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Preserving Memories of a Loved One? 527

Posted by timothy
from the making-the-best-of-things dept.
An anonymous reader writes "My wife is dying of metastatic (stage 4) cancer. Statistically she has between one and two years left. I have pre-teen daughters. I'm looking for innovative ideas on how to preserve memories of their mother and my wife so that years down the road we don't forget the things we all tend to forget about a person as time passes. I have copious photos and am taking as much HD video as I can without being a jerk, so images and sounds are taken care of (and backed up securely). I'm keeping a private blog of simple daily events that help me remember the things in between the hospitalizations and treatments. In this digital age what other avenues are there for preserving memories? Non-digital suggestions would be welcome, too."
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Preserving Memories of a Loved One?

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  • Thoughts. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:04PM (#33252954)

    I'm sorry to hear about your wife's condition. Truly.

    For your daughters, I would recommend that your wife starts a diary, recording her thoughts. The little things, the big things. Looking at video and pictures is one thing, experiencing the feelings of a loved one as they wrote it is another. Together they may give your children something to look back upon for the rest of their lives.

    • Re:Thoughts. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by iamhassi (659463) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:17PM (#33253068) Journal
      I agree, but I would take it one step further: a daily video blog for your wife.

      Videos of birthdays, vacations and special events only go so far: you've all seen those videos, camera pans over the people and they're all smiling and laughing, but there's no sharing there, no real connection, it's about as generic as can be.

      A video blog set to private on Youtube would be perfect. She can just turn on the laptop webcam and talk about whatever she's feeling that day for a few minutes. My wife and I did that awhile ago when we were on a strict diet and it's very interesting to go back now and see how we looked and felt.
      • Re:Thoughts. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mister Kay (1119377) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:50PM (#33253318)
        I also agree, and I'd like to add a recommendation to include that she records advice she would like to give the children later in life. It might be less emotionally draining for the children if it's in a written form, but more impactful if it's in some video or audio format. I know there's lots of things I wish I could learn from ancestors who passed away while I was young and I'll never have the chance now.
      • Re:Thoughts. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by moderatorrater (1095745) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @04:27AM (#33255900)
        I agree with the video blog, but I think her children would also appreciate a handwritten diary. Holding and reading something that their mother held and wrote in creates a personal connection that isn't there with a video. Something tangible, something real, something intensely personal will complement a video log quite nicely.

        For the anecdotal evidence of that, my grandpa died 7 years ago, and when we got his handwritten journals a few years ago they meant more to my family, myself included, than everything else combined. I can't exactly explain why, but that's the way it was.
    • Re:Thoughts. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:27PM (#33253156)

      Store these mementos forever.

      But also realize that you simply can't hold on to her, and trying to hold on will increase the intensity and duration of your pain.

      Memories are supposed to fade over time. Whether we like it or not, the fading helps us to heal, and to face the future.

      As happy a place as the past is, it is unhealthy to try and live there forever.

      Keep the mementos, but don't fall in love with them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        save a sweater or shirt with her smell..

        • Re:Thoughts. (Score:4, Informative)

          by Jim Robinson Jr. (853390) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @07:03PM (#33253720)

          Great suggestion. I have one from my father. He's been gone 12 years, and one in a very long while I'll pull it out and spend some time in the past. If you do this though... be sure to store it in several layers of plastic. One won't be enough over time. 12 years and my dad's smell is just about gone.

      • Re:Thoughts. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by holden caufield (111364) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @06:00PM (#33253364)
        I definitely agree with the AC here. Before I say anymore, I'll preface the rest of my comments with extending my sympathies for the situation you find yourselves in, as well as to suggest I have no real experience with anything remotely similar, so my advice is meant in good faith.

        That being said, I recommend taking a few minutes to listen to the "This American Life" episode where a mother dying of a terminal disease left letters for her young daughter to be read annually. From the story's description, "At first the letters were comforting, but as time went on, they had much more complicated effects."

        You can stream the episode from http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/401/parent-trap [thisamericanlife.org] (I'm recommending the "Letter Day Saint" act 1 story).
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Kunedog (1033226)
          You remind me of another relevant story called Thinking Inside the Box, which is Act I (@9:00) of this episode: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/283/Remember-Me [thisamericanlife.org] It is also about a dying mother leaving a (video) letter to her daughter, but it has a much different effect (read: no effect) because the daughter is incapable of remembering . . . for better or for worse.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by txoof (553270)
          Along with the TAL episode, check out this Radio Lab show on memory and forgetting. Our memory is a strange and beautifully imperfect self reinforcing system that modifies its self enjoy your time with your wife and treasure the experiences you have with her. They will be worth more than anything you collect. http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2007/06/08 [wnyc.org]
      • by dov_0 (1438253)

        Make sure you have an remote backup of everything digital and a safe local copy ie. not on windows machine that accesses the internet a lot. I recently had to help out a family who'd lost pretty much all of their family photos when once computer lost data. Also at the moment I'm setting up a linux machine for a lawyers office after they had a trojan go through and make a mess of their windows machines. Almost lost 12 years of documents. Either an online secure storage site or dvd's at a relatives house coul

    • Re:Thoughts. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @06:22PM (#33253506)

      I would like to offer a different opinion.

      Instead of worrying about remembering her later just to do your best to be with her now and do whatever you can to make her limited time better.

      Stop with the videos and photos. She's not going to want to be remembered in this state. You and your kids aren't going to forget all about her when she's gone.

      • Re:Thoughts. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 15Bit (940730) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @03:33AM (#33255738)
        I agree with this. My mother is dying from cancer also, but i'm not running round taking video, audio and making diaries of the event. Just being with her and taking a few pictures of her with her granddaughter is enough. Live for her now, not your future.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by that IT girl (864406)
        I agree with this. And while photos, letters, memories are so important, you don't want to be so focused on "keeping her memory alive" that the normal grieving process is stunted. Losing loved ones completely sucks, but it's a fact of life and it's healthy to move through the stages of grief, but then move on and not dwell on them every moment of every day. I have pictures I treasure of myself with the people I have lost, but it'd be emotionally exhausting to have so many reminders around constantly and the
    • by rwa2 (4391) * on Saturday August 14, 2010 @06:35PM (#33253582) Homepage Journal

      My wife lost her grandmother a few years ago... here are the things she wishes she could have gotten from her before she passed:

      The story of her life : her earliest memories, what she remembers of her parents and grandparents, her brothers and sisters. All this will be relevant to your daughters once they grow up a little more and have children of their own... they'll want to know more about their family background and characteristics... and a lot of that information on your wife's side of the family will be best delivered by her. If you do http://www.geni.com/ [geni.com] or any other genealogical mapping thing, that might be a good way to start filling in blanks.

      It's a good opportunity to just set up the camera / recorder somewhere out of the way, and forget about it and have a pleasant discussion face to face. I'd even go so far as to recommend that you get a friend to conduct the autobiographical "interview", because people talk about different things to outsiders than to family... I've always found out more interesting things about my own family by listening to them talk about that kind of thing to strangers.

      I've sure you can think of other interview questions, but here are a few to get started:

      • Where were your favorite places to travel?
      • What were some things you did to save money when times were tough?
      • What did you want to grow up to be when you were young?
      • How did you meet your husband?
      • How did historical events affect their lives?

      Have fun! Not everyone gets the opportunity to make peace and say goodbye...

      • by muridae (966931) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @07:47PM (#33253972)

        This, this, this, this and this!

        I lost a non-immediate family member to cancer in the recent past. She did not want pictures or video taken of her, she wanted everyone to remember how she looked before. What she was willing to share, and what made her happy to talk about, was stories from childhood and other reminiscing. Got her siblings together, and just talked. I got to sit there and just hear stories about my parents from before I was born, about my grandparents, and other branches of the family that I have never met. It was touching, and it kept her from being too sad for just a little while. But do not push the issue, and make it a chore.

        We don't know the OP's wife, so none of us can make real suggestions about what to record or preserve, or how to go about that. Her feelings, and those of your kids, are what you need to think about. If she doesn't want to talk about her childhood, don't push it. If she does, and the kids don't want to hear it, don't push them to. Maybe you can get her to write about things, video blog about them, or just all sit around and talk and share. Yes, there are things that your kids may want to know later, but what ever you do, don't make this time with your wife into the equivalent of a childhood 8mm christmas film.

        Unless 8mm christmas films are what your family enjoy. I, personally, don't care to watch my childhood as recorded on film. Gives me the creeps.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by michael_cain (66650)
          Second the idea of having your wife talk about childhood and teen photos of herself, if she's willing. There are stories there that she would have told your daughters here and there over the years. Those stories may not seem important to your daughters when they are 16; the stories will be more important when they are 26 or 36.

          I have one photo of my father, age about 12, with his dog. The stories he told about the troubles he and the dog got into in a small town in Iowa are absolutely priceless.
  • by Aargau (827662) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:04PM (#33252956)
    I'd go with a formal interview to complement the daily life recording, to preserve for the kids a sense of how she felt on major issues, philosophy, personal achievements, things that might not come up when recording a daily routine.
  • Old school (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:07PM (#33252972)

    Non Digital: Handprints in clay...

  • film (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:08PM (#33252976)

    a simple 35mm film camera (one time use if you have to) developed into prints.

    • Re:film (Score:4, Insightful)

      by BetterSense (1398915) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:29PM (#33253176)
      I agree. I know OP says he is taking "photos", but I wonder if he's making any negatives. I'm not saying digital images are worthless, but you only get one shot to put something on film...you can always scan it later any way you want. I'm happy that by chance I ended up with a wedding photographer that shot our wedding on film...I have a roll of negatives in my safe, and it's very special to have those negatives that were in the camera at our wedding. If my wedding had been shot digitally, I would just feel sick...there's no way to go back. 35mm film costs $0.15 per frame. If it's not worth $0.15, then use a digital camera. Unless we are talking about putting things on ebay or something, shoot film. Film can be scanned, so you lose nothing and gain something that may be nearly priceless. Don't let the fact that you might not have a film camera stop you. Pro-level 35mm cameras cost almost nothing now, and disposable cameras also work.
      • Re:film (Score:4, Insightful)

        by radish (98371) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @07:40PM (#33253926) Homepage

        Can you explain more about why you think having the roll of film is so important? My wedding was shot digitally, and to be honest I like knowing that there are 5 perfect copies of the original shots in different physical locations so I know I can never lose them. I'd be concerned having only one set of "original" negs - knowing that any copy of them is of lesser quality. I certainly don't think the photos themselves are any worse for being digital.

    • I'm a hobbyist photographer. I agree with the film people who say you should print.

      However, I don't see that you have to use film. It's important to remember that you can go to the photo store and get prints of your digital photos, too (last time I went to have a roll of film developed they couldn't get it done in an hour because they were too busy doing prints of digital photos...) Photo store prints will likely last longer than anything from an inkjet for that matter.

      I've looked through various storage so

  • by elgo (1751690) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:09PM (#33252984)
    I know you want to preserve her memory for your kids... but there's only so much you can do, and apparently only a limited amount of time left. If you spend too much of your time simply documenting her life, you may one day regret not spending more one-on-one time with her, unencumbered by things like worrying about videotaping and documenting every last second. No matter what, you will have regrets, but you should spend quality time with her while she is here, and not worry so much about documentation. This is all part of life - it sounds like you may have already done enough documentation for the time being, and perhaps now you should allow yourself and your kids to actually experience her as she is. Memories become distorted but still there is no substitute for real experience.
    • by JustDisGuy (469587) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:35PM (#33253204)

      No mod points, but this ^^^^^.

      I lost my wife when we were 37. She went out visiting one night, and never came home.

      Spend the time you have left with your wife, and the children with their mother *creating memories*, and not memorabilia.

      I'm sorry for your family, that you have to go through this when the kids are so young. Be strong, man.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by woodsrunner (746751)
      You'll find the right balance. My dad died when I was young. Before grade one. Relatives tried to archive him with the tech of the day -- audio tapes, photos, etc. But I don't have anything but his watch.

      I have many memories of doing yard work with him or sitting on the back steps going over the financial pages of the newspaper. Probably one of the few four year olds who knew what a P/E ratio was -- knowledge that served me well in the dot com bubble, I might add.

      I may not have a photo of him, but fee
  • by cptdondo (59460) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:09PM (#33252986) Journal

    Do an old fashioned album of the places you've been the things you've seen, then sit with your daughters on your wedding anniversary and tell them stories. Your story telling will make those memories come alive. Relive the joy of her being alive, not the pain of her death.

    Put photographs, little bits of whatever, theater tickets, and so on. My father in law did this for my kids as he was dying while they were being born.

    Great family history and lots of memories in those albums.

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:09PM (#33252990)

    The best thing I had from some older relatives (now gone) were CDs of them telling stories. One of my cousins took the time to get a few of the aunts and uncles together on the phone and asked a few questions to get them to reminisce. After a few minutes they forgot about the tape recorder and began really talking to each other. That set of CDs one of the nicest remembrances I have of them. My wife wishes she had done this with her parents. They grew up during the great depression and had a lot of interesting stories on the way things were and tales of every day living. Unfortunately her mom developed Parkinson's and lost the ability to speak clearly, and her dad died of a sudden heart attack, so we lost all this oral history, as well as the sound of their voice.

  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:09PM (#33252992)

    On a back porch or whatever. Then the kids can stand in their mom's shoes and compare their feet.

    It does help make a connection.

    Handprints are more convenient and can hung on a wall if you do them with plaster in pie tins. This also makes them portable in case you move to a new house.

    In theory you could make molds of hands, feet, whatever. But people seem to see more realistic depictions such as this or lifesize cutout standees as being creepy. Not so with hand/footprints.

    • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:30PM (#33253178) Journal

      On the same line of thought, you could make a death mask, or a couple of them.

      It's not as creepy as the name might suggest and doesn't require the subject to actually be dead.

      It was a project we did in one of my art classes in high school. My mom collects masks, so I gave mine to her and it hangs on her wall with many other more exotic masks.

      The process is fairly simple and quickly described in this article [ehow.com]. In my art class, we took it a step further and used the plaster mask as a negative and later filled it with pottery clay, baked it, glazed and baked it again. I glazed mine black, but I'm sure that a ghostly white might be appropriate for the situation.

      Making the mask negative (mold) is something that can happen in less than an hour. With a little more work you can probably make one that is re-usable out of other materials, but the plaster style negative is good for making only one ceramic mask. I'd suggest one per child, maybe more.

      I'm sure that if the goal was described to someone at your local pottery shop, the appropriate materials would be suggested.

    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Saturday August 14, 2010 @06:13PM (#33253444) Homepage Journal
      There is a small bench in front of one of the grave markers at the local cemetary.

      When you sit on the bench, you see that the grave marker, runnig the length of the bench, lies where the feet would rest. One one side of the marker is an adult-sized pair of shoeprints, on the other side is a child-sized pair of shoeprints.

      The grave marker instructs the sitter to sit down and tell the deceased child a story.

      *sniff*
  • Ask her to write? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alfredos (1694270) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:10PM (#33252998)

    Perhaps she may want to leave something written, her memories. I have been talking to my dad about doing precisely that for years, not pressing but not stopping mentioning it from time to time. I don't want his life and that of his ancestors to vanish in background noise. I think it's fair to want a record of what the passage of those people through life was like, even if neither of them won a Nobel prize or became president of the country.

    On the other hand, perhaps what remains for you to do is to live the time she has with her and your children. In other words, it's good to preserve things as you are already doing, but don't let that take away time or attention from the life that still has to be lived. Find an equilibrium.

    Finally, I salute your courage and attitude.

  • by sznupi (719324) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:11PM (#33253004) Homepage

    You might forget to actually live with her while that's still possible. To make memories instead of trying to preserve...the preservation efforts.

    Which is impossible to be anywhere "complete" anyway, so just take what's good, what you see is happening; let her guide it (in a preferred form). And the rest involved will specifically remember what's worthwile to them anyway - not everything there is to remember. What does it matter if you couldn't really remember it at will?

    (or even "what does it matter" in grander sense - for example, what can we tell about our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother? You know, the one from the side of you father, then grandfather, then great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, great-great-great-grandfather, great-great-great-great-grandfather, great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. The basics would do - century, continent, language...
    That won't change thanks to "digital age" in the way people imagine, IMHO; at most roughly as an input to statistical approaches / etc.)

    Well, if somebody is really determined, cryonics might work...eventually.

  • Don't Do It (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Laebshade (643478) <laebshade@gmail.com> on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:12PM (#33253018)

    People die, life moves on. Detailing her daily life so that you can remember everything will keep you from doing that. Instead, make a log of your important memories with her, and work on making new ones that you and her can cherish for the rest of her life.

  • Cook Book (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:13PM (#33253026)

    Being Italian we tend to associate with Food. When my wife lost her mother we've spent the past few months finding recipes from my mother-in-law and building a family cookbook. Now when we make those dishes those memories return.
       

  • First, on the sentimental note - I saw a TV show a few weeks ago about some little girl who was diagnosed with a disease that killed her.

    She wanted her family to remember her, so she wrote a ton -- no one knows how many, but thousands -- of letters, and hid them in various places all over the house.

    Her folks and siblings were still finding those letters years after she was gone. As I said, I am not sentimental, but this video kinda shook me.

    So, maybe you need to do something like that - that will be a nice

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      So, maybe you need to do something like that - that will be a nice memory and a surprise when you find it. Maybe better if you don't know what it says, too.

      Not to sound cold, but that sounds like a great idea until you imagine what it'd be like to be wandering around the house, suffering with the pain of loss, only to have the scab ripped off while randomly organizing a bookshelf or rifling through the pantry...

  • by Atypical Geek (1466627) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:15PM (#33253044)

    Honestly, you are wasting your time behind a camera. There is no innovative technological solution to immortalizing the dead. Everyone who suffers that kind of loss winds up forgetting, and later recalling little moments.

    Take a cue from the movie 'Up'. Keep photos and cherished items. Use the tokens you preserve to jog your memory once in a while. But spend the time you have left with your wife fully engaged and enjoying every tiny slice of life as much as you can.

  • Videos, pictures, and text is fantastic, and I'm glad you're capturing that. However, our most personal recording device is our brain as it captures emotions as well. I'd encourage her to make something for each of your daughters. It doesn't matter what it is, a drawing ,a knick knack, a story in a bound book, a little table, it doesn't matter a bit. It just has to be a thing that will be there and remind them of her. Digital information is great, and I love technology as much as the last person on /.
    • by dgatwood (11270) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:57PM (#33253348) Journal

      If you can, ask a friend to capture videos and photos some of the time so that you can spend the time you have left without being too busy documenting things.

      Also, if you have the opportunity, you should consider clinical trials of experimental treatments. Even if they don't help, she'll be providing a lasting legacy by helping improve medicine so that others---maybe even your daughters---won't have to suffer the same fate someday. And if you can, consider a complete gene sequencing. It could provide useful information in the future for genomics studies related to certain types of cancers, again, potentially helping save your daughters from going through what your wife is going through. It's not much, but it's a legacy that might just have a huge impact on your kids someday.

      And consider having her record some personal messages for each of the kids at various stages of their lives. Maybe a message for when they have their first dates, for when they lose their first boyfriends, for when they get married, for when they get divorced and remarried (okay, maybe not that last one)... you get the idea. And, of course, one message telling them goodbye. That's the hardest one of all, but it's also the most important.

      One final piece of advice: leave nothing unsaid. Live life with no regrets.

  • "The Last Lecture" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PatMcGee (710105) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:18PM (#33253082)
    Did you watch Randy Pausch's Last Lecture? http://www.cmu.edu/randyslecture/ [cmu.edu]

    Would your wife be interested in doing something like this? I assume privately, but maybe she'd want to make it public.
  • by Yaa 101 (664725) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:18PM (#33253084) Journal

    Make her smile as much as you can and get as many moments all together as can, this will last your daughters and you a lifetime.

  • ...is seldom a good idea.

    With all respect to your beloved wife and the wonderful person she undoubtedly is - it's better to remember the good things and the good times you had together when she was well.
    The bad thing about remembering and missing loved ones, is that you'll refresh your memories about them to a degree where you miss them so much that a sadness will dwell inside of you and possibly make life much harder than ease your pain.

    This effect is much worse in kids (I was a kid too, and learning from

  • by chaboud (231590) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:24PM (#33253130) Homepage Journal

    Have your wife write her thoughts to your daughters, and you, and help her write them if you have to. Keep journals around, but don't be too pushy. It's the rest of her life, so let her choose. Letters for important future events for your daughters could be really nice.

    More importantly, put the camera down, stop worrying so much about the distant future, and worry about the time you have now. Don't use it too much to plan to remember. Use it to live.

  • Do something fun (Score:3, Insightful)

    by adoarns (718596) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:25PM (#33253132) Homepage Journal

    The most fun, absolutely wonderful things. You, the girls, and your wife. While her health will allow it. Take a trip, for instance. And don't make it all stressfull, and don't invest it with too much meaning. It's a fun jaunt, the whole family

    Those memories will last.

  • by MojoRilla (591502) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:25PM (#33253136)
    For important birthdays, proms, graduations, weddings, birth of your daughter's children, have your wife record or write messages for your daughters.

    A message saying she is proud, that she remembers when she did those things, a bit of motherly advise, a lot of love.
  • (I'd say I'm sorry, but I don't know you, her, anyone around you and I although it's bad, I can't really make myself feel anything).

    In short. You're not the one that's dying, it's just not up to you. Let her do whatever think it's appropriate (telling her anything about it would be just imposing), and keep your own memories, however you want them (blog probably, although your head would suffice). Don't overdo it - otherwise your risk killing parts of you and your daughters in the process.

    And, you seem too d

  • Do things together, share time, look at things, talk about them. You will remember the important parts of her life without having your memories cluttered by inconsequential or non-core stuff. Have enough media (and the spoken word is often the most powerful reminder, as it comes straight from that person - not affected by the way you held the camera, or zoomed, or the background - just the subject, pure and simple) for your children and their children but I wouldn't go so far as to (metaphorically speaking)
  • Condolences, and best wishes for your project.

    I lost a parent as a young teenager. My siblings were tweens. We have lots of peek-a-boo and Saturday morning couch fort memories, and don't get me wrong, we cherish them. But what I really miss now, as a grown woman, was getting to know my father as an adult. He was a great father for us as children, but we were too young and/or too sheltered for really open conversations on those thorny adult issues that most parents dread. The man I've gotten to know
  • I cannot imagine losing my spouse and am sorry about your family's situation.

    I lost my grandparents quite a while ago and my parents much more recently; I think about and miss them often.

    While they were still alive, one of my relatives sat down with my grandparents and parents and "interviewed" them in much the same way as one would a guest on a TV show.

    Because of the format and comprehensive list of questions asked, I consider these recordings to be one of the best reminders I have of my [grand]parents' li

  • It's really not that complicated: spend time with her if she wants to. Don't constantly shove a video camera in her face. Keep in mind that when some people are ill, they may actually need quiet time, so be sensitive.

  • All this "don't forget to live" crap is just people showing off that they're oh-so-much-wiser than the original inquirer. I can't think of anything more infuriating to someone in his situation. If you don't have a suggestion to make ALONG THE LINES OF WHAT HE ASKED FOR, then keep your pop psychology to yourself.

    I do: physical objects. Does she have jewelry? She should plan who it's going to go to, especially since your kids are both girls. If there's anything she really cherished, be sure you know what it i

  • Given the age of the children, their adult memories of specific details might be fuzzy, but all they'll need is a hint to bring it back vividly. As a middle aged adult, I have a lot of people now I've lost, and a faded photo is all it takes to bring them back in my imagination. So what you should do is build memories and create triggers that will recall those memories.

    What I'd suggest is this. Have the family start making scrapbooks of things you've done that are memorable. They could be big things like

  • Focus on activities you can do together as a family. I'm not sure how active her health allows her to be, but simple things like trips to the park or the zoo can be a wonderful experience and an event you and your children will remember the rest of your lives. If it's hard for her to get around, sitting with her and reading a book or telling stories from your past can be nice as well. These memories may become distorted, but in a positive way. They'll be little pockets of joy in what are otherwise very

  • ... when it is time to turn the camera off and stop the blog. And I think that day may come very soon.

    If you want to remember how she lived, it will become harder and harder for you to do so as the inevitability of her death becomes more and more obvious. You're already treating her like she's about to die; is that the way that you want to remember her?

    Focus on who she was before all of this. Preserve her life, not her death.

  • When my dad passed, I kept his pickup as a kind of shrine. It had his personality because of how he decorated it, the things he kept in it for work and play, and the memories of places we went in it. Eventually I passed it to another family member, and of course it will someday be gone. But for a while, it was a cool way to have an occasional visit with ol' dad.

    Considering the poster's question makes me think that a virtual shrine should be do-able: a small 3-D world with representations of places and t

  • by StarsAreAlsoFire (738726) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:42PM (#33253258)
    A digital memory is unforgiving; the video of a laugh you remember as a shining moment won't blur the ever-present fatigue. Where you remember a beautiful smile the camera will remind you of the pain she suppressed for that moment, the blackness under her eyes.

    I would suggest not video taping anything other than the occasional interview; perhaps discretely video record your wife reminiscing with your daughters about their early childhood, and hers.

    Instead of focusing on digital memories, spend that time with your wife and daughters forming memories of real events. Frisbee in the yard, swings, running through sprinklers, hiking in the forest. Learning to cook new things together, card games, board games, sewing.

    We remember 'firsts' the best, usually. Do new things. Let your memories blur the edges of your wife's condition; your daughters lives will turn out the better for it, their memories of Mom that much fonder.
  • by kramulous (977841) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:45PM (#33253286)

    The last thing I wanted to remember about my mum when she fought a long battle with cancer was her final days. She finally died when I was 18.

    Things are not pretty in those final years. Pale, tired, sick, moody but mostly high on drugs. And that is what you are leaving as a final memory to your kids. She was not that woman.

    Go through existing photos of when she was a kid and make sure the photo albums (physical or not) are well documented and chronologically ordered. What was happening at the time, who was she with, how good of time was she having and how happy was she.

    Go through photos of when the two of you met and dated. Document that. The happy times and the not so happy times. The two of you should go through each photo and describe the event.

    I, for some reason, have only three photos of my mum. Two when she was sick (not so fun to look at) and one just before she met my dad. I would love to know where she was, what she was doing (was it during uni on break?), etc.

  • by johnhp (1807490) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:48PM (#33253298)
    I know it might sound silly, but I would try to keep some good samples of her DNA.

    Your wife's DNA may contain some beneficial medical information for your daughters, and it may help them to have access to it later on. Further out there, you never know what we may be able to do with DNA in 20 years. It doesn't seem impossible that DNA could be used to generate 3D portraits of deceased people. Imagine if your grand daughters could someday move a slider around on a computer, and see grandma as a child, then move it again, and see how grandma might have looked had she lived to be 80 years old.
  • Let's get real (Score:2, Insightful)

    by juliohm (665784)
    Sorry to hear about your situation, but you must be certain that death is an inevitable part of life. It is certainly sad that some people may go away earlier than expected, and we have this notion that a person may somewhat "live a while longer" as we keep their memories alive with us. After a loved one dies, mourning certainly is an important period to help us get over this fact. No matter how many pictures, videos or journals you make of a person while he/she is alive, nothing will replace the fact that
  • they last very long.
    Digital stuff is going do die at some point - and you're wasting resources trying to preserve and migrate it every couple of years.
    A print-out photo-book with some written comments of her is worth a 1000 videos.

  • Your wife should make sure to wear her favourite perfume regularly and buy some bottles for the girls -- put the bottles away until they get a little older. You could also take her pillow and blankets and put them in one of those plastic things that you vaccuum the air out of. Take the blankets and pillow out when one of the girls is feeling badly (after a bad breakup with a boyfriend, say) and let her curl up on the couch with them. If you reseal them in the bag every time, the smell should last quite a wh

  • Experience. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by uncholowapo (1666661)
    When my dad past away from a stroke 4 years ago, we barely even wanted to look at a picture of him just because of the sorrow that comes with him. Recording memories is is nice but when the grim reaper finally has his way, it just doesn't get any happier. Even today the thought of my dad coming up in a conversation strikes everyone to be quiet. He was a good man and all but just the consideration of death is something that should be avoided. In my opinion, the only thing you should keep around is something
  • by Kozz (7764) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @06:07PM (#33253408)

    Check out Act One of this episode [thisamericanlife.org] of This American Life [thislife.org].

    Act One. Letter Day Saint.

    Rebecca was 16 years old when her mother Elizabeth died of cancer. But before she died, she wrote letters to Rebecca, to be given to her on her birthday each year for thirteen years. At first the letters were comforting, but as time went on, they had much more complicated effects. David Segal tells the story. David is a reporter for The New York Times. (14 minutes.)

  • Best example? (Score:3, Informative)

    by rsmith (90057) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @06:13PM (#33253440) Homepage

    Professor Randy Pausch's last lecture [youtube.com].

    This is a very interesting and moving lecture that he essentially put together for his children when he was dying of cancer.

  • Just saying... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Saturday August 14, 2010 @06:34PM (#33253576) Homepage Journal
    The last thing you want is your last memories of her always being from behind a lens. You will regret it. By all means, take photos and record things, but never at the expense of being there. Nothing can be as good as the memories - and she'll probably want to spend her remaining time with you - not being observed by you.
  • Clothes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zogger (617870) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @06:37PM (#33253592) Homepage Journal

    Save some of her clothes, her favs, both dress-up and casual, including shoes. Put em away well. The little girls will grow up and get to see and maybe wear some of mom's clothes later on. And especially the wedding dress. Who knows, one of them or a grand daughter might want to wear it when they get married. Oh, and her jewelry, you'll need to divvy that up later on when they are near-adults as well. Next, some of her fav books, stuff like that. Any hobbies she had, the creative stuff, keep a representative sample.

    But don't make a mausoleum inside the house, don't go that far, and don't keep everything, donate it away. Eventually you will meet a new person, they will be uncomfortable if the whole house is a mausoleum dedicated to the person they aren't and never can be, if you get my drift..

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dpilot (134227)

      Along this line, things.

      I have two such things, a screwdriver and a (cheap) meat cleaver.

      The screwdriver I borrowed from a friend before he got cancer, and in the hubbub surrounding his sickness, never got around to giving it back. Now it's my favorite screwdriver, and every time I use it or even see it, I think about him, remember some of the things we did together, his wicked sense of humor, etc.

      The meat cleaver belonged to my mother-in-law, and there's a story behind that as well. It's too long to tell

  • Mum dying (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Maelwryth (982896) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @07:12PM (#33253772)

    My mother died a little over a year ago. Photo's are great, but in my case the videos don't do a huge amount for me (although it is interesting to watch how she moved). My brother has her cell phone though, so when we call him we get her voice-mail message....I really miss that voice. Dad went through her travel diaries and typed them up so we all have a copy of those. That's nice because it records the way her mind worked in some of the happier times of her life. The smell of perfumes may also be important, coconut cream always reminds me of her and that phase happened when I was a very young child. Shopping lists, notes, and such are also important. Sometimes it is the way we do little things are say the most about how we were.
    Beware of recording to much of her in her final stages. They need to remember her as she lived, not as she was dying. Good luck though. You are in for a rough ride and it will take a long time to regain some sense of balance.

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@@@aol...com> on Saturday August 14, 2010 @08:30PM (#33254184) Journal

    If you spend all your time worrying about "preserving her memory" instead of enjoying and getting the most out of your time left with her, you will regret it for the rest of your life. I've had two friends lose their spouses to cancer and they both made the same mistake. They got so caught up in "I gotta record this!" and "oh wait I have to get the camera!" and all that, they ruined all of those special moments by reminding themselves of what was coming.

    My advice: live the moments while you're in them. Don't ruin them by trying to save them for later.

  • by Wackston (80353) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:07AM (#33255508)

    I'm surprised not to have seen this...

    Note and learn to cook her favourite recipes! My Mum did this for my Grandma as did Grandma before her. It still brings a smile when I cook something I enjoyed visiting 'Oma' as a small child. Its a nice bit of family history/tradition too ... the recipes are hand-written and some have fun stories ('the day your Dad ate 2 whole cakes') associated with them.

  • by Reeses (5069) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @04:10AM (#33255846)

    A friend of mine died nine years ago from colon cancer. She had a then 4-year old boy when she passed.

    There were a handful of things that she did for her son that were pretty well received as he grew older.

    She left letters or recordings for him at various milestones. Graduation. age 21. Age 25. Wedding. Etc. Nothing too specific, but things talking about how she hoped things turned out for him.

    A recording of her singing Happy Birthday, that she gave him on CD. He played it every year until he was 12. After that, I don't know if he continued to play it, but it was a nice touchpoint for him as he grew older.

    That's really about it. Too much stuff, I think, and the survivors have issues getting over the loss. And too much past stuff, and people seem to feel a little out of touch. It truly makes people think they were loved if their parent thinks about future events before the child even does.

    That's all I have.

  • Analog thoughts (Score:3, Informative)

    by michael_cain (66650) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @10:24AM (#33256926) Journal
    I used to have this discussion with a librarian whose dissertation was about archival materials. Thinking in terms of "archival" seems appropriate here; while you are rightly concerned with preserving memories for you daughters, there will eventually be grandkids who are interested in the grandmother they didn't know. My librarian friend's opinion was that there only one practical medium available to the general public with proven archival properties: pigment-based ink on acid-free paper. Acid-free paper is readily available; inkjet printers that use pigmented ink are available but pricey; contemporary monochrome laser printers provide near-archival qualities; color laser printers somewhat less so.

    My librarian friend's strongest argument for making analog copies on paper was the passive nature of that medium. You can tuck the paper away for 30 years and it's still good when you take it back out. Digital archives tend to require active copying from time to time. Digital files from 30-40 years ago are largely unreadable today, even if the medium is in good shape, for a number of reasons: the necessary hardware is no longer available, operating systems don't support the file system, the file format is no longer supported. In general, preserving a digital record for 30 years requires that intermediate copies be made.

    However, archival work is something that can be done anytime in the next few years. Worry about other things now.

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