Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Creative Condolence: A Life Story In 15 Songs

Just beyond the rim of my soup bowl lay an issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Perusing the story titles listed on the cover, 'JACKSON BROWNE My Life In 15 Songs' caught my attention and imagination. The 66 year old singer songwriter likely has many more creative years ahead, but he embraced Senior Writer, David Fricke's invitation to examine a career that began with his 1972 debut album, Jackson Browne. I am the Condolence Coach, so naturally, I wondered:

Can you tell a life story in 15 songs?

Step One:  Create a LIFETRACK.

A very important part of funeral gatherings is celebrating the life lived. Important healing takes place in recounting:
  • a summation of the family tree
  • anecdotal stories
  • life turning points
  • military and community service
  • achievements
  • hobbies and favorite things
  • travels and other adventures
  • impact and influence on others

I was reminded of the dozens of life avenues that should be examined by glancing through the excellent book, ObitKit A Guide to Celebrating Your Life by Susan Soper. Every family should have--and use--an ObitKit book.

A Lifetrack should be written; whether you use the fill-in-the-blank book format of the ObitKit, a spreadsheet, or a pad of paper, organize your thoughts. Be warned: you may need to do some digging (research.) What was dad's mother's maiden name? Find a birth certificate. What did dad do in the Navy? Find his DD-214 discharge documents.

This recounting is often the basis of photo slideshows.

Photo montages are a very popular feature at visitations and funeral services. These may be prepared professionally by online or local vendors, or assembled by a funeral home using video tribute software. Most often, I find that a family member is drawn to tackle the project. After many hours of scanning old photos and downloading digital assets to their home computer, the memorial slideshow is burned to DVD or sent to a USB stick. Sometimes there is a soundtrack but often, there is not. Which brings us to those 15 songs...


Every life has a soundtrack.

Step Two:  Create a SOUNDTRACK.

Armed with a Lifetrack, it's time to make a SOUNDTRACK. I have nothing against the cultural influence of the wonderful music recorded by Bette Midler, but I have heard The Wind Beneath My Wings, too many times. I'm also getting a little weary of Glenn Miller's String of Pearls and The Andrew Sisters' Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. But if these songs were expressed favorites, go ahead and include them.

Step Three:  Creative Condolence: A Life Story in 15 Songs

Is this a condolence note or a music mix? How about both?

A. Giftable Media- a Music Keepsake

If you have the ability to assemble the Life Story in 15 Songs' audio files--the delivery format is wide open--it is sure to enhance your condolence note. But be sure that the recipient has the playback ability; not everyone can stream music, play what you burned, or know which button to press. Consider eliminating hurdles by making a date to meet and, using your device, enjoy the Soundtrack together.

B. Creative Condolence Note

Here is where your core skills as a condolence writer are meant to blossom. After the extensive effort of steps one, two, and three-A., your heart and mind are full. Sit down and slowly release the admiration and affection to paper.
  • Express your sense of loss.
  • Explain your motivation to create A Life Story in 15 Songs
  • Write out your playlist.
  • Explain your choice of each song. A sentence, a brief story, are sufficient.
  • If appropriate, state that you will contact the recipient to schedule a visit for sharing the Soundtrack. (Don't forget to make that call, soon after your note's likely arrival.)
The ObitKit was first introduced to readers in my post: Curb Your Enthusiasm? Not In My Condolence!

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