Recently I shared treasured time with folks at a memorial reception for a remarkable man. Why had we all come that day? We came because we wanted to spend time with his family and others who knew him. We wanted more – more time, more connection, more of him. The entire afternoon was filled with people sharing his stories: those at the microphone and those gathered around tables. Often folks were surprised to see one another. We’d hear, “How did you know him?” And there again, another story began.
We laughed and warmed our hearts at the photos of this man: his family, the adventures and the ordinary in his life, the lives he touched, including ours. We were humbled at the passage of time looking back at us. As I left I realized what I really wanted was to hear his voice; to fill my ears with his unique laughter, his pause in expression, his “Oh really?” It was a poignant reminder for me of those people in my life whose silence of voice is only buoyed by the strength of their spirit carried in my heart. Still I want to hear the voice of my father, my mother, the friend who at 47, died with cancer.
Living Legacy is offered as a complimentary service through Friends of Hospice in Whitman County. As one enters the richness of a life fully lived, Living Legacy provides an opportunity to reflect on one’s life experiences, sharing personal stories and memories. These are captured on audio CD, leaving a touching legacy for family and friends.
Personal historian, Beth Benten Burns conducts the interviews and coordinates the recording. Beth honors the privilege of being alongside others as they share their personal and unique stories. Interviews can be approached in their own unique way—either using the time to say what you wish to say about your life, sharing a conversation with your loved one or family, or responding directly to questions from Beth.
Families tell us there is nothing better than hearing the recollections of a loved one, in their own words, and with their own emphasis.
Toni Sarai-Clark, interviewed for the Living Legacy program, shared her reflections on the process. Toni died in the fall of October 2016. And much she is now missed. We are so thankful to have captured her amazing story in her own words. Toni described Living Legacy as a pleasant experience remembering past adventures. “I have had a fabulous life. There wasn’t anything I wanted to do that I haven’t done,” Toni remarked. “And it wasn’t just me, it was everyone around me. I represent so many people. Wonderful things happened not just for me, but through me. The memory is there and if we don’t get that down, then we lose all that was going on. The value of the interview was that I was there, being a part of things.”
Toni came from a Native American heritage that values personal history. “It is important to interview the elders,” she said, “because through the elders you find out what was going on with the community and what the community was like.” She considered her Living Legacy interview part of her final preparations along with funeral arrangements and writing her obituary. “These things need to be done,” Toni stated, adding “The point is not boasting” about past experiences, but rather “a life that’s lived and what was done. It’s a positive thing.”
“I’ve always enjoyed listening to people’s stories. And as we grow older the opportunity to tell our stories becomes important.” Beth Benten Burns, Oral Historian.
Toni Sarai-Clark and Beth Benten Burns (L to R)
To request Living Legacy, a complimentary service in Whitman County, please contact: Annie Pillers, Friends of Hospice, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 509-332-4414.