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If you want a good cry (and I don’t know why the hell you wouldn’t want a good cry — I aim for several each day), try this article about a son immortalizing his father after his cancer diagnosis.

I know I write about chatbots and immortality a lot, and I am clearly on the side of record, record, record.  But I felt myself getting weepy in the first part of the story, when he is making the audio recordings.

The ChickieNob and I have been working on an enormous family tree, stretching back and out and down again through seven generations.  It fills a room when you unfold all the pieces.  Along the way, she has done a few recordings, and our goal has been to get a recording of everyone in the family.

Two of the first recordings were of my great-aunt and Josh’s grandmother, both older women so I knew our time was limited, but recorded years ago when they were both well.  We sat with an early copy of the family tree and had them look at the names and tell us stories.

When my great-aunt passed away, I was able to send the recording to her sons, giving them this tiny new piece of their mother with her laugh and vocal quirks.

Maybe it’s less creepy than a chatbot that is guessing how the person would speak if they were still alive.  No, you can’t ask the person more questions, but you can guess at answers and hear their voice and close your eyes and pretend they’re in the room.

I guess that is my goal this winter: To make more recordings.  To gather more stories.  To keep people here.


1 a { 12.10.17 at 8:35 am }

Ha – my aunt said that since just she and my other aunt were left, we’d better ask any questions we had while they were still around to answer them! I need to get on that, as we can only go back 3 generations in my family (both sides) – everything before people immigrated to the US is a mystery.

2 Lori Lavender Luz { 12.10.17 at 11:11 am }

I don’t think I get what a chatbot is/does, so I’m going to have to research.

What a treasure you and The ChickieNob are creating. It will be a gift for generations to come, as well as to generations past.

3 Beth { 12.10.17 at 5:50 pm }

I love this idea but also know that I can’t handle it, simultaneously. My girls and I made my grandma’s recipe of this complicated Christmas time treat today and while it makes me so happy to pass this on to them, it’s bittersweet because they never met my grandma and I wish so hard that they had.

4 Working mom of 2 { 12.10.17 at 6:11 pm }

One of my greatest regrets is not “interviewing” my dad. He had so many stories from his very eventful life and for years I kept thinking about it but just kept putting it off thinking I had more time. We do have on tape, in his native language, *his* interview of one of his older relatives (who subsequently passed a couple of years later).

5 Chris { 12.10.17 at 6:37 pm }

That is a great thing you’re doing! And yes, record, record, record. I hate how little I have of my mom- she died over 11 years ago so recording all the time wasn’t really as available. I did get a digital recorder and try to record her while she was in hospice, but it was too late. She was stuck on the indignities of what was going on with hospice and it’s….not something anyone would want to listen to again. But, it’s still here…somewhere. Because I can’t part with it.

6 Mali { 12.10.17 at 11:48 pm }

What a coincidence. I was only thinking today that my husband and his brothers should be making recordings of their parents. His mother, in particular, has a lot of entertaining stories of her childhood and the years in her 20s, during the war. She likes to think of herself as a poet, and a good writer, and so some years ago I gave her a beautiful notebook to write down some of the stories. Her instructions were to jot down something as she thinks of it, but she’s never written a single word in the book! I I found it today in pristine condition (lol) when I was cleaning her house, and realised that a recording was the only option. The thing is that his parents recorded one of his grandparents about 30 years ago, and they’ve had that digitised and all the brothers have a copy now. So I can’t understand why none of the brothers have thought to record their parents either. (Considering they’re 88 and 94, it’s not like there is plenty of time!) This is further reason to do it!

7 Queenie { 12.11.17 at 2:48 am }

Love this. We recorded my grandmother last spring when we saw her, and she died a few months later. It wasn’t quite what I hoped, but I’m still so glad to have it.

8 Cristy { 12.11.17 at 9:56 am }

Those recordings are pricelwas. Will always be. We have some old film reels from my mom’s aunts and uncles. The images and seeing those interactions are just filled with stories. I wish their voices were attached.

9 loribeth { 12.13.17 at 7:33 pm }

My great-aunt & uncle bought a home movie camera after the war (late 1940s), & often when they came to visit my grandmother, we’d put a sheet up on the wall & have a movie night. Their daughter has converted some of their old home movies to DVD, and I would love to get a copy. They have footage of my mother as a little girl in the 1950s, as well as me & my sister as little girls in the 1960s too. They are both gone now, as are so many of the people in those movies, but the images live on.

We have some video footage of my grandparents, but I wish I’d gotten them to tell some stories on camera or even on a tape recorder. I was interested in the family tree & stories and I took some notes — and I’ve managed to confirm pretty much everything my grandfather told me about his family (names, dates, places, etc.). But of course, there’s a lot I didn’t record, and so many unanswered questions. So many times my mother & I have looked at each other when presented with some family mystery & said, “Grandpa would know!!” Sigh.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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