This past Sunday I had the opportunity to serve in one of the settings that I love most - recording tributes and memories of, and about, loved ones. In this case, it wasn't a funeral, although recording at memorial events for those who have passed is a passion of mine. Instead, this was a celebration of folks who are still alive - in fact, a celebration of folks who have dedicated their whole lives to helping all of us who are also "still alive." What am I even talking about? I was recording a reception at The Christi Center.
The Christi Center is a nonprofit in Austin that offers bereavement support groups to help people through all types of loss - deaths due to violent crime, overdose, suicide, 'natural' causes, or anything else. Since its founding (30 years ago), it has supported over 100,000 people like me: those of us left to do the hard work of grieving and living on, despite our losses. And Sunday afternoon's reception was a chance to honor (and surprise!) the couple who started it all, Center founders, Susan and Don Cox.
Until Sunday, the tribute and memorial events I've scribed have all been for people who had already passed on. This was the first time that the people whose stories I was hearing were still there to witness the story come to life. As the reception unfolded, first one person, then another, then many, approached me, sharing a story, an anecdote, sometimes just a simple sentence or single word - whatever, to them, captured the essence of Susan and Don's selflessness, love, and care.
Each of these instants of sharing gave me the opportunity to engage in a rich moment of connection - a bearing witness to the common ground that we all shared, as friends and members of The Christi Center, as people who have all known loss in some way. Because we all are united, in grief - it is the great equalizer, in a way. Everybody on the planet is either grieving the loss of a loved one already, or one day, will be. And when we meet somebody, in the chance encounters of our day, we never know where they are on grief's journey. So to listen to these touching memories, and then have the honor of reflecting them back, was truly a gift to me. All the moreso because of how much The Christi Center has personally helped me. And beyond that, because at the end of the afternoon, I was able to present the finished recording directly to Susan and Don themselves, a memento of their past 30 years, of the good that can grow from the darkest tragedy, of the bonds of new love that can be forged out of the hardest times.
Recently, I have begun reaching out to local hospices and funeral homes to share information about my memorial scribing services. I am also planning to expand into more family and community-focused celebrations and milestone events (think bat/bat mitzvahs, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, etc). This isn't the typical corporate side of graphic recording, in fact I don't know of many (any?) others in the field who are applying their skills in this way. But I do know this: that the comfort of such a memento can be a salve to a family facing fresh loss. And the capturing of a charged moment in time - the well-wishes of friends and family at a pivotal event - in a single image, is far more powerful than the hours of video or audio recording, or the cumbersome guest books, that will be so infrequently revisited, watched, or leafed through.
And while some of the hardest recordings I have ever done were in honor of friends and family who had passed, they are also the most rewarding. They are the most human, because they require me to show up most authentically, and fully. They are the ones where the gratitude is larger than the wow-factor. Where I feel like I have truly served.
If you have read this far, and know of anyone who deserves to be celebrated in this way, please reach out to me. It is a constant honor to reflect love back into the world in this way.