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The Living Memories Project: Healing by Doing by Meryl Ain



7 beyond the books guest postThe Living Memories Project: Healing by Doing

By Meryl Ain

It has been 50 years since The Beatles first visited the United States, but their music is as alive as ever. Although the Beatles stopped performing as a group in 1970, and John Lennon and George Harrison have passed, their music is today enjoyed by both those who saw them perform, and their children and their grandchildren.

The power of music to evoke memories is great, and one of the most moving of the Beatles’ songs is Let It Be, Paul McCartney’s tribute to his mother, Mary, who died from an embolism when he was 15. After his mother came to him in a dream during a difficult time in his life, he wrote the song to share her advice with the world. Each time the song is performed, played or heard, it keeps alive the The Living Memories Project 7memory of his mother: “And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be…”

Not everyone can write and perform a song, but when my mother died after a brief illness, I wondered how I could pay tribute to her – in my own way. So I decided to ask others how they carry on the values and legacies of their loved ones. I enlisted my husband, Stewart, and my brother, Arthur, to join me in researching and writing The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last.

The book shows how others have harnessed their grief, transforming it into meaningful action and living legacies. The Living Memories Project describes through interviews, anecdotes, essays, poems and photographs, the many ways that 32 individuals – celebrities and others – keep alive the memories of loved ones.  Some are huge projects; some are small ones.

For example singer/songwriter Jen Chapin, the daughter of the late folk rock icon Harry Chapin, tells how she keeps her father’s memory alive through his music and his commitment to social justice.

“I have so many ways of communing with him and I know he is proud of me. I have an ongoing dialogue with him and read his speeches about social justice and they are so much today—what he wrote about and sang about—they are so current and I feel so connected. I have ongoing dialogue through my own work. So in a way I am privileged he was a public person and, almost every time I perform, someone comes up and speaks of him and remembers him.…”

Others in our book have established foundations, endowed scholarships, relied on favorite sayings, created works of art, made recipes, or simply looked at photographs. The point is that there is no such thing as closure; those we love are in our hearts and minds forever. Carrying on their work or doing something positive in their memory not only serves as a fitting tribute, but also is a powerful healer.

The research and writing of The Living Memories Project has been therapeutic and cathartic for me and for my coauthors. We hope that it will help others by showing readers how to find comfort and meaning through honoring the memory, values, and legacy of their loved ones.

About the Author:

Meryl Ain holds a BA from QueensCollege, a MA from ColumbiaUniversityTeachers College, and an Ed.D. from HofstraUniversity. She began her career in education as a social studies teacher before she became an administrator. She is also a freelance writer specializing in Meryl Ainissues related to education, families, parenting, and children and has contributed to Huffington Post, Newsday, the New York Jewish Week and The New York Times. She embarked on The Living Memories Project after she lost both her father and mother within a year-and-a-half. She and her husband Stewart live on Long Island and have three sons, three daughters-in-law and three grandchildren.

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