Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

On Loss, Impermanence and Personal History

Flickr photo: Tomasito

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here and while I have been very busy with work and new clients, I have felt a missing of my creativity and inspiration. It occurred to me over the weekend that the source of my ennui was the recent deaths of 4 people I knew within the time-span of two weeks. These were not old people, peers of my parents, who were battling long illnesses and the gentle creep of old age, but my own peers, (give or take a decade) that left suddenly, with little knowledge or planning.

In the 8 years that I have worked as a personal historian doing video biographies, I have lost many clients. It is my job to help families prepare for this inevitable end-of-the-road by assisting them in telling their stories so that who they are and what they have done will live on to educate future generations. Their eventually dying goes with the territory. Sometimes we’ve worked with families where a young member has died unexpectedly and I am filled with relief that their family members have film and story to remember them by.

Through the process of reminiscence, reviewing and organizing of old photos and memorabilia, deciding what stories will make it and what will get cut on the edit-room floor, I have experienced many people getting “right” with their lives. Through this review, they are able to see the timeline of all that they have accomplished and all those whose lives they have touched and who have touched them. This process allows them to see that they are indeed a significant sum of experience and knowledge and self-esteem and their experience of being known and understood by others can soar. It’s an amazing by-product of the work I do and I am privileged to share this intimacy with so many of them.
(I wrote a blog article about this a couple of years ago entitled The Three Dynamics of Personal Histories.)

All four of my friends who recently went were not prepared for this. One of my friends had a beautiful obituary in the Sunday paper which, on reflection, sounded as if it was written in her own voice. I was glad to see that it was such a thorough and beautiful piece on who she was.

It reminded me of the poem, “A Bride Married To Amazement” by Mary Oliver.

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

I hope my friends saw and felt the amazement in their lives. They were all amazing people and I am better for having known them. Meanwhile, I am over my funk and plan to get on with the business of taking the world into my arms again.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian and video biographer sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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