The Power of a Voice

There are so many incredible tools that not only help us remember what it is we need to do in our daily lives, but can serve to remind us of those days – the moments within them, bringing it and the people within, back to life.

Yet when I was in the throes of caring for my Dad, there were times when I completely overlooked the simplest of life hacks to help get me through the day, much less create a memory.  No-brainer things, like setting up alarms on Dad’s iPad to remind him to drink water only occurred to me after he’d answer my calls impersonating W.C. Fields, claiming he would never drink water because of what fish do in it.

I’d give just about anything to have a recording of that.  The irony is that I have hours and hours of recordings of him telling family stories and documenting the important decisions he made with regard to his care at the end of his life (being his own advocate and guiding my mother, brother and I to honor his wishes, not interpret them).

Not once in the three plus years since he passed have I listened to them.  It wasn’t until a friend shared a voicemail of his Mom that I remembered how much I missed my Dad’s voice.  Especially when he was speaking in the present tense instead of looking back over his life.

This friend was sharing one of his major life-accomplishments, the training and completion of his first marathon.  He layered his story-telling, first with his own words, then with a video of him running across the finish line, followed by a photo of him being embraced by his family.

But it wasn’t until he played for me a voicemail of his mother that the fullness of the accomplishment truly resonated.  Like me, she wasn’t present at the marathon but experienced it through words, videos and photographs.  Yet in her message she was there – her joy, pride, and love were tangible – not just in the words she chose or the emotion with which she delivered them, but through her very essence captured in that voicemail.

I’ll never meet this woman, she passed away long before I even met her son.  But as a mother of a boy, I feel a kinship to her (particularly when she referred to her grown son as her “baby boy”) and aspire to leave my children with similar messages that convey not just the love and amazement I have for them, but which also reveal who I am as a person.

And I need to tell my mother similar things, in the present tense, before the threat of her loss overshadows everything.  Someday, far into the future, I hope, I’ll come across the letters that I wrote to my Mom and discover the voicemails she kept; to remind me that I did let her know the love, joy and pride I felt for her.

We live in an amazing time, by using a myriad of technologies we can capture the essence of ourselves and our loved-ones.  We can use that technology to hold more closely to their memory and celebrate the way they lived.  We can also document who we are in a way that those who we never meet can still get to know us.

For caregivers this is truly a gift.  As our relationships with our loved-one changes, as we prepare to say good-bye to the person they were, the person they’ve become and even them entirely, we can use these videos, photos, and voice recordings to remind us.

The beauty is that they are there, waiting for us whenever we are ready, and will immediately bring back to life a moment and the people we shared it with – no longer just a reminder or a memory, but a reliving.

We're in this together...

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Candice Smith

Shortly after her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Candice Smith decided to read his favorite book, How Green Was My Valley. The impact of Richard Llewellyn's words when he wrote: “Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever” changed how Candice viewed her father’s end-of-life journey and how she celebrates his memory. Inspired to change the experiences for all family caregivers, in 2017 Candice founded Caregiven. When she’s not advocating for how individuals, societies and cultures think and approach death, she’s celebrating living in the Pacific NW with her husband, two children, family and friends (pets included).

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