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Three years after the death of her mother, Meryl Ain was still unable to fill the hole that the loss had left in her life. In talking to friends, Meryl discovered an insight shared by those who had successfully overcome grief; there simply is no closure. It was abreakthrough for her. She writes, "Our loved ones will always be with us if they are not forgotten. It is up to us to integrate them into our lives in a positive way that reflects their unique personality, values and spirituality. In that way we keep them alive in our hearts and minds always."
Meryl enlisted the help of her brother, Arthur Fischman, and her husband, Stewart Ain, and began a quest to interview people who had moved beyond mourning through meaningful action. The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last by Meryl Ain, Ed.D., Arthur M. Fischman, & Stewart Ain (March 2014, Little Miami Publishing Company, Trade Paperback, 196 pages, $18.95, ISBN:978-0-9882553-7-1) is a result of that research.
The Living Memories Project presents more than 30 interviews with both celebrities and others who share their experiences and the projects they undertook to memorialize their loved ones. The authors have sought to demonstrate that any tribute, big or small, can be a meaningful way to preserve memories of loved ones. Establishing a foundation or scholarship, using a recipe on a particular holiday or family occasion, creating artwork, embarking on a project or even an entire career – all could be traced to a specific talent, interest or value of the deceased. Each chapter offers a rich first-person history that will engage and inspire readers of all faiths.
Among them are:
- Linda Ruth Tosetti, who made a documentary film about her grandfather, Babe Ruth, to highlight his humanitarian side – a value she cherished and believed was often overlooked in Babe’s biography. Ruth was a German-American, who publicly denounced the Nazi persecution of the Jews in 1942.
- Liz and Steve Alderman, who established the Peter C. Alderman Foundation to honor the memory of their 25-year-old son, who was killed on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. The foundation trains doctors and establishes mental health clinics on four continents to treat PTSD.
- Eileen Belmont, a quilt designer who helps others preserve their memories of deceased loved ones through the creation of memory quilts.
- Singer/songwriter Jen Chapin (daughter of the late folk rock icon Harry Chapin), who carries on her father’s legacy of music and feeding the hungry.
- Dr. Yeou-Cheng Ma (sister of Yo-Yo Ma), who keeps the memory of her father and music teacher /mentor alive through the Children's Orchestra Society and her poetry.
- Robert Meeropol (son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed as spies by the US Government in 1953), who established the Rosenberg Fund for Children to help children whose parents are imprisoned.
- Author, actor and raconteur Malachy McCourt, who presents his unique take on how he keeps alive the memory of his brother Frank (Angela's Ashes) through the Irish tradition of song and story.
Not everyone can create a foundation, fund an orchestra or make a documentary film, but the authors' hope is that readers will find inspiration from the wide range of actions they read about. The authors are currently compiling narratives for the second volume of The Living Memories Project and welcome input from readers.
Liz and Steve Alderman of Westchester, New York, set up the Peter C. Alderman Foundation to honor the memory of their twenty-five-year-old son, who was killed on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. In the past seven years, the foundation has trained 385 doctors in twenty countries on four continents and opened nine mental health clinics to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental depression in countries such as Rwanda, Haiti, Uganda,and Cambodia. The foundation-trained staff has treated more than one hundred thousand patients and has partnerships with the governments of Rwanda, Angola, and Cambodia. Barron’s named the foundation one of the ten best small foundations or charities in the United States. The Aldermans received the Purpose Prize, which honors American social entrepreneurs over the age of sixty.
SHORTLY AFTER HE DIED, his friends needed to be together and to be with us. So his friends got in cars from all over the country and drove here. We ended up having over 250 of his friends at our home a week and a day after he died.
His hobby was relationships. He was not the honor student who became an honor student after he died. His brother, who is six years older, said when I grow up I want to be like Pete. In fact, we have an arm of the foundation called Friends of Peter Alderman. These kids every year get together and raise money for the foundation. They raise a lot of money. They just had a walk-a-thon that netted over seventy thousand dollars. These are his friends and they are still part of our lives. The tough part is, we are invited to their weddings and they bring their children to see us. It’s very difficult, but we would still rather have them in our lives than not.
We knew we had to create our own memorial for Peter. We really didn’t know what to do. And then we saw a Nightline broadcast that said one billion people in this world—one-sixth of humanity—have directly experienced torture terrorism and, of those who have survived, over 50 percent suffer debilitating traumatic depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. They can’t work, children can’t go to school, and some people can’t even leave their beds.
There was nothing we could do for Peter, but if we could return the survivors of terrorism to life, then that would be the perfect memorial because Peter so loved life.
We are building and contributing significantly to the evidence that tells us that psychiatry in postconflict countries is at the center of recovery. On a personal level, the work is terribly, terribly important. It is a reason to get out of bed every morning and function at a high level. We feel really, really good about the people we are able to help and the doctors we are meeting along the way.
The main reason for starting this is that we wanted to leave a mark that Peter existed on this earth. He died at a very young age. We believe that we have left a profound and indelible mark that Peter existed; the world is a better place because he lived. Peter loved life and if we can return people to life so that they can live their lives, that is the perfect way to memorialize him….
The Living Memories Project is a book that I just could not pass up. I have lost 3 loved ones all 4 years apart, the most recent being less than 2 months ago - a sudden and tragic end to someone very near and dear to my family. With a heavy heart I began to read. What I found was both wonderful in that I was reminded of many great memories of each one of those who have passed before me - as well as sadness that they are no longer with me here on this earth.
I love that this book, and the authors have taken what is many times devastating to the lives of those left behind and inspires us to pass on our memories to others - to share the impact that they each had on our lives, as well as start the journey to healing by remembering the good and wonderful moments we had together. A wonderful book for anyone to read.
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