We were devastated when my Aunt Rachel died. She was truly a gem and almost everyone in our community knew her or at least knew who she was. She was hard to miss; a frail 90 pound Mennonite woman in a wheelchair with a personality 6 feet tall. Aunt Rachel had polio as a child and went though horrors I wouldn’t wish on anybody. But her kindness and spirit glowed so bright you could almost see it with the naked eye. So when she died suddenly from case of pneumonia her tiny body just couldn't fight, if felt like the world has lost a piece of goodness.
I was dating my husband at the time. I hadn't taken him to meet her and my other Aunts who she lived with yet because I didn’t want to jinx the relationship. It’s a regret I will always have. My future children will never meet her or get to experience the right of passage on their birthday where they get to pick a gift out of the special box in her room. It was always simple toys or candy, but it was your turn only once a year, so it was a beloved. They will never get to hear her talk about why she needs the wheelchair, or how it was scary when the doctors took her away to the hospital. They will never see her smile and hear her tell them she’s happy with how things turned out, because she believed that was God’s plan. They will, however, get to read about it.
A few years before she passed, Aunt Rachel self published a book about her life. This wasn’t very surprising at the time. My Aunt Mary had already helped my grandfather write his story and sent out a multi-paged newsletter with the finished product to the family. Writing down our stories was already a family tradition of sorts. The publishing part, that was next level stuff. My aunt’s book was a small purple paperback (or plasticback, as it were) with an iron lung on the cover. It had stories from several people to fill in the gaps that Rachel was either too young to remember or simply not present at the time. I imagine a few hundred copies were sent out. Enough so all the siblings (14 of them!), dozens of nieces and nephews, and a few libraries could have one. So even if each copy is only read a few times, that’s thousands of people who get to read her story. Thousands of people who get to feel her fear, her joy, her love. Now that she’s gone, those books are most of what is left of her. My children will know her. I wish they could hear her voice and see her smile. We have a few pictures, but it’s hard to feel her love from something so still and frozen.
Fast forward about 5 years, I discovered a new little business called Life & Legacies. They help tell people's stories on video. How I wish we could have done the same for Aunt Rachel. She would have had so much fun! It would be wonderful to hear her voice again.
Now, I get to work here and help people share their stories. I get to watch as they talk and smile. I smile too, because I know the moment I’m having with them will live forever. There’s a camera behind me. It’s soaking up the sound of their voice and pitch of their laugh. It’s holding on to the words they use and how they say them. It’s capturing the expressions as they talk about their parents and children. It sees their pride and embarrassment. If the camera and I are lucky, really lucky, sometimes you can see some healing. They know the story they're telling will outlive them. It’s coming from their mouth on their terms and will be a comfort to those they may leave behind. We get to celebrate their life, right now, while they can still celebrate too.
At Life & Legacies we want to capture you just as you perfectly are. Everybody has a story. Why wait to tell yours?