My friend and workmate Greg has always been there for his kids. I remember the time he raced home from an overseas business trip to comfort his son, who had ruptured his spleen in an ATV accident, or the many red-eye flights he took in order to be on time to his daughter’s basketball, soccer and softball games.
A few months ago Greg was diagnosed with ALS ( amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The degenerative disease equally affects men and women and often strikes between the ages of 40 and 60; Greg is 50.
Having watched two uncles suffer from ALS, Greg knows the disease is always fatal, most often within three to six years of diagnosis.
Understanding time was not on his side, Greg visited an estate planning attorney to get his affairs in order. The attorney gave him some unexpected advice.
“ During our conversation about financial matters and legal documents, my attorney put down her pen and asked me if I had considered how I could be there for my family, even after I was gone,” Greg said.
His attorney told him about LifeChronicles, a Santa Barbara based nonprofit organization that works across the country helping families create living memories by videotaping life stories of a seriously ill loved one or an elderly family member.
Founder Kate Carter began LifeChronicles in 1998 after the death of a good friend. To date LifeChronicles has helped more than 700 people say their final goodbyes and preserve their stories forever.
The organization works with volunteers nationwide to tape the interviews. The nonprofit does not charge a fee but does accept donations.
Having heard hundreds of stories, Carter says, “There’s a golden moment in every video when the real personality of the individual shines through, when they forget about the cameras and just show us who they really are. That’s when you experience the things about this person that cannot be put into written words or seen in a photograph.”
LifeChronicles recently taped Greg’s video at his home. Carter guided him through the interview process, and Greg had some messages he’d prepared in advance for loved ones.
“Greg’s love for sports was a strong metaphor for the messages he had for his children and loved ones—hard work, teamwork and giving it your best every day,” Carter said.
“These videos can be quite powerful for children who have lost a parent,” she said. “Children say what they most appreciate about the video is that their parent expressed how much they loved them and what specifically they loved about their son or daughter.”
Estate planning attorney Terri Hilliard Olson says the videos offer families something intangible.
“Your words and stories are a priceless and timeless gift to keep in your family’s hearts,” Olson said. “I wish we had chronicled my father before his death so that my children could reflect back on his love for them and hear his words and wishes for them.”
If you have a loved one whose words you want to capture so that they can be with you for years to come, you can learn more at http://lifechronicles.org or call (866) 998-5433.