For the last few weeks a few friends have reached out in regardless to their parents getting terminally ill diagnoses. One thing they all want to know is what I did with my own dying father four years ago to try to bottle him up as best as I could. I didn't really have anyone to turn to for this. I really had to figure it out on my own and looking back on it, I often wonder if it felt as morbid to him as it does to me now. What a strange paradox that time was...trying to keep yourself together while also trying to keep parts of him forever.
Hopefully you'll find one or more of these ideas helpful!
1. I made a video asking him questions.
One of the only times it was quiet was during his chemo. So I set up shop around his chemo chair and I asked him all sorts of questions.
I started off by asking about his childhood. "Where were you born? What was your childhood like? Tell me some funny memories. What do you wish your parents did differently? What were your parents really good at?" -- things like that.
Then I moved on to my childhood. "What was becoming a dad like? Tell me your favorite memories of us growing up? What do you remember about me being a child? If you could go back what would you change."
Then I asked him why he was proud of me and advice for the future.
You can tailor it directly to your own situation and make it as long or as short as you'd like. But that video means the world to me now. I love just sitting there and listening to him talk about his life in general.
2. I had him record his voice in a Hallmark recordable book.
I ordered this one because its story is really about how we are all connected. The sentiment is very sweet and even makes me feel like "wow, he can see what we see, too!" It talks about the moon, the stars, the wind and more and how you can send your love to each other through them. The writer of this book is a genius.
He recorded his voice and dedicated the story to my kids. At the time it was the four girls. If I could go back and have him redo it, I would have him say all of their names but then add "and any future Schultz babies". I don't know why it bothers me so much, but it sort of makes me sad that Bowie isn't included. We never would have known at that time that he would be apart of our family. But I still think I would have my father say that.
3. He did a handprint on a canvas.
I loved the idea of having his handprint. But now I wish more than anything I had him do it in a concrete type of thing. Maybe like a stepping stone or even made him put his hand in one of those molds so it was 3D. I love seeing his hand, but I wish I could physically feel it and hold it. Maybe that's morbid but I would definitely do that one differently.
4. He wrote me a letter.
He wrote all of his kids letters. I have mine framed in my bedroom. You can tell his handwriting isn't as sharp as it once was. I can see the wiggles in his letters and I can see how much energy it took him to write them. But I always admired his handwriting. I still love sitting there and staring at it. I love how his handwriting was so unique to him. It's always been one of my favorite parts of him. That letter means the world to me.
Now, I would have also had him record his voice in stuffed animals for all of my kids. I think having something that's just theirs to remind them of him would be extra special. Something with his voice that they could cuddle would be really sweet for a little child.
Truly I think that these things could and should be done with non-terminally ill parents as well.
You never know when you might lose someone so I think we should all be conscious of how we can keep parts of them alive. Buy the recordable book for your mom or dad to read. Next time you're with them, do a video interview where you ask them about their life. Do this with grandparents even!
Life is precious and short and we are all doing our best to remember those we love.
I hope this helps give some ideas of what to do with your loved ones.
If you have any other ideas, I'd love to hear them as well!