Years ago, I saw a movie or TV special about a woman who taped
herself for weeks before she died, leaving a legacy to her children. I
thought it was a wonderful idea at the time, ad I still do. From my
research, I see that children treasure such videos, and I?m so glad
your family intends to make a video for your nieces and nephews.
I did not find much about this topic, but did find many interview
questions, primarily intended for grandparents. They are easily
adaptable to a mother?s perspective however.
Depending on the age and sex of the children, you may want to
draw up a list of things your sister-in-law can say to each of the
children, for special occasions, or even everyday things. For a teen
about to reach driving age, your sister-in-law can say, for example
?Mary, remember that time I almost smacked into that blue van, because
I was looking at the gorgeous clouds? Well, don?t follow my example,
and KEEP your eyes on the ROAD!? To a child that balks at
toothbrushing, the mom can say for example ?Brandon, don?t forget to
brush and floss!? In this way, Mom can tell her kids what she would
have told them anyway, while reminding them of pleasant shared
memories. A little humor will be comforting when the children see the
Have Mom reminisce about their life together, relating stories
about each child, and as a family. Have her talk about her growing up
experiences, situations her kids will go through; acne,
boys/girls/dating, report cards, losing a first tooth/tooth fairy,
Santa/Easter Bunny, first car,favorite sports, prom dresses, nail
polish and makeup, and things such as how proud she is of her family
and how much she loves them. The questions below can provide good
reference points for Mom to share her life and thoughts. Mom can share
her views on drugs, religion, smoking, politics, etc. too.
Speaking of multiple children, after the videotapes are made, if you
don?t have the software to do so yourself, I would get the tapes
transferred to a DVD. (Many drugstores or online web sites offer this
service) This way each child can have their own copy, to keep the rest
of their lives.
Another thought, have good lighting and a pleasant background. I
liked the idea below of Mom holding family photos. Perhaps she can
hold pictures of her kids, or their special belongings.
?Don't go gently into the night.
What may look like enough light to your eye is often not nearly enough
for your camcorder. A 60-watt lamp may give the room a soft, romantic
glow, but it will make your video muddy and unwatchable. Even if your
camcorder doesn't offer the ability to adjust exposure, white balance,
and related settings, there are still a few things you can do. First,
turn off autofocus. It's very hard for the lens to lock on when light
is low, so it will continuously hunt--not pretty. Second, keep the
camcorder as steady as possible. Place it on a table or some other
fixed surface, or better yet, use a tripod.?
?Then I met a social historian who taught me a better way of doing
oral history interviewing-the oral historian's way. Instead of asking
who, where, and when, I should be asking these women why, how, and
? What was your wedding day like?
? How did your mother prepare you for the wedding night?
? What were some of your mother's positive qualities?
? What about negative qualities?
? How did your mother meet your father?
? What is your fondest memory of your mother or your grandmother?
? As you think of your mother or grandmother, how do you remember her looking?
? How old was she then?
? What did you call her?
? What did others call her?
? Tell me a story about your mother or grandmother that would
characterize her or show me what kind of a woman she was.
Always prepare before an interview with questions you'd like to ask,
remembering to seek why did this happen, how did you feel about it,
and what was it like? My favorite book for oral history prep is
William Fletcher's Recording Your Family History. He subdivides
questions into these categories:
? Family history
? Middle age
? Old age
? Narrator as parent
? Historical events
? General questions, unusual life experiences, and personal philosophy and values
? Questions for interviewing Jewish, black, and Hispanic relatives
I use the questions Fletcher provides as a starting point, then tailor
the questions to the woman I'm interviewing based on my prior
knowledge about her life. I write these questions out in advance, but
I'm prepared to deviate if she gives me details about a topic I hadn't
?1. Where were you born? What year?
2. What are the names and birthdates of your brothers and sisters?
3. Did you have a pet when you were growing up?
4. Did you get an allowance?
5. Who was more strict, your mom or dad?
6. What were your favorite games and activities?
7. What chores were assigned to you?
8. What did your house look like? Is it still the same?
9. Did your house have electricity when you were young?
10. What traditions did your family have?
11. Did your family have big reunions?
12. Did you like school? What kinds of grades did you get?
13. What were your favorite subjects?
14. When you were a teenager, what time did you have to be home at night?
15. How old were you when you met grandma/grandpa?
16. How old were you when you got married?
17. What was your first job?
18. Tell me about my mom/dad when he/she was growing up.
19. What makes you proud of my mom/dad?
20. Have you accomplished what you wanted in life?
21. What do you think the President should do for the country now?
22. What advice would you like to give me?
More sample questions:
What others have done:
?Aslow highlights 41 year old Andrew Doctoroff, a psychologist and
judge, who lost his mom in 1999 and his dad in 2002:
"They were exceptional people -- warm, empathetic, vibrant and good,"
Doctoroff says. As his mother was losing her struggle with cancer, he
dreaded that his young children would grow up without a sense of her.
So he began videotaping his mother, asking her about her regrets and
triumphs, her values and her sickness. He taped her at the family
dinner table as she cradled his baby daughter. After she died, and his
father was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, he taped him, too?.
Mr. Doctoroff says that since losing his parents, he feels
disoriented. ?those 28 hours on videotape are "magical elixirs that
animate my parents, bringing them back to life," he says.?
While they're alive, boomers' parents can take steps to soften the
mourning process their children will endure, says Phyllis Davies,
author of "Grief: Climb Toward Understanding." Her parents died in
1997 and 1999, and years earlier, her mother wrote a letter to the
family and left it with her will. Her mom wrote: "I hope that the
initial shock of my departure has begun to wear off, and that the kind
carpet of pleasant memories has started to unroll."
She asked her children to recall the happiest family memories, and she
listed many: "Christmases...the nights we slept under the stars...the
pets we loved..."
She also wrote that someday, her children would be standing at the
Pacific and feel a sudden, soft breeze, or they'd be in the mountains,
noticing the stirring of trees. "Feel that I'm sharing the moment with
you," she wrote.?
?One of her patients made birthday cards for her five children,
eventually making cards to last for the next 10 years. Other patients
have made videos of themselves reading bedtime stories to their
grandchildren, or have gone through scrapbooks identifying relatives
whose names might otherwise be lost.?
?"Try not to wear heels," Melanie's mother, Gail Sovern, says on the
tape. "Dyeing your hair is O.K. A little pink or purple is good," her
mother continues, and "ear piercing is O.K., at 11 or 12."
Fast-forward and there is Gail, then 39, in her bathrobe, laughing and
dancing to "Tie a Yellow Ribbon," with Melanie, then 5, clinging to
one arm, and her sister, Lindsay, 3, snuggled into the other.?
?Hoping to nurture their children from afar and assuage the dread of
leaving a child too soon, a small but growing number of terminally ill
parents are painstakingly leaving behind more tangible links:
audiotapes, videotapes, letters, cards and gifts that children can use
to bolster memories and use as a guiding hand.
The tapes bear messages of love and remembrance: the dress a daughter
wore on her first day of kindergarten, the thrill of a trip to Yankee
Stadium, a son's jitters before a first piano recital. The letters
riff on parents' life stories, their hopes for their children and the
life lessons they wish to impart. Some parents choose gifts or cards
for future birthdays or Christmas celebrations. One mother created a
tape to be given to her son on his wedding day, if and when that
occasion arrives. One father left written messages behind paintings, a
surprise that his children stumbled across a year after his death.
Through these things, dying parents bequeath courage, laughter, a
semblance of companionship and even a guiding hand, therapists and
spouses said. The keepsakes help crowd out the searing tableaux of
death with reminders of how Mom or Dad sounded, moved and thought
?"It doesn't have to be the most profound life lesson," Melanie said
as she spoke about the video recordings of her mother. "It's the
?Every birthday and Christmas for the past three years, Lindsey
Frilot, 11, of Gresham, Ore., has set aside one present to be opened
last. The present is from her mother, Lisa, who died of cancer three
years ago but managed with the help of her own mother to choose
presents and cards from her hospital bed for Lindsey until she reaches
?Joanne Camier, a nurse at South Austin Medical Center, has yet to
look at the videotape since her husband's death. But she knows it's
there when she needs it. "I'm very glad I have it, because no matter
how much you love someone, you forget their mannerisms and their
voice. I have it on videotape now. It brings it all back. You can
almost reach out and touch them," Joanne says.
"I didn't realize the impact at the time, but I wouldn't part with
that thing for a million dollars," she says of the videotape.?
?Camier's videotape was done in the living room of his home. The
project was Camier's idea, and it suited well his outgoing
personality. In it, Peter, who worked in hospital dietary services
before he retired, and his wife, Joanne, visit with Pickard, while
Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman play in the background. It's a happy
gathering, with dogs and parrots and easy laughter all part of
Camier's final gift to his family.?
???Letters to my Daughter? began just as that, letters giving advice
to my 16-year-old daughter Cara. The letters are somewhat unique, in
that they are written from the perspective of both a psychologist and
a father. Due to my illness, I know that I will not be around forever.
However, the advice and concepts in this book will outlast us all.
This is a way to insure my presence and input into my daughter?s life
both now and throughout her lifetime,? Yarbrough wrote.
The psychologist turned author also wrote that as his letters began to
take shape, he realized it was not only a work for his daughter, but
for all teens and parents.
?The response I am getting from this book seems to confirm that other
parents do hold the same concerns for their daughters,? he wrote.
Among the nuggets of wisdom Yarbrough writes to his daughter are the
freedom to take responsibility for her own actions and just how to
have a prayerful relationship with God.?
??Life review and reminiscence? is a relatively new practice, in which the
patient remembers and recounts to at least one other person the story
of his life. For example, a patient might write letters to loved ones
in a journal or videotape himself relating significant past events;
this can help him to identify ways he has coped and strengths he has
used in the past. It may also help patients and families to resolve
longstanding differences. One way to help a patient begin a life
review is simply to say, ?Tell me your story.? Patients themselves may
also initiate such conversations during
?They also discussed ways to help Ms. Hernández talk about her life
with her daughters, including videotaping her account of her life
story and writing letters to her daughters to be opened on landmark
events in their lives. Through these efforts, Ms. Hernández lived her
final weeks in comfort and with dignity.?
You may find something of interest here:
I hope this is the answer you were seeking. If not, please request an
Answer Clarification. I will be happy to assist you further, before
Good luck with your project! Your family will be very appreciative, I know.
interviewing dying + video
Terminal patients + interview + video