddard Lieberson, who convinced Columbia to underwrite most of the costs of the original production. Columbia’s initial investment of $360,000 generated tens of millions of dollars in profit. The recording established a new relationship between Broadway productions and record companies; the album’s critical success and popularity with the public were unrivaled at the time.

14. Navajo Shootingway Ceremony Field Recordings, recorded by David McAllester (1957-1958)
Anthropologist David McAllester may have produced the only recordings of the deeply sacred Navajo healing ceremony in Arizona in the late 1950s. McAllester's recordings of Shootingway, one of the most complex in the Navajo ceremonial system, included the nine-day ceremonial event as well as detailed discussions about preparations, procedures, needed sacred paraphernalia, the reciting of all of the prayers, and singing of all of the songs in order. McAllester's collection includes eight different versions of the lengthy Blessingway ceremony, two of the Shootingway, other traditional ceremonies and many examples of contemporary genres in which he was also interested. This collection now resides at Wesleyan University where it became the core of the World Music Archives.

15. "‘Freight Train,’ and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes," Elizabeth Cotten (1959)
The debut album of singer, songwriter and guitarist Elizabeth Cotten was released when she was over 60 years old. A self-taught guitarist, her expressive two-finger picking style was enormously influential on folk song guitarists. Cotten was a popular performer during the folk music revival of the 1960s and a major inspiration to many aspiring musicians of the time. Cotten, who wrote "Freight Train" at the age of 12, was inspired by living next to the railroad tracks.

16. Marine Band Concert Album to Help Benefit the National Cultural Center (1963)
In 1963 the United States Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force bands and choruses were engaged (by special permission) to make albums of American music which would be sold to help fund the National Cultural Center (later the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts). The Marine Band had just returned from an extensive tour of the U.S. and was in prime form. The resulting recording by Herman Diaz, Jr., the legendary producer for RCA Victor, is considered by many experts as one of the finest recordings in band history because of the incredible sound quality of the recording.

17. "Oh, Pretty Woman," Roy Orbison (1964)
The last of Roy Orbison’s string of hits for Monument records, "Oh, Pretty Woman" was his most enduring recording. Orbison and co-writer Bill Dees tapped out the initial rhythm of the song while sitting at Orbison’s kitchen table. In the recorded version, this became the infectious and well-known opening guitar riff and propulsive drum beat. Artists as varied as Al Green, John Mayall and Van Halen have performed the song, and 2 Live Crew sampled the opening on their 1989 album, "As Clean as They Wanna Be." That appropriation, made without authorization, led to a U. S. Supreme Court case (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.), which ruled in 1994 that the commercial song parody qualified as fair use under Section 107 of the U. S. copyright law.

18. "Tracks of My Tears," Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (1965)
William "Smokey" Robinson wrote, produced and performed some of the sweetest, most poetic and enduring love songs in rhythm and blues history. "Tracks of My Tears" is highlighted by Robinson’s velvety high tenor voice and his heartbreaking lyrics. It captures the peak of Robinson’s talent. His smooth voice conveys the passion and pain required to maintain a false, happy exterior after a romantic breakup. He heightens the effect when he sweeps into his remarkable falsetto. The recording won numerous awards and is considered to be among the best recordings by the Miracles. "Tracks of My Tears" further emphasized the influence of Detroit soul on American popular music, a position attained by the recordings produced by Motown Records.

19. "You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song," Ella Jenkins (1966)
Performer and educator Ella Jenkins has been leading children on musical journeys around the world for more than 50 years. Her call-and-response songs, and gentle soothing voice, encourage children to join in and sing along, overcoming any shyness or reluctance they might have. Singing with Ella, children have learned songs from a variety of cultures and in many languages. Her vast repertoire of songs includes nursery rhymes, folk songs and chants as well as her own original songs. In keeping with the policy of its record label, Folkways, "You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song" has remained in print since it was first published in 1966.

20. "Music from the Morning of the World," various artists; recorded by David Lewiston (1966)
The first recording in the celebrated Nonesuch Explorer Series, "Music from the Morning of the World" was one of the first attempts to offer "international music" and, in particular, ethnic field recordings as entertainment for commercial recording listeners. The series exposed listeners to new musical idioms and non-Western classical music, and set high standards for recording quality and accompanying written documentation. "Music from the Morning of the World" provided many listeners with their first exposure to Balinese gamelan music and the unforgettably compelling "monkey chant."

21. "For the Roses," Joni Mitchell (1972)
In "For the Roses," Joni Mitchell took the confessional lyrics of her critically-acclaimed "Blue" album and infused them with touches of jazz. The result is a mélange of folk, rock, jazz and country that retains the heartfelt tone of her earlier work, but presents it on a broader canvas. While Mitchell later delved more deeply into jazz, "For the Roses" remains the album in which all the elements of her creative palette are in perfect balance.

22. "Headhunters," Herbie Hancock (1973)
"Headhunters" is a pivotal work of Herbie Hancock’s career. It was his first true fusion recording. Possessing all the sensibilities of jazz, but with R&B and funk soul rhythms, "Headhunters" had a mass appeal that made it the greatest-selling jazz album in history at the time of its release. The recording is notable for its use of an extremely wide range of instruments, including electric synthesizers which brought that new instrument to the forefront of jazz for the first time. Hancock’s experiments caused controversy among jazz purists, many of whom at the time belittled it as "pop." "Headhunters" proved to be influential not only to jazz, but also to funk, soul and hip-hop.

23. Ronald Reagan Radio Broadcasts (1976-1979)
This collection of over 1,000 radio broadcast recordings, the majority penned by Ronald Reagan himself, documents the development of his political vision in the years immediately preceding his election to the White House. In the broadcasts Reagan sounded what would become the familiar themes of his presidency: reduction of government spending, tax cuts, supply-side economics and anti-communism. These radio "chats" did not focus on specific policy prescriptions, as much as outlining a conservative governing philosophy, much of which remains with the Republican Party to this day. Also showcased is Reagan’s conversational, folksy rhetorical style, which added measurably to his public appeal.

24. "The Sounds of Earth," disc prepared for the Voyager spacecraft (1977)
Never released to the public, this disc was prepared to introduce aurally our planet to any alien intelligence that might encounter the Voyager spacecraft many millions of years in the future. The disc contains encoded photographs, spoken messages, music and sounds. There are greetings delivered from around the world in 55 languages. The sound essay includes life sounds (EEGs and EKGs), birds, elephants, whales, volcanoes, rain and a baby. The 90 minutes of music features selections from ragas, Navajo Indian chants, Java court gamelan, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, a Peruvian Woman’s Wedding song, and Chuck Berry’s "Johnny B. Goode."

25. "Thriller," Michael Jackson (1982)
Michael Jackson’s second album with legendary producer Quincy Jones attained stratospheric national and international success. Featuring outstanding performances by Paul McCartney on "The Girl is Mine" and a metallic Eddie Van Halen guitar lead on "Beat It," the album’s influence on the record industry and subsequent popular music is immeasurable. The album also includes the strong disco-inflected "Billie Jean" and the compelling title track "Thriller," featuring an eerie voice-over by Vincent Price. Jackson’s keen pop sensibilities, performances by a wide range of talented musicians and Quincy Jones’ expert production all contributed to making "Thriller" the best-selling album of all time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink

May 6, 2008

"I'm attempting to put myself in a bottle that will one day wash up on the beach for my children,"

After the extraordinary reception to the Beloved Professor Delivering His Last Lecture Jeffrey Zaslow teamed up with Randy Pausch to co-write the new book,

"The Last Lecture" (Randy Pausch, Jeffrey Zaslow)

Zaslow reports that Pausch is finding more difficult to say goodbye to his family  than he did to his colleagues at work.

Zaslow asks "When death is near, how do we show our love?" in  A Final Farwell

For many of us, his lecture has become a reminder that our own futures are similarly -- if not as drastically -- brief. His fate is ours, sped up.
People wrote about how his lecture had inspired them to spend more time with loved ones, to quit pitying themselves, or even to shake off suicidal urges. Terminally ill people said the lecture had persuaded them to embrace their own goodbyes, and as Randy said, "to keep having fun every day I have left, because there's no other way to play it."
Years ago, Jai had suggested that Randy compile his advice into a book for her and the kids. She wanted to call it "The Manual." Now, in the wake of the lecture, others were also telling Randy that he had a book in him--

"Well, you also need emotional insurance," the minister explained. The premiums for that insurance would be paid for with Randy's time, not his money. The minister suggested that Randy spend hours making videotapes of himself with the kids. Years from now, they will be able to see how easily they touched each other and laughed together.

Randy also made a point of talking to people who lost parents when they were very young. They told him they found it consoling to learn about how much their mothers and fathers loved them. The more they knew, the more they could still feel that love. To that end, Randy built separate lists of his memories of each child. He also has written down his advice for them, things like: "If I could only give three words of advice, they would be, 'Tell the truth.' If I got three more words, I'd add, 'All the time.' "

The advice he's leaving for Chloe includes this: "When men are romantically interested in you, it's really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do." Chloe, not yet 2 years old, may end up having no memory of her father. "But I want her to grow up knowing," Randy said, "that I was the first man ever to fall in love with her."
As he later explained it: "I am maintaining my clear-eyed sense of the inevitable.
I'm living like I'm dying. But at the same time, I'm very much living like I'm still living."

And so despite all his goodbyes, he has found solace in the idea that he'll remain a presence. "Kids, more than anything else, need to know their parents love them," he said. "Their parents don't have to be alive for that to happen."

The Last Lecture website.

Cross-posted at Business of Life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 PM | Permalink

April 22, 2008

My interview on Marketplace radio

On Marketplace radio yesterday, reporter Curt Nickish has an interesting piece about online obituaries called Another nail in newspapers' coffin about a new site now in beta called Tributes where people can place online obituaries, "keeping the memories alive".

When Jeff Taylor who started Monster.com, he moved help wanted ads from newspapers to the web.
Now he's trying to do the same thing with obituaries after not doing so well with Eons, a website targeted to those over 50.

In browsing through the obit section on Eons, looking for someone to interview, he came across the obituary I had posted about my mother with links to the three blog posts I had done about her.

That is how I came to be interviewed and how my mother's photo is now posted on Marketplace radio.  Interestingly it nothing to do with the work I'm doing or the book I'm writing.

You can hear my lovely voice,  part of the interview here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 AM | Permalink

March 20, 2008

Flip it

Only on the market for a year, the Flip camcorder has already garnered 13% of the market.  David Pogue finally reviews it, Camcorder Brings Zen to the Shoot.

the Flip has been reduced to the purest essence of video capture. You turn it on, and it’s ready to start filming in two seconds. You press the red button once to record (press hard — it’s a little balky) and once to stop. You press Play to review the video, and the Trash button to delete a clip.

There it is: the entire user’s manual.
Having finally lived with the Flip, I finally know the answer: it’s a blast. It’s always ready, always with you, always trustworthy. Instead of crippling this “camcorder,” the simplicity elevates it. Comparisons with a real camcorder are nonsensical, because the Flip is something else altogether: it’s the video equivalent of a Kodak point-and-shoot camera. It’s the very definition of “less is more.”

"Flip Video Camcorder: 60-Minutes (Black)" (Pure Digital Technologies, Inc.)


Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:02 PM | Permalink

March 11, 2008

"Everyman's Eternity"

  Baby, Crib  Dog

Photo from an exhibit at the Newark Museum by Frank Maresca of found snapshots taken between the 1920s and 1960s.

Asked to discuss the immediacy and urgency of snapshots, he says: “When people look at snapshots, whether of their own making or those made by others, the effect is so powerful that the viewer feels as if they are having an out-of-body and out-of-time experience. You see it happen all the time. The snapshot just may be Everyman’s eternity.”

Making Sense of Other People's Memories

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:03 PM | Permalink

March 6, 2008

Memory is Home

Reliving the past that is the most fantastic adventure of all. The event, relived, grows more and more enigmatic, and richer and richer in meaning. Turning to the past, I reach the future, I recall people I never knew.

From a review by David Marcus of the new book, A Guest in My Own Country: A Hungarian Life by George Konrad.

At the end of the memoir, Konrád asks, “Where is home?” we know the answer. Memory is home.

"A Guest in My Own Country: A Hungarian Life" (George Konrad)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:26 AM | Permalink

December 26, 2007

Poetry on demand

What people want is some memorial to the significance of their lives.    When a group of high school students led by an inspired teacher set up a poetry stand for poetry on demand, the results are heart-warming.

Poetry Stand
There’s a Japanese film I love called After Life. In the movie, people who have recently died reside for a week in an institutional building, where they must choose one moment from their lives in which to dwell for eternity. The hard-working staff of the afterlife must then create a short film of each person’s moment, which the newly dead view at the end of the week, before departing. What I love most is how unpolished these films are — the budget is low, the production time is short, and the staff members are not really filmmakers — and yet how effectively they do the job of evoking the joy people associate with their chosen memories. One man’s happiest moment comes while riding in a plane. In his film, the clouds are obviously fabric dangling from fat strings beside the windowless fuselage. But it works — it triggers the memory for the man, who sheds tears of joy as he heads into eternity.

I think those 13 teenagers were doing something similar at the poetry stand that afternoon in Princeton: dutifully listening to their customers, noting specifics, and trying their best to fashion a poem to memorialize a part of a life. I wish you could have seen a middle-aged woman who had recently lost her son asking Haley for something to comfort her widowed daughter-in-law. How hard Haley worked on that poem while the woman stood waiting.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:11 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2007

"Stretching our moments"

In five years a quarter of the entertainment being produced will be "circular" according to a study by Nokia.  It will be created, shared and edited within peer groups.  The audience becomes immersed and the creative experience participatory.

says Mother Pie in a terrific post American Cultural Soup followed by another on the new American "immersive and recursive" creative style, with its roots in geek culture and its digital tools.

We record and share, "stretching our moments by making them part of the present, future and past,"  our lives and works ever open to editing, reiteration, recycling and mashups.

More of us are becoming creative and discovering the joy of "immersive participatory creation", creative play in the digital world whether we're home alone or collaborating with family members. 

That collaboration does even have to take place in your own life time.
Think of how Natalie Cole mixed her own voice with her father's when to sing his top song in her album Unforgettable.  That 'collaboration' duet took place 25 years after he died. 

"Unforgettable: With Love" (Natalie Cole)

She won seven Grammy awards in 1992 for the album and the song.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:23 AM | Permalink

October 25, 2007


Kevin Kelly's blog Cool Tools is a favorite of mine because I'm always finding good information about products and services that make life easier.

He's found a service that can scan your old photos and slides cheaply called Scancafe.

I wrote a much longer post with excerpts and photos but for some reason I'm unable to post it despite several tries over the past week 

I have a big crate of old slides and photo albums just waiting to be scanned.  So far, I've taken a number of slides to my neighborhood camera store for a specific project and been pleased with the results.

So until my next big project, I'm going to hold off, but I'd be interested in  the experience of anyone who uses them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 PM | Permalink

October 2, 2007

Lost and found

When the demolition guys found an old suitcase, tucked into a crawl space, they opened it up to find photo albums, a yearbook, a college paper or two, and several photos.  For some reason, they kept it though they didn't know who it belonged to until, a year later, Dan Barnett started googling and calling.

Lost and found, a lifetime of memories

And there they were, those construction workers in their heavy boots, those guys with scarred hands who tear down and rip out, respectfully watching the white-haired lawyer.
Shaughnessy's father died in 1985, and his mother died two years later.
Now, two decades after their deaths, he was staring silently at their unearthed pictures, confronting memories of his past.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:10 AM | Permalink

July 26, 2007

The Revival of Personal Writing

Ronni Bennett writes that blogging gives shape to our lives.

My great Aunt Edith and I exchanged weekly letters for 25 years. She was my favorite, most trusted older relative and I poured out my heart to her about every good and bad thing that happened to me from age 15 on.

Visiting her one time when I was about 40, she announced that I was “old enough now for these” as she handed me a box with every letter I’d written her through all those years – essentially my own biography in my own hand and the most precious gift she ever gave me.

Although it is an imperative for elders, making sense of ourselves and giving shape to our lives is what writing has always been about at any age. Blogging gives that need a new dimension through the medium itself and the sharing of our thoughts with so many others than personal letters allow.
I think bloggers – old and young – intuitively know this, and that our blogs are on the bleeding edge of a renaissance in personal writing. Our blogs (and saved emails) will become as important to our loved ones as be-ribboned letters were in the past.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:10 AM | Permalink

July 10, 2007

The Mickey Mouse Club

YouTube is becoming a terrific resource for those who are using multimedia to tell the stories of their lives.

Take  the Original Mickey Mouse Club TV introduction for example.    Watching it, I can remember the excitement I felt as  a little girl.    I was so enamored of the Club and the Mousekeeters, Doreen and Annette being my favorites, that my best friend Kathy and I practiced routines in the back yard so that we would be ready for the talent scouts we were sure were coming to our hometown.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 PM | Permalink

May 20, 2007

Remembering Daddy

Joan Didion wrote, "We tell stories in order to live."    We all tell stories.  It is how we storytellers make sense of our lives and what's happened to us. 

Stories are the best way to keep memories alive as Patty Digh knows and writes in Remember Daddy

Besides the loss, obvious though that is to any of us who have suffered the death of someone we love, the worse thing about someone so important dying is the very idea - the very chilling incomprehensible thought - that people will forget them.

By telling his stories, and passing them along to Emma and Tess - and to you - he lives on. That's my job. It is all we have besides small luggage tags with his handwriting, photographs, a red corduroy shirt, his Mickey Mouse watch. Let's pass stories along, shall we?

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May 19, 2007

The Chemical Sandwich of Doom

That's what Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist, calls photographs trapped inside those sticky magnetic photo albums that used to be so popular. 

Acidic cardboard covered in stripes of acidic glue on the back, smothered in a vinyl sheet that is so chemically volatile it stinks. Oy. Fortunately, this is one of the few hands-on conservation projects that's easy enough for non-experts to tackle successfully

Some other tips from Sally Jacobs in preserving one of a kind family photographs
1. You can't keep it all.  Be your own editor. Don't be afraid to lose the dreck. 
2. If it's worth keeping, it's worth treating right
3. The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory
4. Digital is more fragile than you think, "Scan your prints and print your digitals".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 AM | Permalink

Beautiful Anachronism

From eclexys via The Practical Archivist

I would have loved to read my grandparents’ blogs, seen their photostreams, watched their videoblogs one by one. Beautiful anachronism, and wonderful to experience people whose genes you share, who live in another time that, in some ways, feels more like another place.

To hell with posterity. I love imagining even just one of my grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, or farther-off descendants, reading my blog and this long-ago person snapping into clearer, bizarrely intimate focus.

We’ve leaving voices to echo through time. That is, if bitrot doesn’t set in first. And that, to me, makes blogging somewhat less strange, and somewhat more beautiful.

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May 10, 2007

Preserving Legacies for Posterity on YouTube

The young and the old have the most free time to spend on the Internet, the young because they have no responsibilities, the old because their responsibilities are over.

I find it a very encouraging sign that more and more seniors are turning to the Internet to preserve their legacies, usually in written form, sometimes orally, often on blogs. 

Using YouTube for Posterity

With the spectacular success of YouTube, more seniors are preserving what they know in video form.  Take Paul Gordon, 92, who wanted to show off the piano he made or Bayle "Bubbe" Shere who has recipes she wants to share.  Then, of course, there's Millie who's been blogging and videoblogging for years now at My Mom's Blog thanks to her son Steve Garfield.

Seniors 65 are the fastest growing segment of people going online probably because everyone else is already there.  39% of all seniors have internet access and once they learn how easy the taping and uploading is, watch out.

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May 7, 2007

Recipes for your Legacy Archives

Since I putting together a book of my mother's favorite recipes complete with photos of her, the dishes and some of the handwritten recipe cards, this article by Ellen Claire Girardaeu stood out.

I can make a fine beef and vegetable soup because Mother wrote out the recipe in minute detail for me, and I can read.

The Perfect Recipe for Warm Memories

The handwritten ones are especially dear to me. They conjure the presence of the people who wrote them. Sharon's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, Bobbye Raye's "petticoat tails" (which I think is just a cute name for shortbread, but the recipe works, while most shortbread recipes don't), Joan's nuclear black bean salad -- all are in the book. But Mother's soup has pride of place.

It is hard to explain exactly how much finding Mother's soup recipe meant to me. Seeing her writing, reading the funny little asides that wouldn't make sense to anyone else and don't make much sense even to me, is like having her standing before me. Maybe the touch of her hand still warms the paper a tiny bit. All I know is that the recipe brings my mother to life for a moment, and that is enough.

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May 4, 2007

Make a Voice Quilt

From Springwise, a great new idea.

Voice Quilt combines high-tech and high touch to make it easy for people to create highly personal audio gifts for friends and family.

The process is simple. Customers set up an account at voicequilt.com. They purchase phone time and issue an invitation to friends and family, providing them with the toll-free phone number they need to call to record their message. Phone time costs from USD 9.95 for a MiniQuilt (3-5 Messages, ½ hr), to USD 34.95 for a Community Quilt (40-50 Messages, 3 hrs). The customer then listens to the recordings and creates a playlist. Once the playlist has been finalized, the Voice Quilt is shipped to the recipient on a CD (USD 11.95), inside a wooden keepsake box (USD 79.95 – 139.95), or downloaded from the internet (no extra cost).

Founder Hope Flammer came up with the idea after her best friend’s husband became ill and lapsed into a coma. She accompanied her friend to the hospital every day to visit with him, speaking, laughing and playing his favourite music as if he were awake and participating in the conversation with them. Fortunately he recovered. “I came away from that experienced convinced that loving voices can make a difference,” Hope says. “Preserved for years to come, the greetings and memories of close friends can remind us of special times. A family story, a child's laughter, a best friend's quirky expressions... these are sounds that nurture the spirit.”

Voice Quilt’s strength lies in its simplicity. One person arranges everything online, and the others just dial in whenever it suits them: it's as easy as leaving voice mail. One to set up locally!

  VoiceQuilt Check it out.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 18, 2007

Julia Campbell, R.I.P.

   Julia Campbell-2

The body of Julia Campbell, 40, a Peace Corps volunteer, was found in a shallow grave in a remote area of the Philippines.

Soldiers uncovered her body close to the village after a 10-day search. Her feet were protruding from the soil.

"Theory is she was killed," Beth Cedo, a spokeswoman for the police, said in a mobile phone text message.

No kidding.

Fortunately for her family, her friends and those who want to read about a woman who left all behind for a time to help others, she left a weblog, Julia in the Philippines.

Those who knew her and loved her can learn more about her life and what she thought and draw closer to her even as they mourn her loss.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:00 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 15, 2007

The Preservation of Memory is a Trust

Roger Scruton writes Why I became a conservative

Rightly understood, he argued, society is a partnership among the dead, the living, and the unborn, and without what he called the “hereditary principle,” according to which rights could be inherited as well as acquired, both the dead and the unborn would be disenfranchized. Indeed, respect for the dead was, in Burke’s view, the only real safeguard that the unborn could obtain, in a world that gave all its privileges to the living. His preferred vision of society was not as a contract, in fact, but as a trust, with the living members as trustees of an inheritance that they must strive to enhance and pass on.

He travels to Prague in 1975

Perhaps the most fascinating and terrifying aspect of Communism was its ability to banish truth from human affairs, and to force whole populations to “live within the lie,” as President Havel put it.
To me it was the greatest revelation, when first I travelled to Czechoslovakia in 1979, to come face to face with a situation in which people could, at any moment, be removed from the book of history, in which truth could not be uttered, and in which the Party could decide from day to day not only what would happen tomorrow, but also what had happened today, what had happened yesterday, and what had happened before its leaders had been born.
the dissidents were acutely conscious of the value of memory. Their lives were an exercise in what Plato calls anamnesis: the bringing to consciousness of forgotten things.

From by Roger Scruton

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April 7, 2007

Personal Collages

In My Mother's Small House Are Mansions of Memory

In her 92nd year, my mother's happenstance collages of her life are steadily growing both richer and deeper....a jumble of clips, slogans, photos, handicrafts and images. Aside from its complexity, it wouldn't mean all that much to you. These icons of other people's private lives never do.

It's unlikely you have a 92-year-old tennis-playing mother like Gerard does, but likely you have people in your family who have their own collages.  Ask them about their collection of stuff.  You may learn something very interesting about how they think.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:00 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 2, 2007

Reunions and Genealogy Blogs

If you want to plan a family reunion, Sue Shellenberger in the Wall Street Journal suggests you make a long-term plan, a year or 18 months out.  That way, people can organize their over-stuffed calendars around the event. 

Reunions Magazine has a website with helpful tips and resources.
You can even set up your own reunion website at myevent.com.

Be prepared though for infection. When far flung and extended families get together for reunions, members  often catch the contagious genealogy bug, symptoms of which include

  • a sudden fever to explore family history
  • an itch to pay for the premium at ancestry.com
  • sudden hankerings for extended vacations to search family beginnings often resulting in excessive time in old cemeteries, churches and courthouses.
  • an increased appetite for history of all sorts.
  • a sudden desire to interview an old uncle you spent a lifetime avoiding.

The genealogy bug is not fatal, though it may last a lifetime.  Some call it a 'grave' disease.

Organizing family history material can be daunting, especially when several people and families are involved.  A website is just too clunky.  Blogs work the best.

Bill Ives, a former academic psychologist, became an independent consultant, an expert on knowledge management when he began blogging, the love of which set him on a path to Web 2.0 that  included business blogging, blog coaching and pod consulting with plenty of time left over for restaurant blogging.

Now he has taken his experience and expertise to begin two family blogs.  Check out how he expands his family's history on both sides via blogs. 

Ives Family History Blog
Sharpe Family in NC

Each post is a little history lesson on an ancestor, an essay or a photo or illustration.  Because blogs offer the ability to add tags and categories, they are a wonderfully cheap content management tool where you can find what you're looking for quickly through an embedded search tool or through a category search.  By publishing on the web, Bill has opened up his research to other family members and those who find him while researching their own family  histories. 

Using technology, he's expanded his resources and his reach, now and in the future.  Or as one wag said, "genealogy is collecting dead relatives and an occasional live cousin."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:06 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 29, 2007

Memoir Week

Slate is having a memoir week about people who have written and published memoirs.  They asked a group of memoir writers  whether or not they alerted family members and friends that they were writing about them.

Usually published memoirs incorporate imaginative renderings to flesh out characters and conversations, so how family and friends reacted becomes quite interesting.    Those of you who are beginning to write your own memoir, not for publication, but for yourself and your family, will want to take a look.

Daneille Trussoni wrote a memoir about her relationship with her father who was a tunnel rat in Vietnam while she was living in Sofia, Bulgaria, after extensive research but had few conversations with family members or her father after he developed throat cancer

Sean Wilsey wrote
The way most memoirists have handled still-living people has been to outlive them and then publish. Or publish, then flee.

Yet Wilsey interviewed just about everyone he could think of to write about his mother who when she read the manuscript felt betrayed but was big enough to say
Sean, it's such an accurate portrait of so many people that I know that I've had to conclude it must be an accurate portrait of me, too. And so I'm really going to have to take a look at the fact that I come across that way."
His stepmother hired a lawyer and  threatened to sue.

John Dickerson wrote about his mother Nancy Dickerson
The book I wanted to write was about a journey from an angry kid to the adult who came to love this amazing woman.
Watching old film he found himself
rooting for her as if she were the child and I the parent.

When Frank McCourt wrote Angela's Ashes
I was denounced from hill, pulpit, and barstool. Certain citizens claimed I had disgraced the fair name of the city of Limerick, that I had attacked the church, that I had despoiled my mother's name, and that if I returned to Limerick, I would surely be found hanging from a lamppost.

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February 8, 2007

What to do with all your old photos

It's easier to digitize your old photos than ever before. 

First there were scanners and the price was right, about $100-$150.

Still scanning hundreds can be tedious.  If you have thousands, it's just too much.

Now there are services to do all that scanning for you.  You can mail them away, but who's really comfortable sending all their precious family photos to the mail, or even FedEx

Now, your neighborhood camera store can digitize 500 photos for about $50 thanks to new high end scanners from Kodak.

A Lifetime of Photos on a Single Disc
New Services Cheaply, Quickly Digitize Troves of Snapshots; Throwing Away the Shoebox

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

The Griot Project

The Griot Project is set to record 2000 oral stories from black families

StoryCorps and the National Museum of African American History and Culture yesterday announced a collaboration to record stories of African Americans.
The new initiative is called the StoryCorps Griot project. Over the next year the organizers plan to collect nearly 2,000 stories, principally from World War II veterans and those who were part of the civil rights movement. It is believed to be the largest effort to collect oral histories from African Americans since the Federal Writers' Project in the 1930s.

StoryCorps is a simple idea. The person talks about life's questions," said Dave Isay, who started the national oral history effort in 2003. In New York, StoryCorps has set up story booths in Grand Central Terminal and at the World Trade Center site where visitors can tell their own recollections of events, people and their families. "Our stories, the stories of ordinary people are just as important as Paris Hilton and other stories the media feeds us," Isay said.

When are you going to do your stories?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 5, 2007

Rules for Youtube

Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post has some handy rules for YouTube videos that you should keep in mind when you make videos for your legacy archives.

Rules for YouTube: Make Art, Not Bore 

Mean it
Your limitations are your strengths
Indulge the arcane
Resist facile irony
Take us to another world
Be a star
You made us laugh, you've made us link, now make us think.

Brevity and wit should never trump soul.

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January 31, 2007

How Easy It Is to Lose Things

See what happens when you don't write down where you put something for safekeeping and keep a backup copy.

NASA can't find the original tapes of Neil Armstrong on the Moon.

The original ones were much sharper and more detailed than the blurry ones we are familiar with.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:52 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 17, 2007

Write for Your Life

Wouldn't all of us love to have a journal, a memoir, a letter, from those we have loved and lost? Shouldn't all of us leave a bit of that behind?

Anna Qundlen in Write For Your Life.

in the age of the telephone most communication became evanescent, gone into thin air no matter how important or heartfelt. Think of all those people inside the World Trade Center saying goodbye by phone. If only, in the blizzard of paper that followed the collapse of the buildings, a letter had fallen from the sky for every family member and friend, something to hold on to, something to read and reread. Something real. Words on paper confer a kind of immortality.
That's also what writing is: not just a legacy, but therapy. As the novelist Don DeLillo once said, "Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 6, 2007

An Awareness of Death

Each of us would do well the cultivate an awareness of the  death so as to do those necessary things to make the future lives of our children and  easier and to live our lives more fully and gratefully.    While we should do this, not enough of us do.

The people who do so on a regular basis  are those men and women in our military service..

Here's what J.B. Smith wrote, A Soldier's Thoughts

I went to Iraq prepared to die. A former soldier called out of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), I was a supporter of the war and ready and willing to do my part. I got into decent physical shape, signed my medical waivers, and volunteered for the job of training Iraqi Troops and taking them into combat. I had no illusions as to the potential price I, or my wife and 2-year-old daughter might have to pay. I made my burial wishes known and wrote about 50 letters to my daughter, dated and spaced to guide her through the challenges which I knew would come in life. I made peace with the plausibility of my death, content in my knowledge that our mission was critical for the ultimate stability of the world and the best course available for American security.

When my daughter was 26, she would finally receive the letter explaining my attitudes towards the war and how I felt about my death. This is the phrase which I believe best captured it:

"In order to secure the American people, democracy had to be spread to the region because democratic governments are far less prone to going to war and they are far less prone to internal strife and violence. The process couldn't help but be messy, but it was necessary. Obviously, I don't know how this experiment works out, but you do. If Iraq is a democratic nation now, or if Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi, Kuwait, or one of the others has become democratic, then the war was worth it. However, if we pulled out because we lost too many soldiers and got out in an act of political expediency, then I did die in vain."

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January 3, 2007

So Much Better Than Plain Online Photos

Share Grandma's Birthday with Music and Animation

Unlike many other photo-sharing services, Smilebox does not require users to upload photos to the Web site and edit them there. Rather, since users download the template, they need only drag images to the desired locations on the template, then upload the entire file to the Web site. Smilebox then delivers e-mail messages to the user’s friends and family, inviting them to view the book.

Check it out Smilebox

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January 1, 2007

Not just every soldier, every father

You really realize how important keeping a personal legacy archive is when you read about First Sgt. Charles King who kept a journal  for his baby son Jordan when he first deployed to Iraq.

This drawing he did will be how his son imagines him.

    Drawing Soldier Angel

For his son Jordan, these words his father took time to write down will be how he will come to know his father who was killed by an ICD.

His fiance Dana Canedy writes "From Father to Son, Last Words to Live By".

On paper, Charles revealed himself in a way he rarely did in person. He thought hard about what to say to a son who would have no memory of him. Even if Jordan will never hear the cadence of his father’s voice, he will know the wisdom of his words.

Never be ashamed to cry. No man is too good to get on his knee and humble himself to God. Follow your heart and look for the strength of a woman.

Charles tried to anticipate questions in the years to come.
Favorite team? I am a diehard Cleveland Browns fan. Favorite meal? Chicken, fried or baked, candied yams, collard greens and cornbread. Childhood chores? Shoveling snow and cutting grass. First kiss? Eighth grade.

In neat block letters, he wrote about faith and failure, heartache and hope. He offered tips on how to behave on a date and where to hide money on vacation.
Rainy days have their pleasures, he noted: Every now and then you get lucky and catch a rainbow.
Toward women, he displayed an old-fashioned chivalry, something he expected of our son.
Remember who taught you to speak, to walk and to be a gentleman, he wrote to Jordan in his journal. These are your first teachers, my little prince. Protect them, embrace them and always treat them like a queen.

The 18th was a long, solemn night,
he wrote in Jordan’s journal. We had a memorial for two soldiers who were killed by an improvised explosive device. None of my soldiers went to the memorial. Their excuse was that they didn’t want to go because it was depressing. I told them it was selfish of them not to pay their respects to two men who were selfless in giving their lives for their country.

Things may not always be easy or pleasant for you, that’s life, but always pay your respects for the way people lived and what they stood for. It’s the honorable thing to do.

When Jordan is old enough to ask how his father died, I will tell him of Charles’s courage and assure him of Charles’s love. And I will try to comfort him with his father’s words.

God blessed me above all I could imagine,
Charles wrote in the journal. I have no regrets, serving your country is great.

He tucked a message for Dana in the front of the journal.

This is the letter every soldier should write, he said. For us, life will move on through Jordan. He will be an extension of us and hopefully everything that we stand for. ... I would like to see him grow up to be a man, but only God knows what the future holds.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

December 15, 2006

Trying to Remember an Important Day

Beverly Beckham writes
My oldest daughter turned 35 last week and what she wanted most for her birthday was to remember turning 21. "I was in college. I must have gone out. Where did I go? What did I do?"

We sat around the table, family and friends, trying to remember something of her 21st birthday. But none of us could.

You think you don't forget the big moments: birthdays, holidays, milestones. But they slip away, too, like thousands of small moments lived and celebrated, and then forgotten.
When my daughter turned 21, I didn't write about it, and she didn't write about it, or paste a coaster in a book or preserve it in any way.
And so it came, it went, and it's gone.

Most days are. We live thousands of them and recall just a few. Pictures capture some. And words. And song.

Even better is blogging.  A few minutes can capture a day in words and photos.  I call it legacy blogging for yourself and your family and friends.  Blogging captures the evanescence of your life.  Blogging enriches your life.

I can't think of a better way to capture the highlights of your life as they happen, an adjunct to your memory.  In later years, when you look back to what you wrote, you will see how far you've come and how much is gone, except  for what you wrote and saved.  What you've blogged becomes what you rediscover.  Blogging also helps slow life down. 

For those who want to blog, but who don't want the whole world to know what they writing and thinking, use a password protected blogging service.  Or consider Vox.

Vox is the new blogging service from Six Apart that brought us Moveable Type and Typepad,

Vox is private.  You control who sees your blog by setting privacy filters, allowing only friends or family say.  Even better, you can share video and audio, even import media from YouTube, Flickr, or Photobucket.    For the time being, Vox is free.

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December 14, 2006

Five Things You Don't Know About Me.

For those of you who want to begin creating your personal legacy archives, but who, for one reason or another, balk at the idea of writing your life story consider easing into it with Things You Don't Know About Me.

Jeremy of Lifestylism has tagged me with the current meme which, unlike most memes,  I like  and so to his challenge, Five Things You Didn't Know About Me, I reply.

1. When I began working at the Department of Interior, as the Special Assistant to the Solicitor,  I  wrote a number of speeches for the Solicitor, one of which became infamous,  picked up by the Associated Press across the country and, in the end, selected by Parade magazine in its year-end round-up as the best or funniest  environmental stories of the year, I can't remember which.

Let's face it, it's hard to find something interesting and relevant to write about for the South Dakota  Stockgrowers Association, - that's cattlemen to you.    So, when in the course of reading reports from the EPA, and the International Climate Change Committee, I came across the fact that grants were being awarded to study cow flatulence and digestion  as one of the major sources of methane contributing to climate change, I knew I had a winner.  "Windy cows" it was.  The speech wrote itself and the cattlemen loved it.

2. I can't tell the difference between cars with the exception of PT Cruisers and sometimes Volkswagens.  My first real boyfriend was unduly proud of his red Alfa Romeo so when walking ahead of him one day, I climbed into a red volkswagen thinking it was his, I broke his heart.

3.  When in college, I was strapped for cash.  I had the brilliant idea of starting a chain letter with myself at the top so people would send me money.  Within hours,  I was called into the Dean's Office to be told why this was not a good idea.

4. I began working at 16, two hours a day at a local bakery where I worked behind the counter, slicing bread and wrapping up pastries for customers.  At 16, I was old enough to go to Revere Beach with friends from school, taking first a bus, then a subway, then a transfer to another line, before we reached Revere Beach with its boardwalk, amusement park and beach.  It was a long, hot trek so we didn't do it very often.  Now this was the time the Boston Strangler was at large, but  we had our defenses - a hatpin we would wear under our collars, so we could poke him the eye.

On one such outing to Revere, I had to leave early to go to work.  I was fine, I thought until I noticed a man with a creepy smile who seemed to be following me as I walked alone to the subway.  He followed me when I switched lines, then followed me on the bus, then followed me, trying to talk to me  as I walked to the bakery.  By that time I was really scared and hid in the bakery's basement because I didn't want to see him again.  The ladies who worked with me were very nice and one walked me home.  I told my mother who was leaving with my father that night for a weekend on Nantucket, the first vacation they had ever taken away from me and my six brothers and sisters.  The babysitter for the weekend was one of the eight Callahan girls, just up the street, so no worry about a back-up.  My parents were very concerned of course and debated whether they should go or not.  Finally, they called the police and explained  the situation.  The police promised to keep us on cruiser watch for the weekend and every half hour, a police car would pass our house very slowly.  Despite the high excitement,  nothing happened.

It was years before they captured the Boston Strangler, Albert de Salvo.  When I saw his picture in the paper, I recognized him immediately.  He was the man with the creepy smile who followed me home that day from Revere Beach.      My brother Robby doesn't believe this story.

5.  After I graduated from law school and passed the New York Bar, my first job was with a very large Wall St firm whose flag was, I kid you not, completely beige.  It was one of the most boring jobs I ever had and I didn't last more than a year.    Way before computers revolutionized legal research, we "shephardized" our research using pencils, wearing them down so quickly the firm  had a man whose job it was to go from office to office every afternoon just sharpening all our pencils.  Since I worked on only two cases for the managing partner, one of which had been on appeal for over 20 years  in the U.S. Court of Claims with hundreds of millions of dollars pending on whether deferred but uncollected insurance premiums had to be included in income.    I did research on one arcane point after another but would get so bored, I  would start to fall asleep with a type of brain fog that no amount of coffee could clear.  To stay awake, I would go to the ladies' room and read a short story in the New Yorker.  Soon, I was carrying collections of short stories every day, parceling them out, one every hour or two.  I read more short stories in that one very long year than I ever had before or ever would again.

I now tag 5 women about whom I'd love to learn more.


UPDATE:  Since David Bowles of Westward Sagas tagged me with the same meme, I am simply going to repost this because he especially will appreciate the windy cow story much as I enjoyed learning how much ranching is in his heart, even though he had to finally sell his family's ranch.   

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:23 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 8, 2006

So Glad

If you are hesitating to record your parents or your family history, listen to what Susan Kitchen's boyfriend told her after his mother died and two years after Susan recorded what his mother had to say about her life.

"I'm so glad you did this.  So glad."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 6, 2006

Deepening Relationships by Archiving Memories

Maria Brown Fogelman writes in the Washington Post, Dear Dad: I'll Be Hearing You.    How her project to record some of her father's memories of World War II was a "process that moved our relationship, like a time-travel vehicle, to a completely different dimension."

Standing next to his bed, I think about how the preservation of memory has shaped our relationship. Throughout my childhood, Dad regaled me with stories of his stint in the Navy during World War II. The effect was so strong that I chose "The Caine Mutiny" by Herman Wouk as one of my favorite eighth-grade reads along with teen-romance novels by Betty Cavanna.

But it wasn't until more than four decades later that I decided to preserve his wartime memories in a more concrete way.

"I'd like to tape you," I had told him, explaining that this would be an "official" interview: I would be armed with a packet of questions from the Library of Congress's Veterans History Project.

On the drive from my home in Silver Spring to my parents' home in Wilmington, however, I started to worry that my father's initial receptiveness might dissolve into reticence or, even worse, the inability to take the whole idea seriously. Even as a 50-plus-year-old adult, I was still afraid of feeling like the little girl who would cry loudly and pitifully whenever her father teased her.

But as soon as I arrived, my parents welcomed me with stacks of photo albums, V-mail -- letters written on a special form that would be microfilmed to save shipping space, then enlarged at an overseas destination before delivery as a facsimile -- and a copy of a discharge document from the Navy Personnel Separation Center in Bainbridge, Md., for my father, Louis Brown.

While he signed the release form for the Library of Congress project, I set up the tape recorder.

"Just wait," I teased him, "you're going to be featured in a Smithsonian exhibit."
In the ICU just nine months later, I think about how fortuitous it was that my father and I embarked on the oral history project. In all, I made three trips and filled three 90-minute tapes with his recollections of the war years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:37 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 5, 2006

Time's Arrow

Digital Growth Charts from Mother Pie collects examples of human time lines, photographs taken daily or yearly assembled into short videos.  Like the time lapse videos of flowers, only human.

I've already told you about Noah who took a photograph of himself everyday for 6 years.

Jonathan did the same only for 8 years and compressed it to a 5 minute video

The Golberg family  1974- 2004
9 months of gestation in 20 seconds

Hattie asks where are the children?  We want to see babies turn into adolescents in 1 minute.   

You could start by taking a photo of your baby, wearing a white Tshirt  in the same place the first of every month.  Continue for 18 years.  Follow the arrow of Time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:15 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 4, 2006

Writing a Memoir or Family History

From the Creative Gene comes the Carnival of Genealogy with a theme of Writing a Family History.  .

There's 23 Tips for Writing a Family History and Learn about you by writing your memoir

With the success of best sellers such as Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, writing memoir has attained a new status in the literary world. It has achieved such power because it invites memoirists to select incidents in their past and interpret them with the emotional honesty and wisdom that only time, distance and maturity can illuminate.

Memoir is not autobiography, chronicling the epic of one's life and creating a genealogy. It is the genre that gives credibility to our deepest feelings. It can be one page or 100 and be as simple as a 10-year-old's paragraph on his love for his grandfather. It can also be as profound as James McBride's The Color of Water, a 314-page remembrance written from two viewpoints.

By writing memoir, children and adults become critical thinkers. One of the best compliments I ever received as a teacher was when an elderly woman in a class of senior citizens gleamed with great relief, explaining that I had freed her. She finally understood that she didn't have to write about her ancestors, her birth and every incident in her past. She could select the episodes that had impacted her most. She chose to write about the death of her husband, her feelings of loss and her resurrection. When she read her memoir, others in the class who identified with her grief and joy were comforted by her words.

Very interesting links if you're just getting started.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:43 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 13, 2006

Death Letters

Death Letters

Tucked in a plain white envelope, it's much more: a Marine's final message to those he loved.

"Well if (you're) reading this I guess this deployment was a one way trip."

Those chilling words open a "death letter" from a fallen Marine, one of two San Antonians killed together in Haditha, Iraq.
At first glance, it looks like an ordinary piece of mail.
Tucked in a plain white envelope, it's much more: a Marine's final message to those he loved.

"Well if (you're) reading this I guess this deployment was a one way trip."

Those chilling words open a "death letter" from a fallen Marine, one of two San Antonians killed together in Haditha, Iraq.

No one seems to know exactly when during his two-month tour that Lance Graham, a lance corporal, supply clerk and gunner, took out a black ink pen and some steno paper, gathered his thoughts on mortality and wrote the three-page letter.

But Graham's father, Joseph Graham, remembers when the letter arrived. Two Marines delivered it and offered to read it aloud.

The elder Graham opted to read it with his own eyes, at his dining table.

His son, who had died May 7, 2005, in an insurgent ambush, had, without knowing when or whether he would meet his death in Iraq, written a loving farewell to friends and family members — and a moving tribute to those who serve.

"I just have a few things to ask. Please don't be mad at the Marine Corps. It was my choice to join and come here."

Letters such as Graham's have a long tradition in the military, one that continues even into an age when instant messaging and e-mail have rendered letter-writing a lost art. Some troops write death letters after a bad dream, battle or attack. Then they fold them up and tuck them into wallets, pockets or backpacks. Or hand them to other troops in other units for safekeeping.

Some send them on home with a caveat they're only to be read if the author is killed.

Ultimately, most death letters are destroyed. Graham's fate, however, ensured his would be a sincere, living testament of his loyalty to his family, his nation and his branch of service.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 AM | Permalink

September 9, 2006

Noah everyday

He took a picture of himself everyday for 6 years.  Noah, everyday

Apartments, backgrounds, clothes change and his hair has its own mind.  Remarkably, Noah maintains the same expression, the same eyes.

Timelines are always an interesting part of your Legacy Archives.

Mena Trott, co-founder of Six Apart takes a photo of herself everyday o show her Mom, to  remember what that day was about and to slow life down,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:05 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

When a Government Destroys Records

It's a sad day when a western government destroys important historical records. 

Another reason to preserve and maintain your family records and stories in your own Personal Legacy Archives.

Belgian Authorities Destroy Holocaust Records.

The Belgian authorities have destroyed archives and records relating to the persecution and deportation of Jews in Belgium in the 1930s and 1940s. Some of this happened as recently as the late 1990s. This was revealed during hearings in the Belgian Senate last Spring.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:14 PM | Permalink

August 30, 2006

Reflections on a Final Blog Post

Blogging will be slight as I take some time off to travel and visit family, attend a wedding and just enjoy myself in Denver, San Francisco and Seattle. 

My blog reading will be lighter than usual as well, but one I never miss is Ronni Bennett.  And not just because she often makes a kind mention and links to me and Legacy Matters

Fellow bloggers, go over and read The Need for a Final Blog Post

Ronni writes about the hierarchy of people surrounding us, all of whom  deserve to be notified when you pass on.  It's not morbid at all to think about how you want to be remembered. Thinking of others  and what you will leave behind is easier when you put on the mind of legacy.

I hope my upcoming  book Your Legacy Matters will give you some ideas and make it easier for you as well.

Much more anon.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:04 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 26, 2006

Treasured Family Recipes

"Could you PLEASE, PLEASE send me your bread-pudding recipe from your original book -- my husband gave it to me years ago with a wonderful message comparing our marriage as a mixture of 'spices,' " wrote Elaine Acosta in an email message to Paul Prudhomme, owner of K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in the French Quarter and author of eight cookbooks. "My house blew or floated down Hwy. 11 and I lost everything. I'm living with my daughter and son-in-law and their family and they want bread pudding, NOW!"

Comforting Food: Recapturing Recipes Katrina Took Away.

How many memories are contained in dog-eared, splotched, nearly illegible recipe cards mothers keep in battered tins on kitchen counters?

  Family Recipes

Food is how we keep our family traditions and culture alive.  I know I am flooded with memories of Floss when I eat ginger snaps made from her recipe.  One brother who had many sojourns in Asia always traveled with the recipe for her gravy.  Think about what family recipes you would be desolated to lose.

Every year my mother makes a special trip to Chinatown for raw peanuts, the essential ingredient for her renowned peanut brittle.  With a 50 year- old pressure cooker, now used only brittle, she makes batches of peanut brittle every year to give away at Christmas to the mailman, the newspaper delivery girl, the folks at her car dealer's and countless family friends.  After Thanksgiving, anticipation builds and mouths begin to water with the foretaste of the treat in store for them.

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Ruth's peanut brittle.

Unlike the baker who kept the secret of his cinnamon cake and took the recipe to his grave, I've captured the secret of Ruth's peanut brittle, but I need a few more before I can make a book of it. 

Consider making some of your favorite, family recipes part of your Personal Legacy Archives.    Using Blurb, you can make a book of the best and give it away to relatives for Christmas.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:27 AM | Permalink

August 25, 2006

The Time When

The BBC has a trail website in development for sharing memories on line. 

The Time When 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:49 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 10, 2006

Enlarging your favorite photographs

Novelist Frederick Reuss Fleshes Out a Family Album in A Murky Picture, Developed and Enlarged

This last photograph was taken in 1934, Reuss tells you, not long before the man sailed off to Shanghai, leaving the woman and the laughing girl behind. He is Max Mohr: a physician, minor German literary figure and Reuss's great-uncle. She is Mohr's wife, Kathe, and the girl is their daughter, Eva. Long drawn to their story -- and having discovered a trove of photos, letters and other documents about them -- Reuss set out to reimagine their lives.

The result was "Mohr: A Novel" -- an unusually close collaboration between fiction and fact.
Unlike memory, photographs do not in themselves preserve meaning" he reads. "Only that which narrates can make us understand."

Remember and repeat.

"Photographs do not in themselves preserve meaning. Only that which narrates can make us understand"

Capture your meaning on your favorite photos by thinking of it as a postcard and writing what it means in a few sentences.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink

June 30, 2006

Telling What Happened

Lots of interesting links to help you with your Legacy Archives over at Family Oral History using digital tools.

Coney Island Voices, an oral history project
How the Veteran History Project was sparked by family oral history
Coastal Oral History projects that document life in North Carolina, Florida, California
How hard it is to ask "What happened?" yet the answers explain so much.

These posts serve as inspiration and later as a resource for your own.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:41 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 22, 2006

Your ancestors online

  Family History

New technology and cheaper storage are making it possible to digitize and index fragile historical documents.

The Wall St Journal reports today on New Ways to Dig for Your Roots Online. (subscribers only).

The preservation efforts are part of a massive global effort to digitize a variety of content for safekeeping and easy searching, such as Google Inc.'s effort to scan libraries of books. Online genealogy companies say that last year's devastating hurricane season, which destroyed several archives in the South, has also increased demand for partnership programs in which they digitize local archives in exchange for being able to offer the sources to the public through their sites.

If you haven't started to search for your family roots online, now is a great time to start.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 PM | Permalink

June 20, 2006

Legacy Multimedia

For those of you who want to commemorate a special event but have no desire to create your own show, you can hire someone to do it for you.

Two women in Houston, Stefani Twyford and Isabelle MacCrimmon have started Legacy Multimedia to capture just what you want for your personal Legacy Archives.

Poke around their site to see what can be done either by you or by a professional

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:14 PM | Permalink

June 16, 2006

Memory Holes

From a New York Times book review by Russell Shorto of

"Mayflower : A Story of Courage, Community, and War" (Nathaniel Philbrick)

Not long after the Pilgrims set anchor in the harbor they called Plymouth in 1620, the Wampanoag leader Massasoit paid them a visit near their makeshift settlement and made a wary offer of friendship.

It took several months for two of the Pilgrims to venture into the wilderness and return the gesture. When they did, they noticed circular pits alongside the trails, which, the natives told them, were storytelling devices. Each of these
"memory holes" was dug at a place where a remarkable act had occurred; every time Indians passed by these spots, they recounted the deeds.

The Pilgrims, Nathaniel Philbrick says in his vivid and remarkably fresh retelling of the story of the earnest band of English men and women who became saddled with the sobriquet of America's founders, "began to see that they were traversing a mythic land, where a sense of community extended far into the distant past."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:24 PM | Permalink

June 14, 2006

Blurb for your Legacy Archives

My Book, by Me in Fast Company

"Getting published" has always meant something special to us writer types; a book with your name on it says you've arrived. And now, thanks to the Internet, I'm a genuine published author. My publisher? Me.

is an online service that lets you create and publish the next great American novel.

It took all of a day, using a new online service called Blurb. Its approach is remarkably accessible. You choose a theme, page layout, picture and text sizes, and fonts from a range of options. The software is easy to navigate, if frustratingly slow at times. I uploaded image files from a CD, dragged pictures into place, and watched pages fill up with my original work.

For less than $30 each , you can publish your blog book, your dog book, your baby book, your treasured recipes, your travel memoirs and your digital scrapbooks.

Since I believe we should keep the treasures we love in two forms, digital and paper, this is good news.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:22 PM | Permalink

May 4, 2006

The Joy of Organizing

From neo-neo con. Ah, the joy of organizing: going through old papers.

Going through much of it is a strangely emotional experience. Old cards--birthdays, anniversaries, loves gained and lost. Photos of me and my boyfriend who went to Vietnam, and his last letter, the only one I saved (for those of you who haven't read my posts on that subject: yes, he did return, but no, we didn't marry). Photos from college--me, impossibly young, sporting one of those long flippy "do's" that required setting on rollers the size of beer cans; old friends from that era, some of them now dead. Poems that make me cry when I stop to read them. My diplomas. A photocopy of the check from Central Casting Corporation I got for doing a "silent bit" as a dancer in the film "The Turning Point" (see this).

In one file entitled "School--grades and awards" are all my old report cards (height: 48 1/4 inches, weight, 51 pounds, first grade). Even now those report cards have the power to stir a hint of anxiety in me, remembering the drama of the reading of the names and the doling out of the little cardboard squares representing so much work. My SAT scores. My GRE scores. My scholarships, and some newspaper clippings announcing same. A little card of commendation with a gold star on it, given to me in third grade for a bunch of poems I wrote, illustrated, and compiled into a scrapbook for extra credit and for fun ("Snowflakes falling, down, down, down...)

Letters from a few famous people I wrote to who had the decency to write back, some at great length (Oliver Sacks, for one). A huge file of poetry I like that isn't anthologized in any books I own. My own poetry, with many different alternative drafts (ah, my biographer will be so grateful!) A folder filled with the condolence letters people wrote my mother when my grandmother died in the late 60s, which still have the power to evoke her warm presence and vitality.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 AM | Permalink

May 3, 2006

The Saddest Thing I Own

The new collaborative art work on the Web is a little bit like Post Secret is called The Saddest Thing I Own.

It's a glimpse into the rich, interior lives we all have and I hope an inspiration for a digital story you can create for your Legacy Archives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:08 PM | Permalink

April 22, 2006

On Writing a Memoir

William Zinseer wrote the classic On Writing Well may well have written another.

"How to Write a Memoir" (William K. Zinsser)

Below are excerpts from an NPR interview On Memoir, Truth and 'Writing Well'

You must make a series of reducing decisions. For example: in a family history, one big decision would be to write about only one branch of the family. Families are complex organisms, especially if you trace them back several generations. Decide to write about your mother's side of the family or your father's side, but not both. Return to the other one later and make it a separate project.

My final reducing advice can be summed up in two words: think small. Don't rummage around in your past -- or your family's past -- to find episodes that you think are "important" enough to be worthy of including in your memoir. Look for small self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you still remember them it's because they contain a universal truth that your readers will recognize from their own life.
I never felt that my memoir had to include all the important things that ever happened to me -- a common temptation when old people sit down to summarize their life journey. On the contrary, many of the chapters in my book are about small episodes that were not objectively "important" but that were important to me. Because they were important to me they also struck an emotional chord with readers, touching a universal truth that was important to them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:12 PM | Permalink

April 6, 2006

New site family oral history

From Ronni Bennett, what looks like a great site on how to make your family oral history using digital tools.

In addition to lots of good tips, Suzanne Kitchens also has a blog which she'll get back to once she finishes her taxes.

UPDATE: It's Susan not Suzanne and she's got an RSS feed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:30 AM | Permalink

April 5, 2006

Life and Death Masks

I found the Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks at Princeton AMAZING.

Masks captured faces long before photographs. I felt a real contact with people dead hundreds of years as I gazed at their faces.

  Elizabeth I Queen Of England

Queen Elizabeth I

  Benjamin Franklin Life Mask

Benjamin Franklin's life mask

  Thomas Paine Death Mask

Thomas Paine death mask

  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe Life Mask

Johann Wolfgang Goethe - life mask

 James Dean Life Mask

James Dean, life mask. Doesn't he look a bit like Russell Crowe?

via Hanan Levin

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:36 PM | Permalink

April 3, 2006

The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky

David Dornstein, while at Brown, had an idea for a fictional autobiography.

''The idea?" his brother would write later. ''An unknown young writer dies in a plane crash leaving behind lots of notebooks and bits of stories, and the narrator sets out to piece it all together into a story of the unknown writer's life."

Only 25 when the Libyan terrorists blew Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland in 1968, David Dornstein fell 6 miles to earth.

Fortunately, he had left lots of notebooks and story ideas from which his brother Ken pieced together David's life and his own.

From Beyond Biography, a book review by Daniel Akst in the Boston Globe

Ken didn't just visit the remains of the Boeing aircraft and determine where David sat in relation to the fateful load of Semtex explosives. He pored over his brother's most private writings. He interviewed David's friends. He tracked down his brother's childhood sexual abuser. He became romantically involved with not one but two of David's main love interests. Eventually he married one of them.

"The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky : A True Story" (Ken Dornstein)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:34 AM | Permalink

March 24, 2006

Earth Capsule

Sometimes your stories are just too good not to share. Maybe it's a secret you don't want your family to know. Maybe it's just a message that you think the future should know.

For those you need Earth Capsule.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:54 PM | Permalink

March 13, 2006

Great digital photographs

For your Legacy Archives, How to take great digital portraits from Lifehacker

If you take away only four things from this guide, let it be these: use portrait mode, go to max telephoto, get outside and force the flash

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 AM | Permalink

January 26, 2006

Memorial Videos

Our soldiers in Iraq have used digital photography, video and Internet access to stay in closer touch to family and friends back home than in any other war. Now reports Dionne Searcey in the Wall Street Journal, they are "creating a powerful and raw new wave of war memorials".

On Iraq's Front Lines, Digital Memorials for Fallen Friends. (subscribers only)

When soldiers are killed in Iraq, all you see in the paper is name, rank and age," said Mr. Rieckhoff, a first lieutenant. The videos, he said, are "cathartic and a way to eternally honor their memory."

In another memorial video, Army Master Sgt. Brian Mack, who died in Mosul a year ago this month, is shown in photos riding in a Blackhawk helicopter and in a short video clip rushing a stationary target during gun practice, shooting repeatedly while friends laugh. It's set to the melancholy song "Clocks" by Coldplay.

"Every time someone was killed, we put together a little thing like that," said Sgt. Emmet Cullen, a sniper who fought alongside Master Sgt. Mack. "It helps the grieving process putting them together. Talking about them, seeing them with a big goofy smile on -- it helps."

Here are links to memorial videos made by their army buddies.

Juan Solorio
Zachary Wobler
Christopher Pusateri

With gratitude for your service, may you rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:47 PM | Permalink

January 17, 2006

Story Builders

The World Trade Center Memorial Foundation is collecting stories about that terrible day for its digital archive.

Add your own story and be part of the building of the historical record.

And, while you're at it, make it part of your own Legacy Archives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:30 PM | Permalink

January 13, 2006

Remembering New York

Gerald Van der Leun of the American Digest left New York City in November 2002. Since he knew he would be leaving, he made his own record of the city where he lived for almost 30 years. From his post Project 1-2006: 1000 Pictures of New York City (10% Done) . vividly

WHEN A MAN has lived a long time with a city and then decided to leave her, it seems best to make a record before departing. Otherwise, for all the years he has lived with her, all he will have left will be the shards of moments and not the mosaic complete.

The archives he retains will, invariably, be merely personal -- clippings from the local papers, a box of business cards, filched matchbooks, a sheaf of menus, random pay stubs, a well-thumbed Rolodex, and a few albums filled with pictures of friends and acquaintances remembered with varying degrees of accuracy. And his snapshots.

He knew his memories of the city would fade, so

Knowing this, and knowing soon after the 11th that I would leave, I resolved to record New York City as I knew her in that last year without sham or falsity.

Beginning in early October of 2001 and ending at around ten in the evening of November 9, 2002, I kept a detailed photographic record of what we were like and how we lived in New York in that shaky first year of our unsought new era.

His photostream at Flickr captures a vivid sense of place of city and its people that stands alone for anyone to see but was for him the background of his life.

He reminds me again that often what is most interesting is the background, what we don't see or take for granted because it's so ordinary and normal. We all remember to take photographs on vacation, at birthday celebrations and at Christmas, but how many of us really see the background of our own lives. Yet, what people really want to know is how you lived and just what were your normal days like. I can't think of anything that would cultivate a seeing eye better than picking up a camera and just walking around your house, the street where you live, your neighborhood, your town, your stomping grounds, taking pictures of what captures your eye.

Jorge Luis Borges, the blind, Argentinian poet and writer once said, if I remember correctly, something like 24 hours fully observed would give any man enough to think about if he were imprisoned for the rest of his life. I think just walking around and really looking will fire your creative juices.

With Gerard's fine example before me, I think taking even one day this year to document your surroundings would be a fine addition to your Legacy Archives. I'm going to do it, but I think I'll wait till it gets a little warmer.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:18 PM | Permalink

December 27, 2005

I'm back

Well I'm back again and in my new place blogging for the first time. It seems I just couldn't think of blogging when there were boxes to pack and hundreds of boxes to unpack with all my things that have been in storage for several years. Needless to say, that took all my energy.

 Xmas Polar Bear

Since I finally have access to all my photos so you can expect a lot of posts about your personal legacy archives as I construct my own.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas or Hanukah or both and my best wishes for a healthy, wealthy happy New Year.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:30 PM | Permalink

December 5, 2005

Coming Back from the Dead

Chris Rose tells us what is it like driving by the "haunting messages and mystical artifacts [that] adorn the homes of neighborhoods struggling to come back from the dead. Via Ernie the Attorney

I drive around and try to figure out those Byzantine markings and symbols that the cops and the National Guard spray-painted on all the houses around here, cryptic communications that tell the story of who or what was or wasn't inside the house when the floodwater rose to the ceiling.
In some cases, there's no interpretation needed. There's one I pass on St. Roch Avenue in the 8th Ward at least once a week. It says: "1 dead in attic."
That certainly sums up the situation. No mystery there.
I wonder who eventually came and took 1 Dead in Attic away. Who knows? Hell, with the way things run around here -- I wonder if anyone has come to take 1 Dead in Attic away.
And who claimed him or her? Who grieved over 1 Dead in Attic and who buried 1 Dead in Attic?
I wonder if I ever met 1 Dead in Attic. Maybe in the course of my job or maybe at a Saints game or maybe we once stood next to each other at a Mardi Gras parade or maybe we once flipped each other off in a traffic jam.
1 Dead in Attic could have been my mail carrier, a waitress at my favorite restaurant or the guy who burglarized my house a couple years ago. Who knows?
My wife, she's right. I've got to quit just randomly driving around. This can't be helping anything.

On the other hand, there are the Mardi Gras Indians

On several desolate streets that I drive down, I see where some folks have returned to a few of the homes and they haven't bothered to put their furniture and appliances out on the curb -- what's the point, really? -- but they have retrieved their tattered and muddy Indian suits and sequins and feathers and they have nailed them to the fronts of their houses.
The colors of these displays is startling because everything else in the 8th is gray. The streets, the walls, the cars, even the trees. Just gray.
So the oranges and blues and greens of the Indian costumes are something beautiful to behold, like the first flowers to bloom after the fallout. I don't know what the significance of these displays is, but they hold a mystical fascination for me.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 AM | Permalink

December 1, 2005

Louisa May Alcott and Little Women

 Little Women Cover-2

November 29th is the birthday of Louisa May Alcott, "the most disagreeable month of the whole year." Because her father Bronson Alcott kept a journal of his four daughters' growth and because we have the marvelous resource of the Library of Congress and the American Memory Project, we know what Louisa was like at age 2.

Louisa…manifests uncommon activity and force of mind at present…by force of will and practical talent, [she] realizes all that she conceives… Bronson Alcott, November 5, 1834.

I also learned that Louisa was home-schooled.

The Alcott girls enjoyed the natural beauty of Concord, boating on the river, ice skating on Walden Pond, and running free in the surrounding fields and woods. Henry David Thoreau was one of Louisa's instructors when she was a young girl. In one of his fanciful lessons, he taught her that a cobweb was a "handkerchief dropped by a fairy." As a teenager, Louisa enjoyed borrowing books from Ralph Waldo Emerson's collection and delighted in conversing with the "sage of Concord."

For the most part, the Alcotts taught their daughters at home. Daily journal-keeping formed a significant part of the home curriculum. Louisa and her sisters wrote a weekly newspaper in which they recorded family events and published their literary and artistic endeavors.

We are fortunate that Orchard House in Concord is open for tours, live and online. For countless American women who identified with Jo - "CHRISTMAS won't be Christmas without any presents" grumbled Jo lying on the rug, Little Women in book form or DVD - (the Katherine Hepburn version, the June Allyson version or the Winona Ryder version) still remains a favorite gift for daughters and nieces, a passing on of the Great Legacy of Louisa May.

  Louise Alcott-2

Image from a Louisa May Alcott fan site

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:30 AM | Permalink

November 29, 2005

Kingdom of Memory

When personal memoirs tell the truth and authoritative sources do not.

The most notorious case is that of Walter Duranty, the Moscow correspondent of the New York Times who won a Pulitzer award for his reports that we now know covered up some of the most infamous crimes of the Stalin era.

Here are some choice bits by one of the best known correspondents in the world of one of the best known newspapers in the world collected by Arnold Beichman in the Weekly Standard.

"There is no famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be." 
--New York Times, Nov. 15, 1931, page 1
"Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda." 
--New York Times, August 23, 1933

At a time when Ukrainian peasants were dying at a rate of 25,000/day, Duranty when asked what he was going to write, remarked.

Nothing. What are a few million dead Russians in a situation like this? Quite unimportant. This is just an incident in the sweeping historical changes here. I think the entire matter is exaggerated.

Contrast that reporting with a Memoir of The Great Famine of 1933 by Maria D who writes at Aussie Girl.

Soon, the terrible, black specter of the Stalin created Famine-Genocide of l932-33 spread throughout the land.  And even though I was still quite young, I remember that frightening apparition of the famine very well.  Images that are seared in my memory forever -- hundreds -- thousands of people, their limbs and bellies grotesquely swollen from starvation -- the walking dead, the half-dead and the dead -- orphaned children wandering homeless and begging for food in the streets -- or simply dying in the gutters.  

In school during class a small boy suddenly pitched forward onto his desk and died -- I shall never forget the sound of his head hitting the desk -- and he wasn't the only one.  And the textbooks, newspapers and so-called "artistic literature" all around us overflowed with the slogan:  "We are grateful to Comrade Stalin for our happy childhood!"  What obscene and monstrous mockery! 

There is no greater authority than personal witness. Such witness is a gift to the world, not just a family. Elie Wiesel, great witness to the Holocaust, said

I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead. and anyone who does not remember betrays them again.

"That is my major preoccupation /memory, the kingdom of memory. I want to protect and enrich that kingdom, glorify that kingdom and serve it."

The Legacy Archives you create for yourself, your family and the world is your Kingdom of Memory. Preserve your kingdom.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:27 PM | Permalink

October 30, 2005

Fingerprints of the Past

Fascinating piece in the New York Times today about many Hispanics who are discovering while researching their family history that they are descended from 'Hidden' Jews who fled the Inquisition in Spain to settle in Mexico four centuries ago. Hispanics Uncovering Roots as Inquisition's Hidden Jews.

For more than two decades, anecdotal evidence collected by researchers in New Mexico, Colorado and Texas suggested that some nominally Catholic families of Iberian descent had stealthily maintained Jewish customs throughout the centuries, including lighting candles on Friday evening, avoiding pork and having the Star of David inscribed on gravestones.


Modern science may now be shedding new light on the history of the crypto-Jews after molecular anthropologists recently developed a DNA test of the male or Y chromosome that can indicate an ancestral connection to the Cohanim, a priestly class of Jews that traces its origin back more than 3,000 years to Aaron, the older brother of Moses.

Family Tree DNA, a Houston company that offers a Cohanim test to its male clients, gets about one inquiry a day from Hispanics interested in exploring the possibility of Jewish ancestry, said Bennett Greenspan, its founder and chief executive. Mr. Greenspan said about one in 10 of the Hispanic men tested by his company showed Semitic ancestry strongly suggesting a Jewish background.

I didn't have time to read the whole paper today, so I'm happy to thank Ann Althouse whose post "the fingerprints of my past were all around me, but I didn't know what they meant."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 PM | Permalink

October 14, 2005

Storyboard your life

Here's an interesting way to go about adding to your Legacy Archives.

Storyboard your life

A storyboard is a sequence of images and words drawn together on a page to form a plausible narrative.

Storyboards are routinely used in the movie making business to 'preview' a movie before a single shot is taken. Not only does a storyboard allow for a dress rehearsal of the final product but by the very fact of being posted on the wall,it elicits early feedback and encourages quick, painless editing, leading to significant savings in time and resources.

A storyboard is an apt metaphor for how we make sense of our own life history. Storyboarding can be used to sense emergent patterns in our own life story and to envision the life experiences that we wish to welcome into our future.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:45 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2005

A Daughter's 'Soul' Preserved by the "Enemy"

This story will give you the chills and give you some sense of the power of your personal Legacy Archives and the marvelous hand of fate.

A fiery book, a daughter's soul, the 30 year sore of a military intelligence officer and a publishing phenomenon in Vietnam. Vietnamese family reunites with fallen daughter by Elliott Blackburn.

Doan Ngoc Tram fell to her knees before the small cardboard box.
Her three daughters crowded close, holding her, as two small bone clasps were carefully undone and the lid of the box lifted. Two small, brown books sat side by side.

Ngoc Tram wept. The stoic woman clutched the diaries of her eldest daughter against her chest for the first time.

"This is the spirit of my sister," her daughter Dang Hien Tram later said through an interpreter. "This is my sister's soul."

The family had traveled thousands of miles from home to see the memoirs Wednesday, now held at the Texas Tech Vietnam Center.

The diaries hold the intimate details of the last few years of a young battlefield surgeon's life. They describe hiding in a trench filled with water to the neck, reciting poetry to pass the time. They share the private anguish of a young doctor's losing war on death.

They are of skies of fire and cratered earth, of battle-ravaged hospitals staffed with revolutionary fervor, of the love of family and country.
They are tales captured by an enemy that protected them for three decades; two diaries that joined two families separated by war.

A fiery book
Fred Whitehurst was standing before a drum of burning documents when his life changed.

A fiery book
Fred Whitehurst was standing before a drum of burning documents when his life changed.

Whitehurst was a military intelligence officer in his twenties, a self-described country boy from North Carolina who arrived in Vietnam in March 1969. As a non-commissioned officer in military intelligence, he interviewed prisoners and combed through captured documents with the help of South Vietnamese translators.

Documents with military value were sent to Saigon, but there was no place to store the captured poetry, letters from home and personal documents written by North Vietnamese soldiers or sympathizers.

Whitehurst routinely burned thousands of such documents in a 55-gallon barrel on the site, per military orders. But he was struck when a translator thumbed through a diary he had picked up from the pile and stopped him.

"Don't burn this one, Fred," Whitehurst remembered him saying. "It has fire in it already."

The sore
Fred held on to the diary for more than 30 years, hoping to return the book to Thuy's family.

"It was one of those unfinished things; it was like a sore that continued to bother and bother him," Robert said. "We talked about it on and on for 30 years."

At first, there was no way to find the family - Vietnam was off limits during the 1970s, he said. Fred considered a book or movie based on the diaries to attract the attention of the family. He dreamed of using any profit from the deal to build a hospital in Vietnam, a dream he now sheepishly described as childish.

"That's a stupid idea, a movie idea," Fred said.

The translations grew more refined. Robert, a riverboat pilot in the Vietnam War, spoke the language. Now a tugboat captain in New Orleans, he would spend each month he wasn't at sea translating the diaries his brother had recovered, struggling with his rusty Vietnamese and immersed in the story.

Finding Madam Tram

Ted Engelmann woke up to a ringing cell phone and splitting headache.

It was late April. Engelmann was in Vietnam hoping to complete the last phase of his life's work: a 37-year book project chronicling the changing memorials and scenes from four countries ravaged by the Vietnam War. He too was a Vietnam War veteran, an Air Force sergeant who directed air strikes.

Only a few days earlier, Engelmann had briefly met Fred and Robert Whitehurst. The social studies teacher listened to their hour-long presentation on the diary at the symposium, and volunteered to take a CD of scanned images to Hanoi.

It was late April. Engelmann was in Vietnam hoping to complete the last phase of his life's work: a 37-year book project chronicling the changing memorials and scenes from four countries ravaged by the Vietnam War. He too was a Vietnam War veteran, an Air Force sergeant who directed air strikes.

Only a few days earlier, Engelmann had briefly met Fred and Robert Whitehurst. The social studies teacher listened to their hour-long presentation on the diary at the symposium, and volunteered to take a CD of scanned images to Hanoi.

Now he was awake with a searing stress headache and Dang Thuy Tram's very excited sister on the phone.

"When can you be here?" she asked.

Engelmann said he moved every six months or so to different countries, and had developed contacts in Vietnam. He had landed in Hanoi carrying the disc, and sought the help of Lady Borden, a Quaker with good connections in the country.

Engelmann explained his mission to two of her assistants, expecting little. They called a hospital on the outskirts of the city referenced in the first recovered diary, but made no immediate progress, so he left. He was now in Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon), where he planned to shoot his final frames on the 37th anniversary of the fall of the capital.

The phone call was confusing, but the woman was insistent, he remembered.

"Then I realized who they were," Engelmann said. "Half my brain was hurting like hell, and the other half was trying to figure out how to help."

Tram's sisters and brother-in-law picked him up at the Hanoi airport. They traveled to a narrow concrete home with cream-colored walls. Engelmann carried his laptop and the CD of diary images in through the front door to a living room, and almost stepped back out in shock.

The house was packed with relatives and television camera crews.

"There were just so many people in there, and I didn't know who any of the people were," Engelmann said.

The entire home was not much larger than a typical American living room, he said. About 15 or 20 people crowded a small den of cushioned chairs and couches. A vase of white flowers - Thuy's favorite, he was told - stood next to one couch. Beyond was a small kitchen with a large table set for a great meal. Upstairs, under a ceiling that made the 6-foot-1-inch Engelmann bend over to stand, were bedrooms.

He took the place of honor at a kitchen table. He turned on his laptop, loaded the CD, and showed the family the two folders of images of the diaries.

"After that, I moved out of the way," Engelmann said.

Tears welled in the eyes of Thuy's mother, a gentle but strong 81-year-old matriarch, he said. He learned that earlier that year, in three major Vietnamese newspapers, the family had participated in news articles asking if anyone had any information about their fallen daughter. For months there had been no response.

Now an American veteran, an enemy soldier, had appeared unannounced to hand them their daughter's most intimate thoughts and memories on a disk.

"Here's a mom who's getting something back about her daughter," Engelmann said. "I was the guy who was able to give it to her, and I was just overwhelmed."

The believable hero

Ted Engelmann changed his plans, and finished his book with photographs from a trip he took with the Tram family to honor Thuy's grave. Fred Whitehurst was overjoyed to learn that the family had been almost immediately found, and traveled with his brother to Vietnam in August to meet the mother and sisters of the author who had haunted him.

Fred worried for years that the family would simply accept the diaries and then close the door. He returned with an adopted mother and sisters, he said.

"They really adopted us," Fred said. "How crazy is that?"

They quickly learned that the diaries had touched more than the Whitehurst family.

A normal press run for books in Vietnam is 1,000 - maybe 5,000 for very popular novels, said Quang Phu Van, a professor of Vietnamese Language and Literature in the Yale Council on Southeast Asia Studies.

The Dang Thuy Tram diaries, published this summer, have hit 200,000 according to the Vietnam Center.

Unlike previously published stories of war heroes issued by the government, tales of almost superhuman sacrifice and dedication, Vietnamese can relate to the stories of Thuy Tram and another recently published diary from a North Vietnamese soldier, Van said.

"This is something very genuine, and that's become a phenomenon in Vietnam," he said, adding that his father carries a copy of the diaries with him. "Someone who shared a loss of innocence, the guilt; this is something that people have a chance to see something different. Everyone talks about it."

Such stories are rare, said Vietnam Center associate director Stephen Maxner, though he wondered if more diaries kept by American soldiers would come forward after this.

Changing lives
The family wiped tears from their eyes and leafed through the diaries Wednesday morning at the Texas Tech Vietnam Center. At first overwhelmed with emotion, Thuy Tram's sisters thanked the archivists for preserving her diaries. Kim Tram hoped the stories would help bring the U.S. and Vietnam closer.

The Tram family found their sister and daughter again. The two handmade books with clean blue cursive writing had soul, they said.

"When we came to touch the diary, I had a feeling she'd come back with us," Kim Tram said through an interpreter.

Though they were not present, the experience had changed the Whitehurst brothers, too.

"I understand a lot more about the whole thing I was involved in as a young man because of this," Robert said. "I don't think I'll ever completely let go of it."

Fred dismisses his role in the story: "All I am is the camel that carried the water across the desert." He does not want closure from the war, does not want to forget what happened, he said. He does not want accolades.

He wants his mother to meet his adopted mother, which they will do later this week. And he takes joy in one final bit of serendipity - the popularity of the books has inspired a drive to build a hospital in Dang Thuy Tram's name, he said.

"Every flipping penny of it is going to a hospital in Pho Cuong," Whitehurst marveled. "My foolish, kind of childish dream of hospital beds in Duc Pho, it's coming true. To continue her life's work through such a bizarre path - me? It makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:10 PM | Permalink

September 20, 2005

Bob Dylan's Legacy

Bob Dylan is looking to control his own legacy reports the Wall St. Journal. If Dylan's taking care to choose how he wants to be remembered, shouldn't you be thinking about the same thing?

With a torrent of new projects focusing on his most-revered period, from 1961 to 1966, the singer is pre-empting the posthumous image-massaging that has confronted many rock estates by dealing with his own legacy now, while the 64-year-old is still very much alive.

The DVD release today of the 3½-hour, Martin Scorsese-directed documentary "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan" is part of a multipronged project in which Mr. Dylan has aggressively focused attention on his transformation from baby-faced folk singer to rock 'n' roll icon.

In that way, Mr. Dylan is staking out unusual ground for a rock star. The process of picking through an artist's archives for clues about his or her creative evolution is often left to heirs and others after the musician's death. The estates of Jimi Hendrix, Mr. Cobain and Tupac Shakur all have made cottage industries of issuing rarities, album outtakes, obscure live recordings, and the like. But that process is often contentious, like the long legal battle among Mr. Hendrix's heirs, record labels and producers. The fights frequently lead to cheap repackagings of old material, designed more to make heirs a quick buck than to craft a lasting legacy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:21 PM | Permalink

September 11, 2005

Documenting Historical Places

Via Instapundit, reader Jim Martin urges people to detail the historic structures in which they live.

As inexpensive as digital images are and having the ability to archive them on DVD discs everyone should take the time to photograph, in detail, the histOric structures where they live. The huge damage Katrina wrought to the Gulf Coast is a hard lesson for the rest of the coutry. Most of the old antebellum mansions are totally erased and will never be recontsucted. It would have been nice to have had detailed photos of them for posterity in a safe place far from hurricanes.

There are hundreds of old buildings, some on the National Registry of Historic Sites, which need to be photographed from all angles: up close, inside and outside to show minute detail of construction methods. Molded ceiling plaster motifs come to mind. If any of these structures are damaged by fire or storms and enough remains for restoration, architects and builders will find photos taken as special projects by archivists a great advantage.

A weekend is all many would require, a great Fall project to get started. Go to the mountains and take photos of log cabins when the leaves have changed. Go to historic sites in your hometown, all of them, large and small. They aren't important until they are gone and it's too late.

Good advice and a great family project. We are connected in many ways, part of the houses we inhabit and the communities where we live.

You don't have to have an historic house to document it easily for the future. Who knows what use it can be put to in the decades ahead?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 AM | Permalink

August 31, 2005

Never will again exist

I'm blogging about the catastrophe in New Orleans and Mississippi over at Business of Life.

It's life that counts now.  It's Search and Rescue Time.  Time to save as many human lives as possible.

Time soon enough to find and bury the dead.

Time soon enough realize that everything has changed and the past will never be again.

Too much of what existed last week never will again.

Here's cobaltgreen,  from katriancane's friends.
It's times like this when you make realize what belongings you really cherish. I'm hoping my footage tapes of the recent interviews for The Documentary can be recovered... they are some of the last recordings of the New Orleans I love. The New Orleans that will never again exist.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:18 AM | Permalink

August 28, 2005

The Namesake

Don't miss this story by Gerard Van der Leun  the namesake of an uncle he never knew.  The Name in the Stone

Cut into the stone amongst a tally of the dead.

If you have an unusual name, there's nothing that prepares you for seeing it in a list of the dead on a summer Sunday afternoon in Battery Park in 1975. I don't really remember the feeling except to know that, for many long moments, I became suddenly chilled.

When that passed, I knew why my name was in the stone. I'd always known why, but I'd never known about the stone or the names cut into it.

"Gerard Van der Leun" was, of course, not me. He was someone else entirely. Someone who had been born, lived, and died before I was even conceived. He was my father's middle brother. He was what my family had given to stop Fascism, Totalitarianism and genocide in the Second World War. He was one of their three sons. He was dead before he was 22 years old. His body never recovered, the exact time and place of his death over the Atlantic, unknown.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:02 PM | Permalink

August 23, 2005

37 Days

Patti watched her stepfather die of lung cancer just 37 days after being diagnosed.   

The timeframe of 37 days made an impression on me. We act as if we have all the time in the world - that's not a new understanding. But the definite-ness of 37 days struck me. So short a time, as if all the regrets of a life would barely have time to register before time was up.

And so, as always when awful things happen, I tried to figure out how to reconcile in my mind the fact that it was happening and the fact that the only thing I could do was try to make some good out of it. What emerged was a renewed commitment to ask myself this question every morning: 'what would I be doing today if I only had 37 days to live?'

It's a hard question some days.

But here's how I answered it: Write like hell, leave as much of myself behind for my two daughters as I could, let them know me and see me as a real person, not just a mother, leave with them for safe-keeping my thoughts and memories, fears and dreams, the histories of what I am and who my people are. Leave behind my thoughts about living the life, that "one wild and precious life" that poet Mary Oliver speaks of. That's what I'd do with my 37 days. So, I'm beginning here.

Her blog 37 days is a fine one.  Patti shows how richly  you can live when you keep the horizon line in sight.  And how much fun you can have.

Every week she writes a new essay with a Do It Now Challenge  Burn those jeans, always rent the red convertible, live an irresistible obituary, know the point of your life, find your own saxophone, and stand on your own rock

She's terrific, smart and wise and funny to boot, all while pondering the big questions.  Don't miss her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:17 PM | Permalink

August 19, 2005

Bonded Black and White

When you begin to write the stories of your life and your family, wonderful things can happen.

From the Washington Post, Faded Sketch Propels Families Across a Racial Divide, by Sudarsan Raghavan.

An elderly black woman drove up to the sand-colored mansion of a frail old white man in Prince George's County. She parked and walked slowly to the back entrance, as if by instinct. Under one arm, she carried a framed, faded sketch. Under the other, a roll of genealogy charts.

The sketch was of her great-great-grandparents, Basil and Lizzie Wood. They were long dead when Anna Holmes was born, but she had come to know them like her shadow.

Oden Bowie had met Basil and Lizzie. They worked for his family and may have been his ancestors' slaves. But until that chilly day in February 2002, Holmes had resisted asking for Bowie's help in writing this chapter of her family's history. For much of her life, reaching out to the white world meant crossing into a forbidding realm.

It also unearthed something within her that had been buried by decades of discrimination.

"If you bonded with someone, you're going to be bonded whether they are black or white," she said.

She is writing an autobiography to pass on to her descendants. She wants them "to know where they came from," she said, because "this is who they are." She will proudly tell them how they are now connected to one of Maryland's first families. She will tell them how Eugene Roberts now calls her "extended family."

One day, she sat her grandchildren down and told them about the kind white man whose gift she unravels every day.

"He could have just said, 'Oh, yeah, they are buried over here,' and that's the end of that," she told them. "He could have closed the door.

"But he didn't choose to do that."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:12 PM | Permalink

August 18, 2005

Happy Birthday Millie

  Millie On Her 80Th-1

If you haven't visited My Mom's Blog by Thoroughly Modern Millie, you're missing a treat. 

Bloggers around the country are holding a surprise birthday party for Millie who's turning 80 today.  Why not toddle on over, look around and add your best wishes to this amazing woman.  She's showed everyone that you're never too old to blog and to delight.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:23 PM | Permalink

July 25, 2005

Buy Red When You're Blue

Maureen Dowd pens a wonderful tribute to her mother who passed away last week.   

MY mom always wanted to be a writer. In 1926, when she was 18, she applied for a job at The Washington Post. An editor there told her that the characters she'd meet as a reporter were far too shady for a nice young lady.
But someone who wants to write will find a way to write. And someone who wants to change the world can do it without a big platform or high-profile byline.

Just an ordinary life made extraordinary when closing examined.

Mom was not famous, but she was remarkable. Her library included Oscar Wilde, Civil War chronicles, Irish history and poetry books, as well as "Writing to the Point: Six Basic Steps," and the 1979 "Ever Since Adam and Eve: The Satisfactions of Housewifery and Motherhood in the Age of Do-Your-Own-Thing.'"

She touches on small things.

Without ever mentioning it to anyone, she constantly wrote out a stream of very small checks from her police widow's pension for children who were sick and poor.

She didn't limit her charity to poor kids. When 6-year-old Al Gore III was struck by a car in 1989, she sent him a get-well card and a crisp dollar bill. "Children like getting a little treat when they're not feeling well," she explained.

She traces the arc of a life that spanned much of the nation's history.

As a child she saw the last of the Civil War veterans marching in Memorial Day parades, and as the wife of a D.C. police inspector she made friends with her neighbor, Pop Seymour, the last person alive who saw Lincoln shot at Ford's Theater. (He was 5 and saw the president slump in his box.)

She tells stories.

One of her big thrills came in 1990 when she went to the White House Christmas party with me and President Bush gave her a kiss. On the way home, she said to me in a steely voice, "I don't ever want you to be mean to that man again."

Stories that paint a picture.

As my mom lay in pain, at 97 her organs finally shutting down, my sister asked her if she would like a highball. Over the last six years, Mom had managed to get through going into a wheelchair and losing her sight, all without painkillers or antidepressants - just her usual evening glass of bourbon and soda.

Her sense of taste was gone, and she could no longer speak, but she nodded, game as ever, just to show us you can have life even in death. We flavored her spoonful of ice chips with bourbon, soon followed by a morphine chaser.

And tell life lessons.

I just know that I will follow the advice she gave me in a letter while I was in college, after I didn't get asked to a Valentine's Day dance. She sent me a check for $15 and told me to always buy something red if you're blue - a lipstick, a dress.

"It will be your 'Red Badge of Courage,' " she wrote. And courage was a subject the lady knew something about.

If you want to write about your parents, Dowd's tribute is a great example of how to do it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink

July 19, 2005

Still Life Dramas.

I've often written how important it is for people to create their own legacy archives, creating  themselves what they want to pass on to the future and posterity.  I've often called it a time capsule.

Dennis Severs, an American artist and Anglophile, created his time capsule in London at 18 Folgate St.  In the 1970s, Severs bought a decrepit Georgian house and lived there for 30 years until his death from cancer at 51.

The house was his canvas, each room casting a different spell and portal to another time, brought to life through a visitor's imagination and senses. 

Jane Black of the Washington Post tells the story.

I step through a low door into a warm, cozy kitchen. On the rustic pine table, there's a steaming cup of tea and a half-sliced loaf of brown bread. Dirty blue-and-white china dishes are in the sink and a fire burns brightly on the hearth. It's as if someone has just left the room--someone from the early 18th century.

I stand silently, listening to the clock tick. Then I hear the sound of a carriage approaching and disappearing down the street outside. "I see dead people," the famous line from the movie "The Sixth Sense," comes to mind.
The Dennis Severs' House is intended to let visitors experience a living, breathing 18th-century home, where candles are still burned for light and tea is heated over an open fire.

If it sounds bizarre, it is. Each room is one of a series of still-life dramas. Severs sets the scene--the home of the fictional Jervises, a family of weavers--and the visitor creates the action. You look at furniture, portraits and handwritten lists, smell food cooking and coal burning in the stove, hear doors close and bells ring, then use that information to piece together what's happening. Artist David Hockney has described the house as one of the world's five greatest experiences.

That experience starts even before you enter: Gas lights flicker in the lamps outside the ivy-strewn Georgian town house, one of four on this cobblestone street. And although busy Liverpool Street Station is just moments away, silence surrounds the house.
Indeed, it's the ghost of Severs that is most present in the house. Though he died of cancer in 2001 at age 51, his spirit remains. He prods you to open your eyes and laughs at your inability to truly see. In his bedroom on a side table is one of his many notes to visitors: "The 20th century is a fascinating place to visit, but surely nobody would ever want to live in it."

Stepping back into the din of London traffic, I can begin to see why Severs was keen to distance himself from modern society. A world of ghosts, especially friendly ones like the Jervis family, is a wonderful antidote to the pressures and pace of contemporary life. Living in the past is not for everyone. But as Severs was fond of saying, "You either see it or you don't."

You can take a virtual tour of the Dennis Severs house here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:37 PM | Permalink

July 15, 2005

In the First Person

If you have collected first person oral histories from your family members, you may be wondering whether a collection might be interested.  Here's a site called In the First Person that indexes some 2500 collections of oral history in English from around the world.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 AM | Permalink

June 27, 2005

Blogging and Rediscovery

What a writer the Doctor is

How many gifts do we have, buried under a hardened armor, awaiting the gracious trauma of a shattered shell?

I've written a lot about business blogging and how businesses are changing everything.  What I haven't written enough about is how blogging is the way we are recording our experiences and our thoughts here and now for ourselves but also in a form that will last for generations yet to come.  What journals and letters were to the pioneers, blogs are to those who are colonizing cyberspace and marking their journeys.

Blogging is the way we find out what we think, what we value, who we are.   

The Doctor writes about
his year blogging .

I have always been a man of few words, preferring the quick quip to the thoughtful response–the right words always coming hours or days after the exchange. But writing: aahhh, there is a way to express your heart, to pour out your soul. The beauty of words, sometimes carefully chosen, sometimes flowing effortlessly from a source unseen, pounding out their rhythm and cadence, sometimes soft, sometimes stirring. Like music, they penetrate the spirit with power, deep speaking to deep.

I have learned to love great writers, and love to learn from them, in my own stumbling steps to imitate and emulate. And the web! Who could have imagined that a medium so poorly suited to reading–reading a book on computer an unimaginable chore–could prove so ideal for the comment, the essay, the quiet reflection, the fiery retort?  Fascinating to see this medium evolve in ways never imagined–fascinating even more so to watch society, culture, country, and world change as a result. It is not the medium which transforms the world, but the voices of those rarely heard before.
I am grateful to have this vehicle for catharsis, to formulate and organize thoughts otherwise scattered and incomplete.

Some time ago, I posted about Dr. Bob's remarkable essay, Dancing with Death, but then lost track of him.  I happily rediscovered Dr. Bob after reading Gerard Vanderleun's post on Let Us Know Praise Remarkable Bloggers.

Rediscovery is what you will find yourself doing if you keep a blog.
You'll rediscover what you thought last year and, in time, your family will rediscover a lot more about you.

If you don't want to publish your thoughts for  the whole word, consider a family blog that's password-protected or a private blog just for you.  The process of writing what you think, feel and believe, what you've seen, done and experienced will force you to be more reflective.  You'll think more deeply about what really matters and that will be a gift to you,  to your family and to the future.

Richard Lawrence Cohen

Blogging is the best training in awareness of evanescence. I work on every post with as much sincerity as I would put into the same number of words in a novel. And there it goes.
I have my archive, though. That’s my last resistance. I rarely enter my archive, but if it were lost I’d be heartbroken.

My hope is that one of my biological descendants will discover it and be inspired. It will help him or her do something really good, something that will really last. This great–grandchild will look back and send me a message of thanks.

Or there will be scholars who study the blogging phenomenon of the early twenty–first century. They may not even be human -- they may be artificial intelligences. Somehow they will hit upon my archive and include it among their sources, helping them learn what life here was like. So while I will never be widely known, I will always be known to about six readers.

This is my hope of resurrection

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 PM | Permalink

June 22, 2005

Death in Bath

The BBC's story about the Seventh Annual Great Obituary Writers' Conference is called Death in Bath, or a meeting to die for.

Of course, nothing will beat last year's conference when Tim Bullamore  was in the midst of extolling the glories of Bath, site of this year's conference, when the news came that President Reagan had died.  His presentation was ruined as the audience reacted to the news with surprise, confusion and uproar, so the hapless man grabbed the microphone and bellowed, "Reagan's dead and he'll be deader.  Let's go on with the show."  But I digress.

This year there was general agreement that obituaries are short stories with death the incident that shapes them.

To Dr Cory Franklin from America, a great collector rather than writer, of obits, it is the life-changing details of lives that he finds fascinating.  He quoted two recent examples. John Frankenheimer, the man who directed such Hollywood films as The Manchurian Candidate and The Birdman of Alcatraz, was the man who drove Bobby Kennedy to the hotel in Los Angeles in which he was shot dead.  As a result, Frankenheimer was plunged into a depression which he never got over, his career ruined.

Always more about life than death,  the obituary will reshape and reform with blogs, video and audio offering greater opportunities to tell everyone's life story. 

Why not tell it your story your way?  You may have many stories at different stages of your life that if you don't write down in some fashion, you will come to find that you forget them.  Maybe, this is the time to start writing down the stories of your parents before they die.

You can be creative as you want with the abundance of digital tools available now.  You'll probably discover patterns in your life you never realized, maybe even a deeper meaning and purpose when you start to think about what really matters

It's your life, you're the expert on your life and your Legacy Matters. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:48 PM | Permalink

June 6, 2005

Her Story

There are some fine examples of personal Legacy Archives at the Library of Congress. Pages from Her Story.

          Her Story

Ordinary women writing about their personal lives give us unforgettable snapshots of nine different times in our country's history.

Take this 15 year old Puritan girl

December 5, 1675.....I am fifteen years old to-day, and while sitting with my stitchery in my hand, there came a man in all wet with the salt spray, he having just landed by the boat from Sandwich, which had much ado to land by reason of the surf. I myself had been down to the shore and saw the great waves breaking, and the high tide running up as far as the hillocks of dead grass. The man George, an Indian, brings word of much sickness in Boston, and great trouble with the Quakers and Baptists; that many of the children throughout the country be not baptized, and without that religion comes to nothing. My mother hath bid me this day put on a fresh kirtle and wimple, though it be not the Lord's day, and my Aunt Alice coming in did chide me and say that to pay attention to a birthday was putting myself with the world's people. It happens from this that my kirtle and wimple are not longer pleasing to me, and what with this and the bad news from Boston my birthday has ended in sorrow.

Or Kate Dunlap, a  young wife traveling overland to Montana by horse team. 

May 15, 1864…The first emigrants saw hard times on account of bad roads, no grass and the great scarsity of hay. In the afternoon we drove on to Lewis, hoping to get hay but could not get any except we would put up bag and baggage at a hotel. We stopped at the Henderson House . I was relieved from cooking, it being the first time I had eaten at a table for two weeks...

May 18th …We arrived at Council Bluffs about 9 o'clock and the boys about 12 o'clock. We cant get across the river for several days. Hundreds of teams are waiting their turn, and frequently fights and confusion ensue. A sad accident happened to day. A little girl was josteled out of the wagon as it drove on to the ferry boat. was run over and killed. They had started from this place; They returned to bury their child.

Or Marianna Costa who organized textile workers, 1933.

...I didn't understand when the girls in the department I was in said, "We're going to go out." The chanting outside of the window, that's my first recollection. There was chanting outside of our work windows, and a big group of people. I guess they initially started by the Wideman plant. . . . and in Riverside you start in one place and you go down [and] you weave in and out. It's all dye plants. So that if you made your run you would call these people out and they would join in that line. And they'd go to the next plant and there was a bigger line. And the line kept getting bigger and bigger. The crowd instead of being one hundred was two hundred. Two hundred would get three hundred. By the time they got to our plant half the street was just a crowd of people. And they'd say, "Come on out. Join us. We're going to strike...

We are all witnesses to history and what we write about lives today can enrich and enlighten readers in the distant future.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:43 PM | Permalink

June 1, 2005

1000 bars

Everyone has their life purpose.   

Dan Freeman, aka the Barman, had a dream.  Some would say an impossible one.

Until he retired, it was just a dream.  Now, he's making it come true.

1000 bars in 1 year in New York City.

The rules are strict: no driving, only the subway or a bus, drink only at a bar, and only one drink.

With passion and flair, he's documenting his dream in A thousand bars.   

A hundred years from now, people will marvel at this personal social history of that great city.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:17 PM | Permalink

May 27, 2005

Spiritual Legacy of Ethical Wills on VOA

The Voice of America, as part of its American Life series,  is playing a story about a hospice in central Iowa where staff members are helping patients prepare ethical wills to leave behind a spiritual, philosophical legacy.

Mr. Fry says most people have a desire to leave behind something more meaningful than material goods. "It may be those opportunities to share where it is we came from, what we're about, why we chose decisions that we chose or made decisions that we made throughout our lives. It's an opportunity to deal with regret and forgiveness."

Mr. Burkhart says the exercise has been therapeutic: "It has helped me tremendously and has given me satisfaction knowing that I have been able to express myself to my kids and my family, my parents, about how I feel and where I'm at."

Joel Fry at the Hospice of Central Iowa points out that one does not have to be an accomplished writer to compile an ethical will. It can start with a simple timeline, or a list. "Just number 1 through 30, the most important things in your life," he says. "There are individuals who'll sit in front of a movie camera. Many times I've had a movie camera going, and that's how they choose to do it."
The hospice workers say one of their saddest experiences is watching patients rage against the steady loss of independence -- their homes, the freedom to drive, even their memories. All the more reason, say the staff members, that recording thoughts about life's lessons and blessings should not be a matter left till one's deathbed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:15 PM | Permalink

May 25, 2005

Digital Immortality

By 2050 we would expect to be able to download your mind into a machine, so when you die it's not a major career problem,' said  Ian Pearson, one of Briain's leading futurologists to The Observer. 'If you're rich enough then by 2050 it's feasible. If you're poor you'll probably have to wait until 2075 or 2080 when it's routine.

Pearson, 44, has formed his mind-boggling vision of the future after graduating in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, spending four years working in missile design and the past 20 years working in optical networks, broadband network evolution and cybernetics in BT's laboratories. He admits his prophecies are both 'very exciting' and 'very scary'.

He believes that today's youngsters may never have to die, and points to the rapid advances in computing power demonstrated last week, when Sony released the first details of its PlayStation 3. It is 35 times more powerful than previous games consoles. 'The new PlayStation is 1 per cent as powerful as a human brain,' he said. 'It is into supercomputer status compared to 10 years ago. PlayStation 5 will probably be as powerful as the human brain.'

Count me in as a big time skeptic of this chilling view of the future where the time to live and the time to die are one and the same.

Besides, I believe in editing.  I'd rather have 20 favorite photos of a loved one than 2500.  Their favorite songs, not every one they ever listened to.  Their best thoughts and wise words, not every thought and every word.

That's why I believe people should take time and create just what they want to leave to the future as their personal legacy archives.  It's not a data dump.  It's a distillation of the best of your life.

UPDATE:  It does sound like a Rapture for Nerds or as they say, the

If you live through the SIngularity and you do not try UpLoading and are not rendered PostHumous by feral calculators or get eaten by GreyGoo, you may be one of the PostHumans. PostHumans are humans who are not human any more.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:07 PM | Permalink

May 14, 2005

Time Traveling at MIT and Stories, Scrapbooks

I sent in my RSVP and last  weekend, I dropped into the Time Travelers Convention at MIT, but seeing no one I knew, left.  Might go back though if I meet them later.

  Time Travel-2

Personally, I prefer stories for time travel.  What better way to travel to the past or insure a presence in the future than through really good stories?

My real reason for being at MIT was to learn more about the Work of Stories at the MIT Media in Transition conference.  While there were some of the 200 presenters, I  only stopped in on a few, those on digital storytelling, especially for families.  I wanted to see how time travel via digital stories was doing.  After all, digital storytelling -combining images and sound with a strong written narrative -  is a new art form, accessible to anyone who can use standard computer tools.  I think it's destined to be the preferred means of storytelling in the 21st century especially as internet savvy people grow older and begin to reflect on their lives and their stories as part of their legacy to their families.

J.D. Lasica writes about how the Center for Digital Storytelling helps people hold up a lens to their own lives.  He quotes  Joe Lambert who founded the Center.

"We sense that digital storytelling is beginning to spread like wildfire across the land," says Lambert, 45, who runs the 8-year-old center with his wife, Nina Mullen, plus a staff member and a posse of associates and technical volunteers. So far the non-profit project has trained more than 4,000 people in the use of digital media to tell meaningful stories from their lives.

I like Joe's first principle:

Every human has a powerful story to tell. You can not experience life without insights to your experience, which are valuable to a larger audience. Most people's perception of living a quiet, mundane, uninteresting, unmemorable life mask the vivid, complex and rich source of stories that everyone has to share.

I met Helen Barrett who's helping people with Electronic Portfolios especially in the field of education.  She shares her ideas on her blog and most valuable is her guide to digital storytelling tools.  Soon she'll be spending more time at Digital Family Story with her husband.  Hopefully, she'll do some redecorating to the site which looks clunky and outdated but still has useful links around digital storytelling.    I liked this older man's tribute to his Dad which nicely incorporates news footage and music from World War 2.  The narrator, his voice almost breaking, as he talks about the last time he saw his father, demonstrates better than I could say, how important hearing a voice and a personal point of view is.

Another great list of resources and links can be found at digitalstories.org.  I learned how much the BBC is doing in capturing stories of ordinary people in Wales.  Called CaptureWales, the BBC site features ordinary people creating their stories at digital storytelling workshops around Wales with a new featured story each week. 

For great stories there's always the favorite Fray where I found this amazing story of life and death about murder and carpet on the van walls, that you don't want to miss.

The only good paper I heard was by Barbara Audet at Auburn University who talked about the reinvention of the American scrapbook, this time with digital photographs and technology along with a more consciously crafted narrative.  I never knew before that Mark Twain was such an ardent scrapbooker, making them and taking them wherever he went, and making money with his patented "self-pasting" scrapbook.  PBS made an absolutely fabulous interactive scrapbook combining selections from his works, photos, illustration, clippings, and audio files.                 

  Mark Twain Scrapbook

The $2.5  billion scrapbooking industry in the US grew 28% in 2004 over 2001 according to this survey.  How much faster will it grow when digital scrapbooks and stories really take hold?  Take a look at Digital scrapbooks for lots of ideas. 

UPDATE:  Just came across time travel blog - back and forth  to LA in 1947.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 PM | Permalink

May 3, 2005

I'm still young. I still have time.

Victoria Snelgrove was a college student celebrating the Red Sox pennant win outside Fenway Park last year when the crowd became unruly.  Police moved in to control the crowd, one firing a pepper pellet control gun that hit Victoria in the eye killing her. 

The City of Boston will be paying $5 million for her wrongful death in an out-of-court settlement.    'Heart wrenching" and "terrible" is how Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole describe the shooting and the impact of Victoria's death on her family.

Yesterday, the parents revealed that Victoria had made a videotape shortly before she died  Her father describes it as a "gift", for her mother, it's still unbearable.  Copies of the tape, along with remarks by her mourning family and friends were released on DVD yesterday by the family's lawyer.

All Victoria does is sit on her bed and talk passionately into the camera about her loving relationship with her family and her desire to become a broadcast journalist, all the while showing an awareness of the  fragility of life and probably making the tape for just that reason.

"In a second, you know, my life or somebody close to me's life could just be taken away.  So I try to take every opportunity and do everything and appreciate everything, even though it's hard sometime"

In the Boston Globe, Video of victim comforts, pains as family still grapples with loss

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink

May 2, 2005

Blogging to slow life down

Mena Trott is one of the founders of Six Apart, the company that brings you Typepad and Moveable Type, this blog's platform.    Here is an excerpt from an interview with Mena conducted by Shel Israel.

He's writing a book on Business Blogging with Robert Scobel, the famous blogger who put a human face on Microsoft.  You can follow their progress and get an early look-see at The Red Couch.

I post it to show you how easily a blog can be used for your own Personal Legacy Archives, what you choose to leave to the future. 
Sometimes just a detail can be the thread to lead you back to a memory.  A photo and a few words may be all you need. 

I post a picture of myself on a private weblog every day with my camera phone. I'm able to look back and see how I've changed over the year. People say it's the most egotistical thing, but it isn't, if only a few people read it.  My mom loves it. She calls me up and tells me how she loved my hair on Wednesday and she knows I’m okay on days when I can’t call her.
It’s valuable to me because I can look at every picture and tell you something about that day.  I remember what I'm wearing, reflect on where I was at.  It's the best way to capture individual days just by looking at the pictures. I can see the months fill up.  I think web logging is almost a way to slow life down. At the end of the year, I'll probably post it publicly.

People did this. People kept journals all through history and it's important. As soon as you stop, keeping track of what you do, things go by too quickly. This is one of the things we like doing. I should write a post about it.
Life slows down by posting everyday.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:47 PM | Permalink

April 30, 2005

Cancer mother's legacy to her family

Here's a wonderful example of how good directions can make a great legacy.

Even while she lay dying from breast cancer in Wales, Helen Harcombe left instructions to her husband from raising her seven year old daughter, Ffion.

  Helen Harcombe And FfionHere's some of Helen's to do list for her husband.

Uniform bought every September. Check hair for nits regularly.
• Bath and hair every other night, AT LEAST. No child of mine to be smelly.
• Make sure you serve food with veg/peas. Get fruit down her. Don't let her live out of cans, noodles and toast etc.
• At Christmas time don't forget the smaller things like stocking fillers to make it look more and fill up the stocking - chocolates, bobbles, clips, make up, fun stuff etc.
• Bedding should be changed once a fortnight, more if sweaty.
• Flowers to me at least Mothers' Day, my birthday, Ffion's birthday, our anniversary, Christmas etc (in between would be nice!)
• Keep in touch witFi's godparents and my friends and especially Mam and Dad or ... I'll haunt you!

"It did bring a smile to a lot of people's faces and the pointers I am sure will be with us forever probably."

Ms Raybould said it was also important to have left something for Ffion.  "It does show that even though her mother was going through a difficult illness, that the focus was on the family and on her," she said.

Jill Templeman, a family support team leader for Marie Curie Cancer Care in Wales, said the list was "a lovely and invaluable thing.  We do encourage and try to support families to be open and prepare for death in lots of different ways with memory boxes and photo projects."

Cancer specialist Baroness Ilora Finlay, professor of palliative medicine and vice dean in the School of Medicine at Cardiff University, said Mrs Harcombe had left "a tremendous legacy".

"Helen died tragically young, leaving a young daughter and I really hope for her daughter that that list and that letter will become indeed more treasured with time," she said.   
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:39 PM | Permalink

April 25, 2005

1940s diarists were ordinary people

It's so great to read comments that point you to something that otherwise I never would have known.  In one of my briefest posts, 1918 blogger, Tom Cunliffe of the Bright Field weblog points to his post,  Our Hidden Lives , all about a movement in Britain during the 1940's called Mass Observation. 

Ordinary people were encouraged to keep diaries over a period of years which were then collected, along with oral recordings as a sort of social archive of their times which has been preserved by the University of Sussex.

"Unputdownable" is how Tom describes a book - Our Hidden Lives - put together of several of the diarists.  Why?  These were just ordinary people who dealt with the aftermath of World War II in ordinary ways, by coping with the stuff of life -joy and sickness, financial worries and things particular to their time -food rationing and unemployment.  But it's how people deal with the stuff of life that's so engrossing.

People never tire of hearing about the details of other lives - the smallest things, what they wore, what they ate, what they rode, what they saw and experienced, what they watched and read and were influenced by, what they thought, what they learned.

Imagine how your great grandchildren will appreciate the ordinary details of your life.  That's the gift of personal legacy archives can keep on giving long after you are just a memory.  Tom thinks that blogs can serve the same purpose of chronicling ordinary lives that those 1940s diaries did.
I do too.  But I suggest that once a year, or more often, a detailed chronicle of a single day, however boring that might seem, will prove to be endlessly interesting a few decades or more into the future.  We all are living extraordinary lives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:34 AM | Permalink

April 23, 2005

A 1918 Blogger

Betsy Devine found a personal legacy archives - her grandfather's letters.  She excerpts from the  a series of letters he wrote to his newborn grandson in 1918 . 

HT Dave Weinberger at Joho the Blog

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:01 AM | Permalink

April 22, 2005

No ordinary lives

The trouble with my computer began when I tried to post twice about Ronni Bennett's piece on (Extra)ordinary Lives because it rang so true and she said it so well. 

Now that I'm back online and brimming with posts, let me do this one first.

Let's say this all together now: No lives are ordinary.

Even if you “only” got married, raised children and tended the backyard garden, you have stories to tell. You especially have stories your children, grandchildren and beyond will care about. Everyone wants to know who and where they came from and what those people were like, how they lived, what they did. That’s why so many adoptees seek out their birth parents and why genealogy is popular: We all struggle to know ourselves and a large part of doing that is in knowing our family pasts.....
What those people wanted to know was what a big-time movie star does with herself when she’s not making movies. That’s what the best entertainment profiles deliver - a peek into the celebrity’s private life...

...and it is also what your descendants will want to know about you. You are part of them; your blood flows in their veins; your genes will inform their appearance, behavior, perhaps even their interests and passions.

The smallest things can make interesting stories....
Your stories also become a record of life in general – modern to us now – that will, a generation or two hence, contain curiosities and puzzlements.
Everyone has dozens of stories, large and small, happy and sad, funny and painful, that shouldn’t be lost because you think your life is ordinary. It is not. Your stories will bring alive times past for your descendants and enrich their lives by knowing the family stories of their ancestors (that’s you someday).

So let’s say it together one more time: No lives are ordinary.

Everyone has wonderful stories.  Everyone should have a personal legacy archives just brimming with personal and family stories.  It's fun to do.  It's how you can be creative.  Think of your stories as presents you can give to the people you love and, at the same time, save them for posterity.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:40 PM | Permalink

April 13, 2005

Your family lineage back 10,000 years

Want to know where your ancestors came from?  Your family tree only go back so far.  Now tracing your family lineage back 10,000 years is possible, amazing as that sounds.

IBM and the National Geographic have begun assembling a massive genetic database called the Genographic Project.  You can participate in the project according to the Wall St Journal today in Project Hopes to Trace Your Ancestors Back 10,000 years (subscription only) and have your DNA analyzed for ancestral origins.

For $99.95, you may be able to see what path your ancestors took on their migration to their eventual home.  The trick lies in persistent markers left in DNA from generation to generation.

If you want to participate, National Geographic will mail you a kit containing two swabs and a pair of plastic vials.  You just scrape some cells off the inner wall of cheek, mail them back and start to check in on the Web to see just where you are in the human family tree and at the same time contribute to the sample.

It's being called a Landmark Study of the Human Journey.  Here's the National Geographic site for The Genographic Project. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:01 PM | Permalink

April 10, 2005

Going the Distance

Thomas Lynch, a funeral director for 40 years has an amazing op ed piece in Sunday's New York Times, Our Near Death Experience.

For many bereaved Americans, the "celebration of life" involves a guest list open to everyone except the actual corpse, which is often dismissed, disappeared without rubric or witness, buried or burned, out of sight, out of mind, by paid functionaries like me. So the visible presence of the pope's body at the pope's wake and funeral strikes many as an oddity, a quaint relic.

[O]urs is a species that down the millenniums has learned to deal with death (the idea of the thing) by dealing with the dead (the thing itself) in all the flesh and frailty of the human condition. We process grief by processing the objects of our grief, the bodies of the dead, from one place to the next. .... We commit and commend them into the nothingness or somethingness, into the presence of God or God's absence. Whatever afterlife there is or isn't, human beings have marked their ceasing to be by going to the tomb or the fire or the grave, the holy tree or deep sea, whatever sacred space of oblivion to which we consign our dead. Humans have been doing this for 40,000 years.

I've been doing funerals for almost 40.
Late in the last century more homegrown doxologies became more popular. We boomers, vexed by the elder metaphors of grief and death, wanted to create our own. Everyone was into the available "choices."
For many Americans, however, that wheel is not just broken but off track or in need of reinvention. The loosened ties of faith and family, of religious and ethnic identity, have left them ritually adrift, bereft of custom, symbol, metaphor and meaningful liturgy or language. ...
Many Americans are now spiritual tourists without home places or core beliefs to return to.

INSTEAD of dead Methodists or Muslims, we are now dead golfers or gardeners, bikers or bowlers. The bereaved are not so much family and friends or fellow believers as like-minded hobbyists or enthusiasts. And I have become less the funeral director and more the memorial caddy of sorts, getting the dead out of the way and the living assembled for a memorial "event" that is neither sacred nor secular but increasingly absurd - a triumph of accessories over essentials, stuff over substance, theme over theology. The genuine dead are downsized or disappeared or turned into knickknacks in a kind of funereal karaoke - bodiless obsequies where the finger food is good, the music transcendent, the talk determinedly "life affirming," the accouterments all purposefully cheering and inclusive and where someone can be counted on to declare "closure" just before the merlot runs out. We leave these events with the increasing sense that something is missing.

Something is.

Just as he showed us something about suffering and sickness and dying in his last days alive, in death Pope John Paul II showed us something about grieving and taking our leave. The good death, good grief, good funerals come from keeping the vigils, from bearing our burdens honorably, from honest witness and remembrance. They come from going the distance with the ones we love.

I think as boomers age, there's going to be a great new Awakening in this country. For all the narcissism and materialism of the 80s and 90s, the foundational experience of the generation was spiritual.  By the time you hit your fifties, you're not so interested in the cutting edge, but the shape of the knife, then all the uses to which it can put, finally, its purpose.  There's an enormous appetite for purpose and meaning.  Boomers have spent countless hundreds of hours, in their college years and later,  sitting stoned, talking about love and  meaning.  From middle-age, you don't care about bold and shocking, you want deep.  I think there's going to be an extraordinary efflorescence of personal creativity, as boomers resort to digital tools to tell the stories of their lives.   

Ronni Bennett calls them Stories for the Infinite Future in a must-read post how we ordinary people can create what only kings and queens could afford in the past.

I have left with the other papers my friend will need, a final blog to be posted. Yes, it begins with, “If you’re reading this, I am dead,” though I intend to update it every six months or so and I may be able, in time, to get more creative than that. 

I’ve also left instructions to set aside money to pay my blog host for at least a year after I die, along with other instructions for downloading my blog onto CDs (or whatever storage medium has evolved by then) to give to anyone who cares to have it. 

Imagine if you had such a record from your grandparents, great grandparents and even further back what a gift that would be. Now it can be so into an infinite future.

Putting your digital assets in a form that can be used and enjoyed into the future not only benefits you in their creation by adding in a deeper way your meaning, your purpose but your descendants into the infinite future.  That's what the Protected E-Vault is all about.  It's because Legacy Matters.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:16 AM | Permalink

April 8, 2005

Last Words, Last Will of the Pope

He showed us how to live.  He showed us how to die.  On his deathbed, he said,

Do not weep. I am happy, and you should be as well, let us pray together with joy.

He even showed us how to leave a spiritual or ethical will, reviewed and revised over many years.

"Watch, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming" (cf. Matt 24:42) -- these words remind me of the last call, which will occur at the moment the Lord wills it. I want to follow Him and I want all that forms part of my earthly life to prepare me for this moment...

I thank all. I ask all for forgiveness. I also ask for prayer, so that God's Mercy will show itself greater than my weakness and unworthiness....

I do not leave behind me any property which will be necessary to dispose of. Insofar as the things of daily use that served me, I request that they be distributed as will seem opportune. My personal notes should be burned.....

After my death, I ask for Holy Masses and prayers ...

Today I only want to add this to it, that everyone should have present the prospect of death...

For full text, click continue reading.

John Paul II's Last Will and Testament

"I Hope That Christ Will Give Me the Grace for the Last Passage"

Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II's last will and testament, published today by the Holy See.

* * *

The Testament of 6.3.1979
(and the subsequent addition)

"Totus Tuus ego sum"

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity. Amen.

"Watch, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming" (cf. Matt 24:42) -- these words remind me of the last call, which will occur at the moment the Lord wills it. I want to follow Him and I want all that forms part of my earthly life to prepare me for this moment. I do not know when it will occur, but like everything, I also place this moment in the hands of the Mother of my Master: 'Totus Tuus.' I leave everything in the same maternal hands, and all those who have been connected to my life and my vocation. Above all, I leave the Church in these hands, and also my Nation and the whole of humanity. I thank all. I ask all for forgiveness. I also ask for prayer, so that God's Mercy will show itself greater than my weakness and unworthiness.

During the Spiritual Exercises I reread the testament of the Holy Father Paul VI. This reading has led me to write the present testament.

I do not leave behind me any property which will be necessary to dispose of. Insofar as the things of daily use that served me, I request that they be distributed as will seem opportune. My personal notes should be burned. I request that Don Stanislaw watch over this, whom I thank for his very prolonged and comprehensive collaboration and help throughout the years. All other thanks instead I leave in my heart before God himself, because it is difficult to express them.

In regard to the funeral, I repeat the same dispositions which were given by the Holy Father Paul VI [here he notes on the margin: grave in the earth, not in a sarcophagus, 13.3.92].

"apud Dominum misericordia
et copiosa apud Eum redemptio"

John Paul pp. II

Rome, 6.III.1979
After my death, I ask for Holy Masses and prayers


* * *

Undated sheet:

I express my profound trust that, despite all my weakness, the Lord will grant me every necessary grace to face, according to his will, any task, trial and suffering that he might require of His servant in the course of life. I also trust that he will never permit that, through some attitude of mine: words, works or omissions, I betray my obligations in this Holy Petrine See.

* * *

24.II -- 1.III.1980

Also during these Spiritual Exercises I reflected on the truth of the Priesthood of Christ in the perspective of that Transit that for each one of us is the moment of our own death. Eloquent sign [addition above: decisive] for us when taking leave of this world -- to be born in the other, the future world -- is the Resurrection of Christ.

I have read therefore the registration of my testament of last year, also made during the Spiritual Exercises -- I have compared it to the testament of my great Predecessor and Father Paul VI, with that sublime testimony on the death of a Christian and a Pope -- and I have renewed in myself the awareness of the questions, to which the registration of the 6.III.1979 refers, prepared by me (in a rather provisional way).

Today I only want to add this to it, that everyone should have present the prospect of death. And must be ready to present himself before the Lord and Judge -- and, contemporaneously, Redeemer and Father. I also take this into consideration continually, entrusting that decisive moment to the Mother of Christ and of the Church -- to the Mother of my hope.

The times, in which we live, are unspeakably difficult and disquieting. The way of the Church has also become difficult and tense, characteristic trial of these times -- both for the Faithful as well as for the Pastors. In some countries (as for example in the one I read about during the Spiritual Exercises), the Church finds herself in such a period of persecution that is not inferior to that of the first centuries, rather it exceeds them by the degree of ruthlessness and hatred. "Sanguis martyrum -- semen christianorum." And in addition to this -- so many people die innocently, also in this country in which we live ...

I desire once again to commend myself totally to the Lord's grace. He himself will decide when and how I must finish my earthly life and pastoral ministry. "Totus Tuus" through the Immaculate in life and in death. Accepting this death already now, I hope that Christ will give me the grace for the last passage, that is [my] Pasch. I hope that he will render it useful also for this most important cause which I seek to serve: the salvation of men, the safeguarding of the human family, and in it of all the nations and peoples (among them I also turn in a particular way to my earthly Homeland), useful for the persons he has entrusted to me in a particular way, for the issues of the Church, for the glory of God himself.

I do not wish to add anything to what I wrote a year ago -- only to express this readiness and contemporaneously this trust, to which the present Spiritual Exercises have again disposed me.

John Paul II

* * *

"Totus Tuus ego sum"


In the course of this year's Spiritual Exercises I read (several times) the text of the testament of 6.III.1979. Although I still consider it as provisional (not definitive), I leave it in the form it exists. I do not change (for now) anything, nor do I add anything in regard to the dispositions contained in it.

The attempt on my life on 13.V.1981 in some way has confirmed the accuracy of the words written in the period of the Spiritual Exercises of 1980 (24.II -- 1.III)

I feel that much more profoundly that I am totally in God's Hands -- and I remain continually at the disposition of my Lord, entrusting myself to Him in His Immaculate Mother ("Totus Tuus")

John Paul II

* * *


In connection with the last phrase of my testament of 6.III 1979 (: "On the place/ the place, that is, of the funeral/ the College of Cardinals and my fellow countrymen should decide") -- I clarify what I have in mind: the Metropolitan of Krakow and the General Council of the Episcopate of Poland -- I request the College of Cardinals in the meantime to satisfy insofar as possible the eventual questions of its members.

* * *

1.III.1985 (in the course of the Spiritual Exercises).

Now -- in regard to the expression "College of Cardinals and my fellow countrymen": the "College of Cardinals" has no obligation to question "my fellow countrymen" on this argument; it can however do so, if for some reason it considers it legitimate.


The Spiritual Exercises of the Jubilee Year 2000

[for the testament]

1. When on the day of October 16, 1978, the conclave of Cardinals elected John Paul II, the Primate of Poland, Card. Stefan Wyszynski said to me: "The task of the new Pope will be to lead the Church into the Third Millennium." I do not know if I repeat the phrase exactly, but at least such was the sense of what he then felt. It was said by the Man who has passed into history as Primate of the Millennium. A great Primate. I was a witness of his mission, of his total trust. Of his struggles: of his victory. "Victory, when it occurs, will be a victory through Mary" -- these words of his Predecessor, Card. August Hlond, the Primate of the Millennium used to repeat.

In this way I was in some manner prepared for the task that the day October 16, 1978, presented before me. In the moment in which I write these words, Jubilee Year of 2000, it is already a reality in progress. The night of December 24, 1999, the symbolic Door of the Great Jubilee was opened in St. Peter's Basilica, later that of St. John Lateran, then of St. Mary Major -- on New Year's Day, and the day of January 19 the Door of the Basilica of St. Paul "Outside the Walls." This last event, because of its ecumenical character, has remained imprinted in my memory in a particular way.

2. As the Jubilee Year 2000 goes forward, from day to day the 20th century closes behind us and the 21st century opens. According to the plans of Providence, it was given to me to live in the difficult century that is going into the past, and now in the year in which the age of my life reaches eighty years ("octogesima adveniens"), one must ask oneself if it is not the time to repeat with the biblical Simeon "Nunc dimittis."

On the day of May 13, 1981, the day of the attempt on the Pope during the General Audience in St. Peter's Square, Divine Providence saved me in a miraculous way from death. He who is the sole Lord of life and death, He himself prolonged this life, in a certain way he has given it to me again. From this moment it again belongs even more to Him. I hope He will help me to recognize how long I must continue this service, to which he called me on the day of October 16, 1978. I ask him to call me when He himself wills it. "In life and in death we belong to the Lord ... we are the Lord's" (cf. Rm 14:8). I also hope that so long as it is given to me to carry out the Petrine service in the Church, the Mercy of God will give me the necessary strength for this service.

3. As every year during the Spiritual Exercises I have read my testament of 6.III.1979. I continue to hold the dispositions contained in it. That which now, and also during the subsequent Spiritual Exercises, has been added is a reflection of the difficult and tense general situation, which has marked the '80s. Since autumn of the year 1989 this situation has changed. The last decade of the last century was free from the preceding tensions; this does not mean that it did not bring with it new problems and difficulties. In a particular way may Divine Providence be praised for this, that the period of the so-called "Cold War" finished without violent nuclear conflict, which danger weighed on the world in the preceding period.

4. Being on the threshold of the Third Millennium "in medio Ecclesiae," I wish once again to express gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of Vatican Council II, to which together with the whole Church -- and above all with the entire episcopate -- I feel indebted. I am convinced that once again and for a long time it will be given to the new generations to draw from the riches that this Council of the 20th century has lavished. As a Bishop who has participated in the conciliar event from the first to the last day, I wish to entrust this great treasure to all those who are or will be in the future called to realize it. For my part, I thank the eternal Pastor who allowed me to serve this great cause in the course of all the years of my pontificate.

"In medio Ecclesiae" ... from the first years of episcopal service -- precisely thanks to the Council -- it was given to me to experience the fraternal communion of the Episcopate. As priest of the Archdiocese of Krakow I experienced the fraternal communion of the presbytery -- the Council opened a new dimension of this experience.

5. How many people I would have to list! The Lord has probably called the majority of them to himself -- as regards those who are still on this side, may the words of this testament remind them, all and everywhere, wherever they find themselves.

In the course of more than twenty years in which I have carried out the Petrine service "in medio Ecclesiae" I have experienced the benevolent and extremely fruitful collaboration of so many Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, so many priests, so many consecrated persons -- Brothers and Sisters -- in short, of so many lay persons, in the curial environment, in the Vicariate of the Diocese of Rome, as well as outside these environments.

How can I no willingly embrace all the Episcopates of the world, with which I met in the succession of visits "ad limina Apostolorum!" How can I not also remember so many Christian Brothers -- not Catholics! And the Rabbi of Rome and the numerous representatives of non-Christian religions! And the many representatives of the world of culture, science, politics, the means of social communications!

6. In the measure that the end of my earthly life approaches I return to the memory of the beginning, of my Parents, my Brother and my Sister (whom I did not know because she died before my birth), to the parish of Wadowice, where I was baptized, to that city of my love, of my contemporaries, girl and boy companions of elementary school, the junior high school, the university, until the times of the Occupation, when I worked as a laborer, and later on in the parish of Niegowic, Krakow's of St. Florian, to the pastoral care of academics, the environment ... to all environments ... to Krakow and to Rome ... to persons who in a special way were entrusted to me by the Lord.

To all I wish to say one thing: "May God reward you"

"In manus Tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum"



Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 PM | Permalink

March 21, 2005

Hurrah for Digital Stories

I've long advocated digital stories as one way to create your personal legacy archives.

See how The Center for Digital Storytelling promotes storytelling as a way to create a living memory woven of a thousand stories.    Now Ourmedia.org has just begun a new way for grassroots media and storytellers to share their work and get noticed.  And there's an RSS feed.

HT to Stephen Harlow at Only Connect.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:16 PM | Permalink

March 6, 2005

Soup from scratch

She was a successful corporate warrior, yet at 48 she had yet to make a soup from scratch.  That's when she found her grandmother's legacy, a soup pot, a note taped under the lid, a recipe and a love from the past that filled a nagging emptiness.  Read A Good Day for Soup by Barbara Davey.

Think about the stories behind your possessions that you will one day pass on.  I love the idea of writing a note or a letter to tuck inside only to be discovered years later.    Will you pass on your stories as well as your stuff?    Think about if.  Your recipes may be more treasured than your china.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 PM | Permalink

Dougie by David Whyte


My uncle Dougie
was killed
on Sword Beach,
the 6th of June,
nineteen hundred
and forty four.

The cadence
of the date
like a slow chant
in my father's mind
round the one
central memory

Dougie taught
him how to swim
before he died.
Now I remember
my father's repeated
weekend need
for the ice cold waters
where he taught me
how to swim
and his fatherly
at the slowly
growing strokes
that kept his son
above water.

I could not know what
was being given then
not knowing
how as the years pass
we must always strike
boldly to save those close to us,
hold them
above the drowning water
with our words,
so they live again.

if not the man,
then the loved

From The House of Belonging, poems by David Whyte

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 PM | Permalink

February 27, 2005

Monuments to a Decent Life

Joseph Cooper writes in the Christian Science Monitor about monuments to decent lives as he reflects on Presidents' Day.  If you ever wondered whether the experiences of your life are worth passing on, listen to what Cooper says. 

Let's face it, there are few Mount Rushmore lives.

Still, each of us, in our own way, carves out a bit of history that should be set down - for our own edification, and for each of our families and a few friends.

So, he's taken upon himself to write about himself for his son about those experiences in his life he wants his son to know.  We all have had high shining moments in our lives that stay bright in our minds. We also all have had crushing disappointments and mistakes that sometimes turn out to have directed us on to a better path.  I think that what we think of some of the moments our lives will turn out to be a treasure for those generations that follow us.  It's the stories of our lives that are worth saving.

Here's more of what Cooper wants to tell, memorialize and save for his son.

I have only one constituent - a son. Without fanfare, I have inaugurated my own campaign, not just for approval ratings but to pass down a bit of my history - a sense of the little moments that made big impressions, and are housed in my mental archives.

I want my son to know how I felt when:

• As a Little Leaguer, inexplicably, I struck out with consistency.

• As a Babe Ruth sub, I once got a walk and, miraculously, stole second and third.

• As a college freshman, with my father in the stands, I ran a distant fourth in the 100-yard dash, having stayed up the night before to participate in fraternity pledge inanity.

• As an ROTC cadet, I experienced abject fear crawling under barbed wire with machine-gun fire spraying that sector at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation; I endured slurs and condemnations as I walked to and from Ivy League classrooms every Thursday; and I was conflicted when officially advised that I was medically unusable in the jungles of Vietnam.

• As an infantry reject about to enter law school, I saw a college track teammate return to campus in uniform, medals thick on his chest, taking big strides on crutches, and with a trouser leg shortened to above the knee.

• As an infantry reject who had just entered law school, I learned of my ROTC company commander's death in action in Vietnam.

• As a law student, I learned to be cynical about the law and lawyers.

• As a political volunteer, I learned to be cynical about politics and politicians.

• As a teacher, I learned to be cynical about public education.

• As an underemployed public relations writer, I learned about job searches and became cynical about human-resource professionals and economic recovery.

• As a writer of personal essays, I learned that my cynicism was not helpful, and that more could be conveyed by working through disappointments, by purging resentments, and by trying to understand and explain how good things come about.

He also points out, writing these down doesn't require a book-length memoir, nor are they written in stone.  You can always rewrite and revise.  The point is to begin.  You begin where you are.  Start with notes on your computer, polish them up and give one or more stories to your children on their birthdays.

Hat tip  to Christopher Bailey at the Alchemy of Soulful Work who writes after reading Cooper's essay.

I immediately thought of my two daughters. There will be times in their growing lives that they will wonder who their father was: what he saw that amazed him, what he experienced that influenced him, and he did that made a difference. And there's room to include the less than perfect moments that taught hard lessons.

This isn't an exercise that needs to be put off for when we reach a certain age. Consider it an organic document, one that lives to be added on to.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 PM | Permalink

February 18, 2005

Ancestor Deck Cards

Fran known as the redondowriter has another one of her "Ancestor Deck Cards" up, this one for her grandma Grace. 

This is an example of the creative art anyone can do.  It's scrapbooking made digital to  preserve in your personal and family archives.  It's using the present to preserve the past and pass on the future.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:27 PM | Permalink

February 15, 2005

Last words of Love

Napoleon Bonaparte

Oh, I am not going to die, am I? He will not separate us, we have been so happy.
(Spoken to her husband of 9 months, Rev. Arthur Nicholls.)
Charlotte Bronte, writer, d. 1855

(In reply to her husband who had asked how she felt.)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, writer, d. 1861

I love you Sarah. For all eternity, I love you.
(Spoken to his wife.)
James K. Polk, US President, d. 1849

Thanks Corsinet

Here's to my love!  O true apothecary!
Thy drugs are quick.  Thus with a kiss I die.
Romeo in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakepeare

Yea noise?  then I'll be brief.  O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.
Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:52 AM | Permalink

February 11, 2005

Pogue on Rescuing Outdated Media

David Pogue who writes a weekly column in Circuits  of the New York Times also writes a weekly newsletter a
and by far, his most popular subject is how to Rescue Old, Outdated Media.  Here from his newsletter are some links that might be helpful to you as you create and maintain your personal and family legacy archives. 

If you have a Windows PC:
If you have a Mac, here are a couple of different approaches:

TRANSFERRING VINYL RECORDS TO CD: Take your pick of free tutorials:

Here are several sets of instructions, all variations on the theme.
They're here for Windows:
http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-3000_7-5071953-1.html . . . .
and here for the Mac:

TRANSFERRING OLD FILM TO DVD: This one's not so easy. There is such a thing as a mirrored apparatus that lets you play your old films from a projector directly into a modern camcorder, but it's a royal pain, it's time-consuming and the resulting quality isn't so great. That's why most experts concede defeat on this one and recommend that you send your reels off to a commercial transfer service.  That's the conclusion by this online columnist, for example, which includes links to several such transfer companies (which I haven't tested):

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:16 AM | Permalink

February 9, 2005

Truly Noble

One of the more familiar phrases we hear during Lent is "ashes to ashes, dust to dust."    I always thought it came from the Bible until I learned from Ken Collins that the phrase comes from the funeral service of the Book of Common Prayer.    Wherever it comes from, ashes to ashes, dust to dust  reminds us that life is short.

Ivan Noble had a short life and died at 37 early this month but not without leaving behind a Great Legacy.

Ivan was a BBC journalist who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2002.  What he decided to do with this terrible twist of fate was to write about it online in a blog he called "Tumor Diary."  As the BBC reported that his blog was read by 100,000 people a day

He movingly described his odyssey of chemotherapy and brain surgery, his marriage, the birth of a baby son last year, and a surge of hope -- quickly dashed -- that the brain tumour was in retreat.

But in a final posting on Thursday, Noble wrote: "This is my last diary. I have written it ahead of time because I knew there would be a point when I was not well enough to continue

"That time has now come."

In an appreciation of Ivan, his colleague Simon Fraser wrote

Ivan felt his main achievement against cancer was that he didn't surrender to fear.

Sure, he had many low points along the way. But, somehow, he kept going, kept his dignity and learnt to get something out of just about every day.

A sense of humour was never far away

When Ivan was first told he had a tumour, his daughter was just six months old.  He was days away from going part-time at work to help care for her. Illness changed the kind of father he could be. Balancing his needs with those of a young family was desperately hard, but his children gave him enormous delight. Ivan died having done much to promote awareness of cancer. He was hugely proud that his diaries would be published as a book.  ....Ivan died surrounded by love from his wife and children, his parents, brother and friends.....

He kept winning a little bit every day, because he managed to conquer fear. 

Ivan made something good out of bad, responded with strength to a situation in which he seemed powerless, with gratefulness to his medical team and his colleagues at the BBC and with overarching love for his family including a new baby.  By sharing his journey with tens of thousands online, he heartened other cancer patients and helped them deal better with their own personal struggles and triumphs.  By writing, he created a lasting legacy.

In the end Ivan proved he deserved his name.  He was truly Noble.  Requiescat In Pace.

   Blogger Ivan Noble-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 PM | Permalink

February 7, 2005

The Youngest Great Legacy

William Albert Kenyon was born about 3 months prematurely, weighing slightly more than one pound last October.  His parents John and Mary Kenyon started a blog to tell the story of their very little boy, to understand better neonatal care and to educate people about pre-eclampsia, the pregnancy-induced hypertension that occurs in about 8% of all pregnancies. 


  Will Kenyon Preemie-1

Sadly William died on January  22, 2005 after 3 months spent in neonatal care at the University of Iowa Hospital despite the expert and loving care of his medical team and the great, big love of his parents who said about their son.

Will was a strong fighter, fending off numerous challenges. He liked to hold his hands next to his face and chin. He was most comfortable lying on his tummy. He had a strong grip when offered a finger to hold. A parental hand cupping the top of his head kept him calm and comfortable. Sometimes he tapped his feet as if hearing music in his head. He was soothed listening to a lullaby CD and hearing his parents read stories, especially Goodnight Moon, Two Little Trains, and Jamberry.

What they have done is create a family legacy archive about young Will they will treasure forever, even if and I hope do, have many children.  Will's young life and his fighting spirit will affect others for many years to come because his parents transformed a tragedy to a great legacy by documenting his life, their feelings and  sharing with us all at  willkenyon.blogspot,com.

As with most things in my life, I made meticulous plans about how we would prepare for his arrival and what we'd do once he was here. I signed up for childbirth, parenting, and breastfeeding classes. I read all I could about cribs, car seats, and strollers. I planted tulips and daffodils that would come up just as we were ready to venture out after spending a few weeks inside getting used to each other.

Will's early arrival turned all my plans on end and forced me to focus on each single day. No planning. No long views. Just each day, each hour, sometimes each minute. I never had any idea what was coming next and had to brace myself for each new emotion as it washed over me. Joy. Pain. Fear. Anxiety. Impatience. Confusion. Triumph. Defeat. Love. Love. Love. Will gave me the gift of time. The only thing that mattered during those 12 weeks and four days was how many hours I could spend at his bedside before collapsing into sleep in my own bed back home.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:07 AM | Permalink

January 29, 2005

Life Poster

Great tutorial by Mike Matas on how to make a life poster like this.  He did it in about 30 minutes and the poster cost $29.  If you don't have  iPhoto it might take longer.  What a great gift.

    Life Poster

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:56 PM | Permalink

So children can have a legacy

Last Sunday in New York City, two separate fires took the lives of three firemen.  Two of them were forced to choose between jumping for their lives or burning to death.   Four are still fighting for their lives.  Families are bereft and children are fatherless after the worst tragedy for the NYC fire department since September 11.

Yesterday, 10,000 mourners braved the bitter cold to turn out for the funeral of John Bellew.  His widow Eileen read a Letter to God that so moved the crowded church that they stood and applauded.  She worried that her four very young children would never really know their father.

"Eileen, and all of us, want the children to have a legacy. Anything. Notes, pictures, letters. Anything that will tell them who their dad really was," said brother Danny Bellew

                              Eileen Bellew and son Jack

FDNY Battalion Chief promised to keep the memory of John Bellew alive for his children with stories and pictures.  Msgr Jack O'Keefe whose father was a firefighter killed in the line of duty gave the eulogy.  He said he was raised by the NYC Fire Department and firefighters would give him stories about dad for decades.  Clearly, he expected the firefighters to do no less for the Bellew children.

For those of you not part of such a brotherhood, please consider writing each of your children a letter every year on the birthday telling them that you love them and why you are proud of them.  Consider too building your own personal legacy archives about yourself, the people you love, the music you love, the books you love, the things you love.  Tell who you really are.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:13 AM | Permalink

January 25, 2005

Negative Cathedral

"Too much has been said about Auschwitz -- and yet not enough" writes Adam Zagajewski in today's Wall Street Journal. (link requires subscription)

For somebody who, like the present writer, lives in Krakow, only 40 miles from Auschwitz, it's certainly not an academic, abstract matter. The camp exerts a special attraction for all kinds of tourists, some of them shallow, some not, but who'd criticize it -- to have this place abandoned and forgotten (or perhaps "recycled") would have been truly disheartening. The modest city of Oswiecim lives next to the camp museum, not unlike the provincial city of Chartres dwarfed by its cathedral. The huge difference being of course that the Auschwitz monument is one of suffering and horror, it is a negative cathedral, so to speak; no spires greet the pilgrims from afar, we're in a flat landscape here. This is not an architectural landmark. Memory is not visible. We're here in the shabbiest museum of the world.

Still, the memory of Auschwitz and the other death camps lives on in the writings of survivors even as they are dying the natural deaths of old age.  Eamonn Fitzgerald over at Rainy Day believes in Remembering to not forget.   

What was it like to experience the unimaginable? Rainy Day recommends If This Is a Man, Primo Levi's account of the time he spent as a prisoner at Auschwitz. After reading Levi, one understands why some people would want to deny the Holocaust. The wickedness involved defies comprehension and suggests that "civilization" is but a veneer, and a thin one at that.

For the rest of the week, in remembrance of the liberation of Auschwitz, Rainy Day will be presenting diary entries written during the Second World War by those who were either caught up in the Nazi murder machine or by those who oiled it. We begin with an example of the latter. Why? Well, in the last few years Germany has witnessed a return of a specious 1950s theory that presents the perpetrators as victims. Actually, in this revisionist scenario the enablers of Auschwitz are double victims, first of Hitler the Great Seducer, and secondly of the Allied air campaign that destroyed the supply chains that filled the railway cars that delivered the men, women and children from all over Europe to the death factories.

Yesterday, a diary excerpt from Josef Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda; today, diary excerpts from Edith Velmans who escaped the death camps by hiding with a Christian family for three years.  An immigrant to the U.S. she published her diary, Edith's Book, in 1998, about how she survived the war.

Reading these diary excerpts Eamonn presents gives you such a picture of those times through the accumulation of small details that you begin to understand the  power of being your own personal historian.  Any single day of your life if laid out with detail will be fascinating in 50 years time.  God forbid that you ever must endure such horrors. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 PM | Permalink

January 19, 2005

The Emotional Power of Vintage Sounds

What do the following have in common?

slamming down a phone,
the pop of flashbulbs,
the clickety-clack of typewriters,
the jackpot sound of cascading coins,
the ka-ching of cash registers,
the screech of a phonograph needle,
the clatter of home movie projectors

You don't hear them anymore in our increasing digital age.  These sounds are becoming obsolete, except in our memories if you are of a certain age.    But they are not forgotten.  At least not by Dan Sheehy  whose job is to preserve America's acoustic heritage for the Smithsonian Institution.  Sheehy says sounds are like smells.  They can transport the listener to another time and place.  Such is the emotional power of vintage sounds that a cell phone ring tone that mimics an old-fashioned rotary phone is the most popular ring tones offered by Valentino Production Music, the nation's oldest sound-effects warehouse.  Full story by Roy Rivenburg of the Los Angeles Times

It makes you think about what sounds you might want to capture and preserve.  Your grandbaby's gurgles, your son's laughter, the commotion of everyone getting out the door on a school day.  Pick one day and be a sound gatherer in your own life.  You'll be delighted with it in 10 years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:17 PM | Permalink

January 14, 2005

The Emotional Power of Vintage Sounds

What do the following have in common?

slamming down a phone,
the pop of flashbulbs,
the clickety-clack of typewriters,
the jackpot sound of cascading coins,
the ka-ching of cash registers,
the screech of a phonograph needle,
the clatter of home movie projectors?

You don't hear them anymore in our increasing digital age.  These sounds are becoming obsolete, except in our memories if you are of a certain age.    But they are not forgotten.  At least not by Dan Sheehy  whose job is to preserve America's acoustic heritage for the Smithsonian Institution.  Sheehy says sounds are like smells.  They can transport the listener to another time and place.  Such is the emotional power of vintage sounds that a cell phone ring tone that mimics an old-fashioned rotary phone is the most popular ring tones offered by Valentino Production Music, the nation's oldest sound-effects warehouse.  Full story by Roy Rivenburg of the Los Angeles Times

It makes you think about what sounds you might want to capture and preserve.  Your grandbaby's gurgles, your son's laughter, the commotion of everyone getting out the door on a school day.  Pick one day and be a sound gatherer in your own life.  You'll be delighted with it in 10 years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

December 24, 2004

Your Life in T-shirts

Are you one of those people whose life story could be told through your T-shirts?  Where you've been, the concerts you attended, the schools you went to, the slogans you live by, or used to?

Michael Prager in the Boston Globe today has found a company -StitchT.com - that will make

quilts and duvet covers from used T-shirts, honoring a venerable craft while serving a modern impulse: to use what exists instead of throwing away and using more. Each shirt is screened for holes and blemishes and laundered before assemblage on a backing of cotton gray sweatshirt material (new!) or cotton gray fabric. They'll make a quilt out of your shirts, or you can buy one they've already assembled; each is one of a kind. Prices range from $300 to $450

For a twin-size, you need 18 t-shirts, for a full or queen 25 t-shirts will do.  Don't have enough?  Let the company hand pick from their resources, theme-related t-shirts to meet the requirement.  A wonderful take on two American classics.

T-Shirt Quilt

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:55 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2004

The Beauty of Ordinary Moments Captured

Gilead is the long awaited second novel by Marilynne Robinson who wrote the modern classic "Housekeeping" in 1981. It's a work of solemn beauty and dry humor.

Gilead is in the form of a letter from an ailing Ames, a third generation pastor in a small Iowa town to his young son and a remarkable example of a what a personal legacy archive can be. Yes, it's fiction and by one of our most celebrated writers, but she tells stories of fathers and sons, of visions and intensely charged moments of love and life that we all experience from time to time. What a treasure to be able to pass on even some of them.
Here's an ordinary moment captured.

    I saw a bubble float past my window, fat and wobbly and ripening toward that dragonfly blue they turn just before they burst. So I looked down at the yard and there you were, you and your mother, blowing bubbles at the cat, such a barrage of them that the poor beast was beside herself at the glut of opportunity. She was actually leaping in the air, our insouciant Soapy! Some of the bubbles drifted up through the branches, even above the trees. You two were too intent on the cat to see the celestial consequences of your worldly endeavors. They were very lovely. Your mother is wearing her blue dress and you are wearing your red shirt and you were kneeling on the ground together with Soapy between and that effulgence of bubbles rising, and so much laughter. Ah, this life, this world.

In later years, can this boy ever doubt the love of his father and the beauty he saw in his son's very being.

How many of us can remember a certain moment with vivid recall and never really understand why.

    My point here is that you never do know the actual nature even of your own experience. Or perhaps it has no fixed and certain nature. I remember my father down on his heels in the rain, water dripping from his hat, feeding me biscuit from his scorched hand, with that old blackened wreck of a church behind him and steam rising where the rain fell on embers, the rain falling in gusts and the women singing "The Old Rugged Cross" while they saw to things, moving so gently, as if they were dancing to the hymn, almost. In those days no grown woman ever let herself be seen with her hair undone, but that day even the grand old women had their hair falling down their backs like schoolgirls. It was so joyful and sad. I mention it again because it seems to me much of my life was comprehended in that moment. Grief itself has often returned to me that morning, when I took communion from my father's hand. I remember it as communion, and I believe that's what it was.

    I can't tell you what that day in the rain has meant to me. I can't tell myself what it has meant to me. But I know how many things it put together beyond question, for me. Now all the old woemn have their hair cut short and colored blue, which is fine, I suppose.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

December 2, 2004

Fallen Heroes

When someone dies, nothing pleases family members more than then hearing about the positive impact the deceased had on someone's life. Please take the time to write a note. The stories and appreciation you can express are enormously healing for their families. Whether hand-written or e-mail, grieving family members can read and re-read notes in their home time and feel the support of all those who knew and loved the deceased. Think of such a community as many invisible bonds forming a life-raft of love keeping the widow and children safe as they pass through the rapids and whirlpools of grief.

There is an online Fallen Heroes Memorial for all of the fallen service members of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. If you wanted to know what you could do to support our troops, here's what you can. Send an expression of support, appreciation and gratitude to a family in your state.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:14 PM | Permalink

November 20, 2004

"These fragments I have shored against my ruins."

Just released is Tarnation by Jonathan Caoutte, a documentary about living with his schizophrenic mother. It was made for $218 on a MacIntosh computer and edited with the iMovie software that came free with the computer. Roger Ebert says

    It is a remarkable film, immediate, urgent, angry, poetic and stubbornly hopeful. It has been constructed from the materials of a lifetime: Old home movies, answering machine tapes, letters and telegrams, photographs, clippings, new video footage, recent interviews and printed titles that summarize and explain Jonathan's life. "These fragments I have shored against my ruins," T.S. Eliot wrote in "The Waste Land," and Caouette does the same thing.

I haven't seen it yet, but I plan to. It's a prime example of the creativity that lies in all of us as we try to make sense of our lives. Luckily we have the resources in the effluvia of our lives and the means with the easy accessibility of digital tools to create our works of art from our own lives. Ebert wonders whether a new type documentary is coming into being as we record the experience of our lives. I think so.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:09 AM | Permalink

November 17, 2004

Stories for Christmas

I'm one of those that believes in Christmas but decries much of the materialism that surrounds it. While I understand that many people earn their livings in creating and selling products for Christmas, just how many scarves and soaps on a rope is more than enough?

Why not plumb your memory to create a meaningful story for the people you love. The beauty of the digital world is that you can create something and give it away while keeping a perfect copy for yourself. This is the way to increase their personal and family archives as well as your own.

I've just discovered Foundation for a Better Life which I write about in my Business of Life blog. There is a section of stories that you could well use as examples. Take the featured story about a sister's wedding called Class and Grace or a son appreciating his mother in Ambition or the story of an aunt in Character. (These stories don't have permalinks so click on the bar on the bottom. )
Or you can pull out some of your old family photos and tell a short story to send to all your relatives. They most likely don't have digital copies of the old photos and will really appreciate not only the photo but also your take on it or your story. I've written about this earlier in Your Take on Family Photographs.

Ronni Bennett does this beautifully in Little Ronni, Ronni and Mommy, Army Air Corps Daddy, Great Grandma and Ronni and Daddy and Mommy. She's developed a few rules for herself because she originally published them on a photolog that provide some good guidelines in telling a good story.

    1. I limited myself to one photo per day (many fotologgers publish
    several a day) to give me the leisure to consider/ponder that
    moment/person/episode in my life. And some took on new meaning for me,
    as readers left comments, that I wanted to think over.

    2. Captions had to reveal something more interesting than names, places
    and dates.

    3. Captions had to tell a whole story with a beginning, middle and end.

    4. Captions were limited to no more than six published lines - it was on
    a PHOTOlog after all, not a weblog. But this sharpened my thinking and
    writing and I think it is more successful than if I hadn't made this
    rule. I stuck to for all but about half a dozen photos.

    5. Captions and photos could not harm or embarrass the people in the
    photos (it was and is public, so that was important. Private collections
    wouldn't need to be bound by this. I had to leave out a ton of great
    stories to stick to this rule ;-)

    6. Unless the subject of a photo is a publicly-recognized person, only
    first names were used, but those names are real. I violated that a
    couple of times, but for a good reason and to no consequence.

    7. Within the limits of fallible memory, the captions had to be
    emotionally honest and factually true

    8. Above all, it had to entertain.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 PM | Permalink

November 15, 2004

Gift of a Lifetime

Gift of a Lifetime - what a wonderful phrase to describe your personal legacy archives.
Many more people are realizing that there is more to leave behind than money, more of value in your life than your valuables. Now's the time to capture the stories of your parents if you haven't already. The one regret of Robert DeNiro is that he didn't,

    When a parent dies, it's the end. I always wanted to chronicle the family history with my mother. I know she would've gotten into it. It would have been okay with my father, too. But I wasn't forceful, and I didn't make it happen. That's one regret I have. I didn't get as much of the family history as I could have for the kids.

Carolyn See who wrote "Gift of a Lifetime" for the AARP magazine captures the story of Maureen Evans
    Before her mother died last year, Maureen Evans hastily began writing down the stories she told her about her life. "I captured something that otherwise would have been lost," says Evans, who works for a nonprofit in public education advocacy in Washington, D.C. Inspired, she began to write down her own stories for her four children and any grandchildren she may have. "I wanted to make sure that they didn't get lost in the chaos of day-to-day life," she says.

The first step is capturing your parents stories, the second step is writing your own. As Ellen Goodman said
    This packrat has learned that what the next generation will value most is not what we owned, but the evidence of who we were and the tales of how we loved. In the end, it's the family stories that are worth the storage.

The story of your life is not just a recital of facts and events, it's the story of your choices, turning points, values and lessons learned and hopes for the future. Maureen Evans knew that and so she set out to write an ethical will. "My money is important," she says, "but it isn't the be-all, end-all of what I want to give my kids."

An ethical will is an important part of your Personal Legacy Archives and some say its injecting heart into the estate-planning field, according to Carolyn See who wrote Gift of a Lifetime for the AARP magazine. But don't think of it as something only those at the end of life do. It's an important way to reflect on the many selves you are and have been. It also isn't a one-off, something you do all at once. You can do it that way of course, but you will probably want to use the services of a professional to help you like Susan Turnbull at your ethical will That's why I prefer the term Personal Legacy Archives. You start where you are, and add periodically throughout your life to your legacy account. Then you won't have the regret Joan Didion expressed, “We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget; we forget what we whispered and what we dreamed; we forget who we were”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:22 PM | Permalink

November 13, 2004

Bill Clinton on Personal and Family Legacy Archives

On his recent book tour before a crowd of booksellers in Chicago.

"I really think that anyone who is fortunate enough to live to 50 years old should take some time, even if it's just a couple of weekends, to sit down and write the story of your life, even if its only 20 pages, and even if its only for your children and grandchildren."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:16 PM | Permalink

November 10, 2004

Remembering Montaigne through Time's Prism

Waxing on Montaigne, John Burns in Straight Talk Goes Unbent Through Time's Prism. ponders how his children will remember him as he remembers his father in law.

    My father-in-law often speaks to Joan and me, though he has been gone for years. He was an inveterate writer of letters, composer of sermons and maker of notes. Even in the small things he left a record.

    We still find his words, written in tiny, careful script on the backs of photographs, taped to the objects he left us and in the boxes of papers that remain. It's as if he's found a way to pop up and say hello now and then. In a dusty album there's a photograph of three little boys and their pet, circa 1911, when he was 9 years old. On the back of the photo, he'd written, in a child's hand, "Theodore, Ridgeway, me and the dog." At the bottom of a shoe box I found a snapshot of him 65 years later, with two little children -- my children. The three of them are staring at an overgrown shrub. On the back of the snapshot he'd written, "Teddy and Susannah and I search for raspberries, 1976."

Burns dips into Montaigne after 40 years, "in aching awareness of time passing."
    "I have had no thought of serving either you or my own glory," Montaigne writes in an introductory note to the reader. His sole aim is to reveal himself honestly to his family and friends, "so that when they have lost me (as soon they must), they may recover here some features of my habits and temperament, and by this means keep the knowledge they have had of me more complete and alive." In these few words he's suggested to me what I must do.

    Montaigne writes about anything he pleases, large or small. He writes Of Smells; Of Prayers; Of The Art of Discussion; Of Cannibals; Of Glory. On and on he goes, to speak of women, thumbs, nakedness, cripples, liars and books. These topics don't seem to have been part of a grand design -- he appears to have just sat down and written about them as he felt the urge. Montaigne considers topics at his own pace; circles around them, pokes at them, goes where his curiosity leads.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

November 3, 2004

Adopting Dios de los Muertos

The wonderful and various diversity of cultures in America, now more like a salad bowl than a melting pot, offers us many piquant customs, we could do well to adopt and remix to our own tastes. One of those is Dios de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that mingles the Aztec culture and Catholicism.

It's estimated that the Aztecs ritually sacrificed about 20,000 people a year. Still, their belief that the souls of the departed remained on earth in the form of butterflies and birds is a charming one. So with the return of the Monarch butterflies, who migrate to Mexico for the winter, the souls of the departed are welcomed home.

Ancient Celts often sacrificed animals and humans at this time of year to free the imprisoned souls of sinners. They believed that evil spirits roamed the word, eager to do mischief or worse on the eve of their new year on October 31. To trick them, they would dress up as a ghost or a witch to fool the evil spirits and get through the night safely and so began Halloween. The Celtic custom was to extinguish all hearth fires then gather at a sacred grove where Druid priests would build a bonfire to welcome back dead ancestors. After dancing around the bonfire to frighten away the spirites, people would return home with lighted torches to ceremonially light the first hearth fire of the new year and exchange tales and ghost stories of their encounters with the spirit world.

Celtic Catholicism transformed many of the druid practices and November 1 became the Feast of All Saints and November 2, the Feast of All Souls. These two customs mixed in Mexico as the Dios de los Muertos and we can remix again to remember and welcome back memories of our beloved dead. Just how can be seen in Sacred Ordinary as 16 year old Anthony remember remembers his grandfather. Anthony remembers his grandfather
and Fran remembers her grandfather Grandpa from redondowriter

Just another way of creating and adding to our family archives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:27 PM | Permalink

October 21, 2004

Your take on old family photographs

One way to enhance and enlarge your family legacy is to add your comments, musings and reflections to old family photographs. James Lileks does this masterfully in Grandma's Camera. Pedro Meyer is a professional photographer using all his art and skill to remember his parents in I Photograph to Remember

Ronni Bennett, a wonderful blogger at Time Goes By is like the rest of us, only further ahead in creating and sharing her personal legacy archives. She had posted photographs on a photo site that became "too hinky to rely on" so she's reposting bit by bit on her blog. There's Baby Ronni in her bath on the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Today, there's Daddy and Mommy, a wedding photograph with Ronni's comment that adds an altogether different context.

Her eleven-part series A Mother's Final, Best Lesson is a wonderful, moving depiction of the last days of a beloved parent.

Creating a personal and family archives roots us more firmly in the stream of life, connecting us to the past and the future. Or as Winston Churchill said, “The further backwards you look, the further forward you can see.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:10 AM | Permalink

Preserving Children's Art

When children are young, they are natural artists. Their fresh and open artistic expressions delight their parents and grandparents. Millions of refridgerators bear witness to their artistic creations. Sadly, as children grow older, their artistic drives dwindle and their creations fade and are thrown away. Some parents are determined to preserve their children's art. Some of the many ways they've found to do so are detailed in today's Wall Street Journal's Family Matters column by Hilary Stout, entitled Garden Gnomes Video Art.

There's the three-ring binder method, keeping all drawings organized by month in divider pockets and, at the end of the year, letting the child choose the ones they want to keep. Or, professionally matting and framing the very best. My favorite though is video art:

    Jon Kies of San Jose, Calif., is a father of three and a self-described antipack rat. But still, he was torn about what to save and what to part with. To figure out what was most meaningful, he put his kids (then in preschool through third grade) in front of a video camera along with paper bags filled with their work. With the camera rolling, he interviewed the kids about each creation. "Often, when they started talking about it, they remembered much more than just the artwork -- kids who they worked with, issues about making it, and insightful remembrances about when they made it," he wrote. That made the decision of what to keep much easier.

    For instance, Trevor, now 10 years old, explained that a drawing that was labeled chicken was actually chicken adobo, which is his Filipino grandfather's specialty and is one of the kids' favorite foods. A paper candle, a remnant of a classroom birthday celebration, prompted Trevor and sister Alyssa to break into a song.

    And it turns out getting the kids on video in a spontaneous performance of "Mixing up the batter on the birthday cake" -- complete with the accompanying motions -- created a priceless piece of art unto itself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

October 14, 2004

"He was in my hands in some strange way"

I've found the paintings of artist Mark Rothko spiritual and very moving which is why he is one of my favorite modern artists. He committed suicide when he was 66 leaving behind two children and a wife who died 6 months later of a heart attack. Orphans, the children were involved for the next 12 years in legal battles involving the executors of the estate and the Marlborough Gallery in Manhattan that resulted in the removal of the executors and millions of dollars in fines against the Galley. Then came the battles with the IRS over the value of the paintings which had greatly appreciated since the artist's death. In 1988 in a file marked miscellaneous papers, a manuscript by the artist was found. Christopher Rothko, the artist's son, spent more than a year editing the manuscript which has just been published by the Yale University Press as "The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art."

Christopher Rothko describes, the effect working on the manuscript had on him in today's New York Times:

    Still, the son was unprepared for how intimate the process became. "I found myself having this strangely personal, sort of collegial relationship with my father that I hadn't anticipated," Mr. Rothko said. "It's like having a conversation with him." He added, "I think that underneath, I must have known that here was a way to have a relationship with my father that was unique."

    For Christopher Rothko, the work also functions as a metaphorical family album. "I think the most concrete thing about my father in my life is his absence," he said. "You know, I've got a few Polaroids that are fading and that's kind of it.

    "There are these paintings that speak so much - and yet so abstractly," Mr. Rothko said. "This is still a philosophical text, this ain't no kiss and tell, but I hear his voice, I see the manuscript page, and his handwriting, and the cross-outs and the rethinking and the sketching in. It was a fascinating process. In rediscovering the book, I rediscovered my father."

    Indeed, for the first time since he was a young child, Christopher suddenly found himself calling his father dad.

    "I'd be trying to sort through something," he said, "and he'd just have written the most convoluted sentence known to mankind, and it's like, 'Oh Dad, come on.' Believe me, it shocked me - I'd never had a second-person utterance in his direction since I was 6 years old, but here I was addressing a ghost. But it wasn't a ghost, because he was in my hands in some strange way."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 AM | Permalink

October 9, 2004

Grandma's Blog

In The Kaitlyn Mae Book " A grandmother writes of current events, her own history, life's lessons and all she wants to pass on to her beloved granddaughter"

Hurrah! From deviled eggs to political commentary. Let's get more women like her to write for their grandchildren and for the rest of us. We need more new, ideosyncratic and older voices on the net, who are creating personal legacy archives to show how it can be done.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2004

Oriana Fallaci


    "I sat at the typewriter for the first time and fell in love with the words that emerged like drops, one by one, and remained on the white sheet of paper ... every drop became something that if spoken would have flown away, but on the sheets as words, became solidified, whether they were good or bad."

     Through her books, Fallaci says she hopes "to die a little less when I die. To leave the children I did not have... . To make people think a little more, outside the dogmas that this society has nourished us with through centuries. To give stories and ideas that help people to see better, to think better, to know a little more. Then what? Writing is my way of expression. Therefore, a need."

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 PM | Permalink

October 4, 2004

Memorializing values and stories

Kevin Salwen at Worthwhile says the most important thing we pass on to our children are our values on his way to link to a story that would make any parent proud in a blog entry titled Values 101

If so, how do parents memorialize their values. Too many people leave behind scads of datebooks and calendars, so we know the facts of their lives. Unless you have a writer in residence who observes you closely and writes what you think, people will know only the facts. Ethical Wills and Personal Legacy Statements are filling the niche of how to memorialize values and express the sense and sensibility of a person.

For more than a fleeting impression, values must be lived. For a lasting impression, values must be memorialized. In the past, families had mottos and crests and stories about the values they were most proud of. That privilege no longer is one of just aristocratic and very wealthy families. Any one with the desire and intention now can create ethical wills and family stories with the wonderful array of digital tools now available and using old home movies and photos and music.

The NYT Circuits features the growing industry of companies who do just that. For Neglected Video, the Hollywood Touch

    Carolyn Alexander got into the business three years ago, when she bought Family Memories Video (familymemoriesvideo .com) based on the growth potential she saw. The enterprise, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., seemed more solid to her than the Silicon Valley high-fliers that had begun crashing all around her.

    "I took a good look and saw that the demographics were on my side," Ms. Alexander said. "The boomers are almost 50, or older, and their parents are dying. They're getting sentimental about being the holder of the family knowledge, about the huge quantities of photos and footage they possess, and they realize they should do something with all that material."

    "Boomers are in the habit of hiring someone to do their chores," Ms. Alexander said. "They don't mow their own lawns, they don't change their own oil and they don't clean their own homes. Why would they edit their own video?

But just putting your home movies onto DVDs isn't enough. You need a back-up video storage. DVDs burn just as well as old film, as Barbara Nyegaard learned. "It was a very strange feeling, as if I suddenly didn't have a history," she recalled recently. "My whole life before the fire had dissipated."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:52 PM | Permalink

August 30, 2004

Context is Everything, the Nature of Memory

I've been reading Susan Engel's Context is Everything, The Nature of Memory. She writes "Between the folds of one's mind and the expression in words or pictures of a memory lies a process of manifestation that is extremely complex but worth understanding. " Using current research on memory, vivid anecdotes and examples from autobiographies and memoirs, Engel does much to help us understand the complexity of memory.

My takeaways from her book

    • Remembering is a process of transforming an internal moment of re-experiencing into something one shares with other people."
    • The self as personal historian and the center of the past.
    • The memory of everyday life. “those little scenes, rather than the grand events, are what capture for teller and listener alike the specificity, uniqueness and significance of the person’s life. It is the experience of lives we want to know about more than the facts of the life.
    • We recall the past in a way that makes us seem and feel consistent.
    • Chronology is what distinguishes autobiography from memoir.
    • A strictly accurate and objectively verifiable account of what happened when doesn't necessarily say much to rememberer or listener. What is the meaning of what happened is what people want to know. We want our chronologies tagged with personality

"Paradoxically, as more and more of our lives are lived indirectly through these complex layers of representation and media, we become thirstier than ever for accounts of direct experience, experience that remains the central focus of our historical curiousity.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink

Time Capsule

Time Capsule is a site where you can enter any date from today back to 1800 and get a personalized page with news headlines, top books, songs, and tv shows on that date. Very handy when you're putting together a digital story for a celebration, a birthday, a wedding, or for a memorial

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:12 AM | Permalink

August 28, 2004

Every damn thing or stories?

Eamonn Fitzgerald writes a delightful blog from Ireland called Eamonn's Fitzgerald's Rainy Day has an eye out for new blogs. He welcomes David Marsh, a fortysomethingish Brit, who writes film reviews, works for a film distributor and runs an online store for children's shoes. David lives in Munich "with a wonderful wife and three delightful children who always behave and say please and thank you. David's blog Raising Chooks is about his adventures with his family.

I was more taken with Eamonn's observations

    Those of us who have spent four or more decades on this earth will be familiar with the nostalgic thrill of going up to the attic or down to the basement to rummage around for the box filled with those family photos. Was that black-and-white gap-toothed demon really me? What were we doing to those sepia-tinted hens? The fog clears for a moment and the lost land of childhood is visible again.

    In our Digital Age, the past will not be rendered as a box of disparate images. Microsoft, with MyLifeBits, is working on storing and presenting our memories. Senior Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell "has captured a lifetime's worth of articles, books, cards, CDs, letters, memos, papers, photos, pictures, presentations, home movies, videotaped lectures, and voice recordings and stored them digitally. He is now paperless, and is beginning to capture phone calls, IM transcripts, television, and radio." Nokia's Lifeblog "automatically organizes your photos, videos, text messages, and multimedia messages into a clear chronology you can easily browse, search, edit, and save." Using Lifeblog, you can "save your mobile images and other data in Nokia Lifeblog on your PC to start your own, ever-growing, life log."

    Alongside these big-name ventures, the simple blog now offers parents, and children, an opportunity to chronicle the present and preserve the past. What a wonderful way of keeping the family occupied! And together! Not that one should idealize this kind of thing, though. The blog may turn into a slog and end up abandoned in cyberspace, like so many other websites.

I agree that we now have the digital tools available to chronicle our lives. And it's a wonderful thing. But collecting every damn piece of paper, every email, every photo and transcribed instant messages is not the way to do it. If you can't use your creativity to tell stories that family members and others want to hear and see again and keep, than a likely result will be a cursory look by survivors before deleting the entire contents of the hard drive before discarding the computer. I mean how many bad photos and inane emails will family members want to go through. Life has its dreary parts and so do many collections.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

August 17, 2004

Digital Slideshows Tell Stories - Dead or Alive?

Are you one of those people who have scads of photos in shoeboxes? Or have you converted to digital photos but only print out the very best? Either way, you might want to rethink the way you commemorate family events. Usually people save every photo they've made about the event with the result that no one ever looks at them again after they've seen them once or they keep an emblematic photo to represent the entire event.

Why not use your photos and out takes to put together a slideshow that tells a story in about 3 minutes. Use any one of the many digital editing software tools on the market to make a slideshow, add music, maybe a narration and tell a story. Stories are powerful. Do them now while you're in the full possession of life when you can tell it your way.

According to the August 23rd edition of Newsweek, commemorative DVDs that star the deceased will be coming soon to a funeral home near you.

    Designed on short notice, DVDs usually contain photos, home videos and milestone documents like diplomas. "We're starting to see the public really embrace this," says Joe Becker, a funeral director in Brookfield, Wis. "People who don't know we offer DVDs actually come in with their own laptops wanting to do it themselves." Service Corporation International, a conglomeration of 1,600 funeral homes, says it has already designed 7,000 DVDs this year—up from just 2,500 in 2003.

    The industry's now moving to bring funeral directors up to speed. Next month the National Funeral Directors Association convention will premiere its first DVD workshop. The American Board of Funeral Service Education expects all mortuary schools to add digital video courses by 2005. And funeralOne, a funeral tech company, will soon introduce DVD editing software that provides directors with theme templates (such as "animal lover" or "avid sports fan") and preselected background music. It gives new meaning to the term new funeral director.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:49 PM | Permalink

July 25, 2004

All I Have Left Are a Few Family Photographs

When Linda Spence asked her mother to write her life story, her mother stared at a blank sheet of paper and asked, "How? Where do I begin?

That proved the inspiration for Legacy, a practical guide to capturing memories that have been stored away with keys to unlocking the recollections that make up a life. Believing that every life has value and knowledge for others, Spence offers a step-by-step guide to writing personal history by using stimulating questions, shared memories and evocative photographs.

I was most moved by what she says about "Why write?"

    We who have already lost our opportunity ... stare at the face in the faded photograph, try to imagine the heart, the feelings, the story of that person... Many of us are separated from our families by distance and busy lives. Few of us have the good fortune to spend long afternoons together - playing cards, listening to music, baking bread, sitting on the porch and hearing the casual or intimate tales of 'back then." Rarely do we work side by side with our parents, witnessing how they deal with life's surprises and challenges. Less and less frequently are our dinner tables set for several generations coming together to share a meal and the day's events. Even as our telephones bring us together in an instant, it is at the expense of letters, the written record of everyday life. ...Finally, the gift you give to others will repay you many times over and could become the gateway to a wider vision of your life.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 PM | Permalink

July 16, 2004

Strengthening Family Bonds and Legacies with Blogs

How do widely separated families keep up with what's going on in each other's families? Yes, there's the phone, occasional family reunions, and photos to share. Yet somehow keeping family members abreast of family news gets more difficult as families grow, extend, disperse and blend. That's why blogs are becoming more popular as a way of keeping everyone up on everyone's doings. And it's a great way of collaborating on family stories and family legacies.

Just in my immediate family, I have two sisters and brothers-in-law, two nieces and two nephews in the Tacoma area, and in San Francisco a brother and sister-in-law who's soon to give birth, while in Geneva, Switzerland, a brother is about to be joined by his soon-to-be wife in the Philippines with their daughter to follow shortly, a brother and his wife and two daughters in Arlington, a mother in Arlington, a sister in a nursing home in Boston and a cousin, husband, niece and nephew in Denver. So just keeping up on the goings-on of Colleen, Robin, Jessica and Chrissie, Julie and Ken, Michah and James O, Robby and Jennifer, Billy and Julieta and Tricia, Kevin and Melinda, Taylor and Lucy, Ruth and Debby, Julie and Deuce, Katherine and Christopher is difficult.

Today, my family is beginning to gather to celebrate the wedding of my brother Billy and Julieta and we're planning on a grand time. And probably the time to start our own family blog.

We'll either use Blogger, a free service from Google where you can create a blog in three easy steps. Sending text is as easy as sending an email and you can designate family members who can post to the main blog. Only downside is that you can't protect your site by requiring a password to enter.

TypePad from Six Apart will allow you to set a password to protect your site. You can upload photos, even video clips for $4.95-$8.95 a month and store them in photo albums

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 AM | Permalink

June 22, 2004

Why Legacy Matters

A short time ago, a large European investment bank advised its clients to have sex, ideally with someone they love, reflect on the good things in life, give their bodies enough sleep and exercise regularly. Major news coming from a bank, so the author explained he thought it was time that I reminded people there was more to life than watching screens every day." I think MasterCards Priceless campaign does it better. There are some things money cant buy.

Some things ARE priceless. The sound of a loved ones voice, the smile of your first dog, your grandfathers stories, your daughters graduation, your mothers peanut brittle, your greatest triumphs, your biggest regret, what you love, who you love, who you are. If you fail to capture them in a way that they can be given away or passed on, they lose their value. Worse, youll probably forget them and no one will ever know. One of the most haunting quotes Ive ever read is by Joan Didion, We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget; we forget what we whispered and what we dreamed; we forget who we were

Thats why I think its so important to make a legacy plan. Yes, its for your family, your children and grandchildren yet unborn; but, its also for yourself. Its how you keep in touch with your former selves - who you were at 20 and who you were when your first child was born, and after you lost your father, what you learned and what you thought was most important. So the sooner you can start on your legacy plan, the better and richer it will be. Its how youll see how far youve come.

Im assuming that you all as responsible adults have both a financial plan and an estate plan. Youll be glad to know that making a legacy plan is a lot more fun to put together and far more meaningful. It will keep you more organized during life. It will save your survivors a lot of trouble and grief. Most importantly, it will give your family something priceless.

So what is a legacy plan? While it can be whatever you want, I think it should include:

1. The Gift of Good Records: a master list of what and where everything is and who to contact. Your master list should include a list of your all your assets and debts, a list of your fiduciaries and a list of your advisors.

2. The Gift of Good Directions. Too little used is the Letter to Your Executor. Unlike a will, it is not legally binding so you dont need a lawyer or witnesses; however, it carries great moral weight and its something you can revise and update easily by yourself. This letter is where you can include last wishes concerning organ donations and funeral celebrations, how you want smaller personal articles distributed and to whom and the stories behind them, your emergency numbers, the passwords to your computer files and what you want done with them and any other directions you think important.

3. The Gift of Family. Everyone loves stories. Stories are how we make sense of our lives. Stories connect one generation to another. Memorialize your family stories so they are not lost. Think about capturing the stories of children when theyre young and then giving them copies when they graduate or get married. Include your own stories when you pass on treasured family recipes, traditions and your family tree. Blogs are wonderful new online tools families can use to exchange and preserve stories, post photos, and collaborate on family history. You dont have to understand any code at all to use the new blog tools like typepad (www.typepad.com). Photos. We all have boxes and boxes of them. Take the time or use a service to get your photos scanned into digital form. There are wonderful new tools you can learn and use to make digital stories, easily shared and accessible far into the future. Some tips: Tell a story. Edit, edit, edit. 15 well-chosen photos or clips that carry your narrative line are better than 500 photos in a box. Keep it short, no more than 3 minutes. Narrate it yourself. We forget how important the voice is; yet, it often is what you miss most when someone passes on. We all have enough stuff; we dont need more; but we never have enough stories. Ellen Goodman once wrote, This packrat has learned that what the next generation will value most is not what we owned, but the evidence of who we were and the tales of how we loved. In the end, it's the family stories that are worth the storage.

4. The Gift of Yourself. These are the treasures of your heart. Sometimes called an ethical will or a personal legacy statement, its the vehicle wherein you lay out what was most important in your life. Its what you loved and who you loved and why. It can include your life story- the high points, the turning points, the regrets, the lessons learned. You can make clear why you did the things you did. Why you choose that career or moved to California or started that company. Why you supported the charities you did and how you were inspired to set up a foundation. Its also your hopes for the future, your wishes for your children, the dreams for what youve begun. Now, an ethical will takes time and can be hard work but its tremendously rewarding. You can do it over a period of time or in a workshop. Or you can hire a professional to interview you and ask you questions and then give you a first draft you can edit. Once youre pleased with what you have, it can be printed or you can read it on videotape. Ask anyone, young or old, whos lost a parent what it would be worth to see that parent on a DVD talking about their love and their hopes and youll understand what a priceless gift you can leave. In the end, its love that connects, its love that counts, its love that binds us together even after death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:39 PM | Permalink

May 21, 2004

Telling Stories software

Walt Mossberg, the creator of the weekly Personal Technology editor at the Wall Street Journal, writes so well that I would rather read him than anyone else on new technology. He writes about technology in plain English that I can understand and doesn't treat me, the reader, like a simpleton. Last week, he wrote about Telling Stories in Photo Programs that Help you Share Pictures But Need Improvement

I believe everyone should create their own personal legacy for their families and the future--whether it's an ethical will, life lessons learned, personal memoirs or a video biography. People today are proud of their lives -what they've accomplished, what they've seen and experienced, the choices they made. Shoshanna Zuboff, author of The Support Economy, calls today's boomers "psychologically individuated" and proud of it. They have made the most of the potential of their lives. Why not celebrate it? Why shouldn't boomers who have believed in individuality throughout their lives create personal legacy archives to show what their lives meant to them. Why wait for the funeral and the eulogy?

Boomers after all, will have the time to reflect on that meaning, given that they will live on for 30-40 years and we now have the tools to create personal digital archives. There are blogs, digital photos, videos, and iTunes -the music of your life you can weave into anything. Boomers too are the connection between their parents, the WW2 generation, and their children who are totally digital.

Apple, of course, is leading the way and creating the best tools for iLife. If Microsoft dominates the tools needed for office life, Apple surely dominates the tools for the rest of your life with GarageBand to make your own music, iTunes to organize your music, iPhoto to sort and edit photos, iMovie to edit your own video and iDVD to create your own DVD.

Now we are seeing the first of the tools to create Personal Legacies. Telling Stories is a software program available for $50 at www.tellingstories.com. The program helps you organize your photos and music and videos to tell the story of your life or your parents. Any major life event can be celebrated with a multimedia commemoration. And so you create your own memoirs, chapter by chapter.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:45 PM | Permalink

May 14, 2004

The Best Gift I ever received

Rachel Lucas, one of my favorite bloggers, in Saying Goodbye to Grandpa (sorry link no longer works and Rachel only blogs occasionally now)

    That's the essence of my memories of Grandpa. He was always there in the background, watching us and loving us, not saying much but always seeming delighted when we had something to say to him. Recording us as tiny children and as adults, and then giving us the gift of those memories and insisting he hadn't done "much." The truth was, it was the best gift I've ever received, in my entire life.

    He did more than that, of course, but the story of the old home movies shows what kind of man he was: kind, gentle, quiet, stable, funny. In the end, the comfort comes in knowing that he had a good long life and was surrounded by people he loved when that life ended. It's what we all hope for, and he had it. And for that, I'm happy.

      Several years ago, while visiting us here in Texas, Grandpa handed me a VHS tape. He said it wasn't much, just some old home movies he'd made. So I brought it home and sat down to watch this thing that "wasn't much." And spent the next three hours in stunned silence. I cried, and then watched it again.

      The tape was full of old movies of myself and my siblings that I'd never seen before, movies of our early childhood, of our parents as very young newlyweds, of my mother pregnant with her first child. I had no idea these movies existed.

      You see, Grandpa had a camcorder in the 1990s, and at family gatherings, he was always there in the background, silent, recording little snippets of our lives. What I didn't know was that he also used to have an 8 mm movie camera (sans sound) in the 1960s and 70s. Unbeknownst to me, he'd taken reels and reels of footage of my siblings and me when we were infants and toddlers.

      So, late in his life, he decided to put all the footage he'd ever taken onto one VHS tape. He sat down one day and set up his 8 mm projector to play the movies on a white wall. Then he put his modern-day camcorder on a tripod and aimed it at that wall. While he played the old movies, he recorded with the camcorder. The best part is that as the silent 8 mm movies played on the wall, he narrated into the camcorder.

      Then he used two VCRs to transfer all the VHS footage he'd taken in the last decade or so onto the same tape with the 8 mm movies. Thus did he compile one master tape with every bit of movie footage he'd ever taken of our family. He then made copies and gave them to us. My copy is now one of my most prized possessions, and I watched it last night after my dad called to tell me Grandpa had died.

      There are six of us grandchildren, and when most of us were born, Grandpa was there with his 8 mm camera. His narration for these portions of the tape go like this: "Well, there's little Ricky. Hey there, Ricky! There's his mama now, Linda...this was in 1967 in Irving, Texas." At one point, it goes from footage of Rick (my older brother) as a newborn to Rick just learning to walk, and Grandpa narrates: "Why, looky there! Little Ricky learning to walk. There ya go, boy!" His comments are funny and sweet, just little observations about his grandchildren. Years of our tiny lives, captured on film by our Grandpa.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:17 PM | Permalink

May 11, 2004

Grandma's Camera

There is one example I always point to when people ask me what can they do with old pictures. It's what my favorite blogger James Lileks did with his grandma's camera

    One night in Fargo after everyone had gone to sleep, I poked through an old bureau in the basement. It had spent most of its life at my Grandparents home on the farm in Harwood. One drawer held some photo albums - the pages were cracked, falling out of the book, and half the pictures were gone - they'd become unglued and dropped to an indifferent floor decades before. But a few could be pried loose, and I took them back to Minneapolis to scan and preserve. The more I looked at them, the more I realized that they were absolutely inscrutable - aside from my grandparents, the people in these pictures are unknown to me. Chances are I stood in many of the spots where these pictures were taken, drove across the land where the farming scenes were photographed. Were it not for the faces - my grandfathers face, which stares back at me from the mirror sometimes when I am tired, or my grandmothers face that looks very much like the beta version of my Mom - these would mean nothing, aside from some sort of historical value.

    But I do know the faces, and that makes all the difference. You, of course, do not - yet you might find these interesting nonetheless. Its a small portion of a record a young farm wife made of her times with her camera. ... She wanted these things to be remembered. And so they are.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:56 AM | Permalink