By Meryl Ain
My mother would have turned 93 this year. When she died after a brief illness in November 2006, although I knew she had lived a long life, I was bereft. There is never enough time with a loved one.
My mom was my best friend, a reliable loving, comforting, and wise presence in my life. I spoke to my mother several times a day. When there was a lull at work, she was the one I called. When something wonderful happened, I called her. When something challenging happened, I called her. When I needed advice, she was the one I trusted. I could always count on her to be a calm and intelligent sounding board.
She looked at least 10 years younger than she was, and even when the freak cancer attacked her, her mind and heart were still intact. Although I was happily married with three grown sons, a daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter, I confess I didn’t know how I was going to go on without my mom. In addition, although I was in my 50’s, I was now officially an “orphan,” my father having died after a long illness a year and a half before. It meant that I would not be able to call her when our other sons became engaged, nor would she be at their weddings. She would not enjoy seeing our granddaughter Grace, who was then less than two, grow into the beautiful and talented eight-year-old she is now, nor would she even know future grandchildren.
I was in a funk, going through the motions but not really enjoying it. I was told it would get better after a year and that I needed closure. I began speaking with my friends about how to achieve it and came to the conclusion that there is no closure with those we love deeply. They are in our lives and in our hearts forever, although they are not physically present. Some keep alive their memories through small acts, such as looking at photos and making recipes. Others do big things to carry on the legacies and values of their loved ones, such as establishing foundations.
My mother was essentially a cheerful, optimistic person. When I was bored, sad, or depressed, she would say: “Get yourself a project.” A project could be anything from cleaning out a closet to writing a book. My mother had actually written two unpublished manuscripts, one about her life as a WAC in World War II, and another about her family history.
So I decided my project would be to interview people about how they keep alive the memories of their loved ones. I was hoping to get ideas from them, and to heal myself. I enlisted the support of my husband, Stewart, and my brother, Arthur, and together we captured the stories of more than 30 individuals who created tributes – big and small – as living memorials. The project was therapeutic and cathartic for us; not only did it give us wonderful material, but it turned into an inspiring book and an amazing tribute to my mom.
It is our hope that those who read The Living Memories Project will find comfort and meaning through honoring the never-ending influence of those who are no longer here.
Here are some ways our interviewees have kept alive the memories of their loved ones:
By telling stories and anecdotes about the deceased
By making memory books, and looking at photographs
By remembering and sharing advice, and following it
By preparing recipes for holidays and other special occasions
By writing prose or poetry
By making a memory quilt
By listening to or composing music
By acts of kindness and/or charity to honor a loved one
By endowing a scholarship in the name of the deceased
By establishing a foundation to carry on the values of the loved one.
About the Book:
Three years after the death of her mother, Meryl Ain was still unable to fill the hole that the loss had left in her life. In talking to friends, Meryl discovered aninsight shared by those who had successfully overcome grief; there simply is no closure. It was a breakthrough for her. She writes, "Our loved ones will always be with us if they are not forgotten. It is up to us to integrate them into our lives in a positive way that reflects their unique personality, values and spirituality. In that way we keep them alive in our hearts and minds always."
Meryl enlisted the help of her brother, Arthur Fischman, and her husband, Stewart Ain, and began a quest to interview people who had moved beyond mourning through meaningful action. The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last by Meryl Ain, Ed.D., Arthur M. Fischman, & Stewart Ain (March 2014, Little Miami Publishing Company, Trade Paperback, 196 pages, $18.95, ISBN:978-0-9882553-7-1) is a result of that research.
The Living Memories Project presents more than 30 interviews with both celebrities and others who share their experiences and the projects they undertook to memorialize their loved ones. The authors have sought to demonstrate that any tribute, big or small, can be a meaningful way to preserve memories of loved ones. Establishing a foundation or scholarship, using a recipe on a particular holiday or family occasion, creating artwork, embarking on a project or even an entire career – all could be traced to a specific talent, interest or value of the deceased. Each chapter offers a rich first-person history that will engage and inspire readers of all faiths.
Among them are:
· Linda Ruth Tosetti, who made a documentary film about her grandfather, Babe Ruth, to highlight his humanitarian side – a value she cherished and believed was often overlooked in Babe’s biography. Ruth was a German-American, who publicly denounced the Nazi persecution of the Jews in 1942.
· Liz and Steve Alderman, who established the Peter C. Alderman Foundation to honor the memory of their 25-year-old son, who was killed on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. The foundation trains doctors and establishes mental health clinics on four continents to treat PTSD.
· Eileen Belmont, a quilt designer who helps others preserve their memories of deceased loved ones through the creation of memory quilts.
· Singer/songwriter Jen Chapin (daughter of the late folk rock icon Harry Chapin), who carries on her father’s legacy of music and feeding the hungry.
· Dr. Yeou-Cheng Ma (sister of Yo-Yo Ma), who keeps the memory of her father and music teacher /mentor alive through the Children's Orchestra Society and her poetry.
· Robert Meeropol (son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed as spies by the US Government in 1953), who established the Rosenberg Fund for Children to help children whose parents are imprisoned.
· Author, actor and raconteur Malachy McCourt, who presents his unique take on how he keeps alive the memory of his brother Frank (Angela's Ashes) through the Irish tradition of song and story.
Not everyone can create a foundation, fund an orchestra or make a documentary film, but the authors' hope is that readers will find inspiration from the wide range of actions they read about. The authors are currently compiling narratives for the second volume of The Living Memories Project and welcome input from readers.
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About the Author:
Meryl Ain holds a BA from Queens College, a MA from Columbia University Teachers College, and an Ed.D. from Hofstra University. She began her career in education as a social studies teacher before she became an administrator. She is also a freelance writer specializing in issues related to education, families, parenting, and children and has contributed to Huffington Post, Newsday, the New York Jewish Week and The New York Times. She embarked on The Living Memories Project after she lost both her father and mother within a year-and-a-half. She and her husband Stewart live on Long Island and have three sons, three daughters-in-law and three grandchildren.
For More Information
- Visit The Living Memories Website.
- Connect with The Living Memories Project on Facebook and Twitter.
- The Living Memories Project is available on Amazon.
- Order the book from Little Miami Publishing.