It's February, the month of my mother's birth. My mother would have turned 93 on February 11. 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 50s, 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 8-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 My mother had actually written two unpublished manuscripts, one about her life as a WAC in World War II, and another about her family history.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.
Our book, The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last, will be published in March. It is our hope that those who read it will find comfort and meaning through honoring the never-ending influence of those who are no longer here.
The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last, by Meryl Ain, Arthur M. Fischman and Stewart Ain, shows how grief can be transformed into meaningful action and living legacies.
The Living Memories Project Website: http://thelivingmemoriesproject.com
Follow Meryl Ain, Ed.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LivMemoriesProj