After a couple of weeks (yes weeks) when I did not access my email or other social media options I logged on yesterday (10 January 2013) and the phrase that shouted out at me was, Remember me. It was the password prompt of course but for me it had a completely different meaning.
Having planned a quiet two week break over Xmas and New Year after a busy year I received the call that no-one wants to get. “Come home, mum is not well and she’s in an ambulance on her way to hospital.” Living in another city would be challenging enough but mum was in Wellington and I was in Sydney.
I got on the next plane and arrived at the ICU Unit of Wellington Hospital. I am not sure if she knew I was there, but I was. Evie passed away on 29 December 2012 at 8.40pm.
Evie was 80 and had lived her life to the fullest. Her last cruise ended in Sydney on October 21, 2012. She wasn't feeling well and my 'deal' with her was that if she wanted to get off she could come and stay with Hugo and I. Those 10 days were normal in every respect and Hugo, my son, and Evie spent quite a bit of time together without me. Turns out that this was a very special time. I think she knew something was up, Hugo just loved his Nanna and they were intellectual sparing partners. He takes after his Nanna.
As I grieved and wrote the words for the tribute at mother’s funeral I reflected on many things about her life. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I actually knew a lot about her life as we often talked about it, and all parts of it. Her childhood, growing up, meeting my father, watching her four children growing up etc.
We also talked about what she had planned for her life, the opportunities she thought she missed, the choices she made and how she felt about how her life had panned out. I also knew what music she loved (we shared a love of classical and contemporary music) and her passions-in her case cricket and Frank Lloyd Wright.
As the family historian and a writer this was a totally natural conversation for me to have with my mother (as I did with my father). I captured their memories, their thoughts, ideas, fears, highs and lows, love, personalities and thoughts.
So, now I have their photographs, but more importantly I understand, to a degree, who they were and what they thought.
The ‘Remember me’ prompt for my password struck me as I logged in today.
That’s what I do. I ‘remember’ people.
I am now remembering my mother, just as I did my father 10 years ago. I had spoken to them both and wrote down their stories. The time my father at the age of two teased the family cat by putting a live wire into its milk bowl, or when he used to walk to school and ‘Stinky Snead’ would walk next to him with no shoes. We're talking about late 1920s South Island of NZ here.
I am remembering my mother talking about how her parents used to billet US servicemen on R+R in NZ during WWII and she, as a 10 year old thought they were just the most amazing and special men, and her sadness when their parents wrote to tell her they had been killed in the Battle of the Coral Sea. I have the black and white photos of many of these young men to this day.
Who will you make an effort to remember?
How can you do this?
I have some simple tips that I’d really encourage you to start tomorrow.
Make some time to sit down and speak with your parents and siblings and sit and ask them questions about their life.
Start with simple questions, who were your parents, who were your grandparents, tell me what they looked like, what do you remember about them…gather basic information AND their memories:
Move on to their memories—let them tell you about their holidays, family, events, thoughts: Where did they go to school, who were their friends, when did they start meeting boys/girls, how did they meet your mother/father….really simply stuff. If you can get the simple information down first you can fill in the spaces
Keep asking questions...prompt if needed but be ready to just leave it.
Write it down.
Keep going…it took me 2 years to find the time and space to speak with my father…half a lifetime to learn about my mother.
If you have some thoughts or ideas about this I’d welcome your feedback.
I am going to put together a SlideShare presentation about how to ‘Remember me’. Would like to know if you think this would be useful.
Vale Evie Lane, 29 December 2012. You are remembered.