The Last Message
I still remember the morning I read a small news article online that caught my eye. I even copied it and saved it on my computer. It was one of those ‘out of the blue’ things that really hit close to home.
“Stolen teddy bear has a recording of a dying mother’s last message.”
Mara Soriano doesn’t care if she gets her iPad back. She just wants to recover a precious recording of her mother’s voice. Soriano, said her mother’s voice was recorded and put in a custom-made Build-a-Bear teddy bear, which was stolen from her. The audio recording is a final message from her mother, Marilyn Soriano, who died of cancer in June 2019 at age 53. The bear’s disappearance came as Soriano was distracted while moving into a new apartment in Vancouver. Canadian Film star, Ryan Reynolds #vancityreynolds has offered a $5000 reward for return of the bear. #ryanreynolds
I don’t have a Build-a-Bear that has a 20 second message sound chip in it. But the story reminded me of a similar predicament my Aunt Hazel was in.
In the mid 1980’s my aunt and uncle ran a small hardware store where my Uncle Bob had a ‘small engine repair’ in the back. He was constantly busy fixing weed trimmers, power washers, and chainsaws.
My aunt was accustomed to Uncle Bob staying late to finish some repairs especially if it was summer or early fall. One day in October, she closed the store at 5:00 and went home to start dinner. That evening Uncle Bob never came home. My aunt waited several hours, and even tried calling the store, but there was no answer. In a state of panic, Aunt Hazel went back to the store and found him slumped over his work bench. Tragically, he had a sudden heart attack and never even moved from his chair.
The next day my aunt called me in tears. She couldn’t even talk on the phone. I rushed over to her house and found her standing at the kitchen counter where her answering machine was. When I arrived, she didn’t say a word. She just pushed the ‘play messages’ button, and a recording of Uncle Bob’s voice began to tell her, “Sweetheart, I just missed you driving out of the parking lot. I shouldn’t be more than an hour finishing up Bert’s chainsaw. Don’t forget to pick up some BBQ sauce for the pork chops, and always remember, I Love you.” By then I was in tears too.
Aunt Hazel still has that answering machine with the tape in it with Uncle Bob’s voice recording. She wouldn’t dare let it leave her house for fear something might happen to the machine or the small cassette tape.
She doesn’t have any other way of playing the tape except via the answering machine, and she was worried sick about how long it was going to last.
Last Sunday I went over to her home. We signed her up with the basic plan on the LegacyToo.com site, and she and I pushed ‘play messages’ one last time. The voice recording of Uncle Bob is now hers, stored in the “Cloud” worry-free and safely stored for posterity. Thank you so much for this service. Five Stars for sure!
Racheal H. Sunriver, OR
Love Never Dies
In the last few years my grandpa had some health challenges that required more care than Nana could manage. They had found a convalescent home that he was admitted to. Even though his health was waning, he was still sharp as a tack. Each morning, Nana would go to her books, choose one, and make her daily pilgrimage to see grandpa in his room, at the home. She would read, they would talk, and other times just sit together, passing the time.
One visit, I accompanied her to see grandpa. It was wonderful, we hugged, we laughed, and he always had a story to tell. Then, in the moment, as we were enjoying each other’s company, (oddly, just off the cuff) I asked him a question. “Grandpa,” I inquired, “what’s it like to be old?”
He paused, and looked at me. It seemed his eyes twinkled just a little. Then without remorse or sadness, he called my name and said, “I feel just the same as I did when I was 18 years old. I’m just trapped in this old body.”
His response profoundly affected how I perceived him henceforward, (and Nana too). It was the first time I was cognizant enough to realize my grandparents were just the same as me, (on the inside). Strip away every shred of economic and social casting, and all that remains is “us,” truly, ‘young at heart.’ It was a poignant experience.
Then Covid-19 changed everything.
The home grandpa was in prevented all visitation. For the first time in my life I witnessed Nana at a loss for something to do. Her daily routine was reduced to a fleeting phone call they shared each day. Days turned into weeks, and I could see the whole situation of quarantine was taking a toll upon her. She couldn’t read a passage from one of her beloved books to him, as she always did. She couldn’t be there. They couldn’t talk and reminisce like they always did, together.
One evening I asked Nana, “did you ever write any poetry, or stories, or anything that you could send grandpa that might cheer him up, and he hold dear through these difficult times?”
At first, I thought she may not have heard me, because she did not respond. Then, she rose from her chair, and not saying a word, she went up the stairs to her room. “Oh!” I thought, “surely I didn’t offend her!” Then in a few minutes she came back downstairs carrying a small wooden box that looked very old, one that I had never seen before. She placed it on the coffee table, opened it, and carefully removed a stack of letters that were tied together with a silk ribbon. There must have been dozens and dozens of letters.
“These are all the letters I wrote your grandfather when he was in the Korean War. There is also the letters he wrote to me, stateside. He kept everyone I sent him, and I kept everyone he sent me.” I gasped, and exclaimed, “Nana, I didn’t know you had these!” “No, you wouldn’t,” she said, “they are very personal and private. We had only been married 2 weeks before he was shipped out. I wish there was a way I could share these with him, but I don’t dare leave them with the staff, because I couldn’t bear to lose them.”
With excitement I told Nana that I believed I knew just how to help her.
Firstly, I brought over a copier I had just purchased for the office. I didn’t want the originals to leave her sight, so right there in her living room we copied each and every page of her precious letters.
Then I took her online to a website called Legacytoo.com
I explained to her that in the privacy of her home, she could read each letter and record it (in her own voice) so grandpa could listen to them all, (one letter, one audio file at a time). I continued and told her, “once you have the recordings done, we can get a tablet for grandpa, that can access the archive on Legacytoo.com. We can give him the copies of the letters, he can collate each one by the date it was written, and he can follow along with the written copied letter as he listens to you read it to him!”
Nana was floored. “What a splendid idea!” she exclaimed.
She didn’t say it once, in fact she said it twice: “I’m going to do this! I’m going to do this!”
Nana was slow and deliberate making the recordings because she wanted them to be perfect. The first letter/file was dated, July 21, 1952. Each week from that point forward she had written a letter. As she read and recorded the letters she was immersed in the details of their lives that had transpired so many years ago.
The day finally arrived that we were able to drop off the copies and the tablet for grandpa. One of the girls on the staff assured Nana that she would help grandpa get connected online with his tablet. The next day Nana called grandpa to ask him if he was able to listen to the first letter. A girl answered the phone unexpectedly, and informed Nana that grandpa could not talk, and could she call back in a few minutes. Nana of course was alarmed and immediately assumed something was wrong because she knew how much grandpa anticipated her calls. The girl calmed Nana, and told her nothing was wrong, he had just been listening to her letter and was overcome with emotion… he would be fine as soon as he composed himself.
When Nana finally reached grandpa, they spent over an hour on the phone, talking, chuckling, crying, and laughing. At the end of the day, Nana confided in me, “it has been years since she had observed such a tremendous amount of feelings and sentiment displayed by your grandpa.”
The days that followed were filled with bliss that two young newlyweds had shared over 68 years ago. I was so pleased it was no longer lost and forgotten, but now, newly revisited.
Unfortunately, in just a few short weeks, grandpa’s health took a turn for the worst and one Sunday morning Nana was informed grandpa had passed in his sleep during the night. With poise, Nana calmly accepted what she had known was inevitable. She thanked me time and again for helping her secure the legacy of her letters, and told me how much it meant to her to have been able to relive those moments with grandpa before he was gone.
Then one day Nana called me, in what seemed to me to be in a panic. She was almost incomprehensible on the phone. Finally, she calmed herself enough to explain to me, she had went back to the Legacytoo.com archive, and she had discovered a single solitary file had been added to her letter audios.
Grandpa had recorded for her the very first letter he had sent to her, when he arrived in Korea in 1952. What a joyous moment to discover! Shelly D. Churchill MT
One Last Voice Mail
It was a 13 hour drive to see my grandpa. What do you say to someone that you know this will be our last visit?
We laughed and joked and remembered fond memories of Grandma that passed 3 years earlier.
The conversations grew dim and we just looked at each other, the words failed us both. He patted me on the the leg and said, “It’s alright sweetie, thanks for coming to see the old man again!”
I pleaded for his kind words again but he just stared into the the field out the window in silence and tapped my knee. I could barely watch his face but I decided to try just once more…
“Grandpy, I’m going to leave now, as I hugged his neck, would you do me a favor?”
“Sure Sugar, he replied in a muffled voice, what is it?”
“Would you please call my phone and leave me a voice mail before I get home so I can hear your voice welcoming me after the long drive home?”
“I’ll do it Sugar,” his voice cracked. “Bye Bye!”
Grampa made that last call and I played it over and over again the day he died…
Yesterday, I tried to play it again and it was gone! I was crushed! I must have accidentally erased it!
If I had only known I could have saved his voice on legacytoo.com for me and my family!!!
What a fabulous service, I can still record my parents. And I am doing it now.
Lindsey S. Vista CA
Not Gone, Not Forgotten
I heard it only takes 2 generations to become completely forgotten.
I took inventory and reminisced. I am married, with 4 children, 9 grandchildren and a life of hard work, international travel, friends from here to far points of the earth. In two generations not even my descendants will know who I was or even know my name…I know my voice is time sensitive!
As a child our family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all met at our grandparents every Summer for the canning season. It wasn’t difficult to do, we all lived on the same street.
My children never got to see this family tradition and I didn’t do much to tell them about it. BUT, after reading this story, read it all here…
My daughter called me to ask if I would fly to their home next summer to teach her and her children “how to Can” fruits and vegetables!
LegacyToo.com has revitalized our heritage and stored it in the cloud in perpetuity.
Becky H. Twin Lakes MN
Listening to Legacy Memories
Harold was my friend 35 years ago.
His passion was beekeeping and he passed it on as a legacy of love.
In the early 1980’s he was in his late 60’s.
Harold had made his living as a commercial beekeeper for decades. Then in semi-retirement he sold honey at his roadside stand and beekeeping supplies from his warehouse. He taught me everything I know about beekeeping. He wasn’t a stranger to sharing his knowledge and experiences. He was the president of the local beekeeping association. He spoke often, and he even lobbied the state legislature against the use of pesticides. He always chuckled when telling about their political motto, “No Bees, No Apples.”
There are no recordings, books, or film (that I know of) which preserve the wealth of information Harold shared. But what he shared with me I will always keep as his legacy memories.
Harold had a hip replacement which required a lengthy stay in the hospital back then. I visited him often after I got off work. We would sit and talk for hours. It was like he would open his personal legacy box of experiences and share them with me.
He taught me interesting and important facts about keeping bees.
For example, never move your bees during daylight hours, or you will lose all the bees that were out foraging, this would decimate the hive.
Never wear dark clothing when working your bees. A natural enemy to bees are bears, they are black or brown. Naturally bees associate creatures with darkly colored fur as problematic.
Honey is the greatest first aid for burns or scalds. Harold told me an in-depth story of a bee keeper who was scalded with coffee, who applied honey to the burn immediately, which in turn helped alleviate the pain. The burn healed with no scarring.
Harold told me that during the WWII, the government declared bee keeping war-essential. Beeswax was used to waterproof ammunition, torpedoes, and other equipment. Honey replaced tightly rationed sugar. Beekeepers had special privileges regarding gasoline rationing so they might produce supplies of honey and beeswax.
He even told me how some elderly folks believed their arthritis could be reduced with a bee sting at the joint of discomfort. We would both laugh and remark that we would leave that home remedy alone.
A legacy of love and affection was left by Harold for those who listened. His passion kept him going years after he left the commercial trade. It was a privilege to listen to him. I truly wish I could listen to him again. I am thankful to him for the fond legacy memories he left.
Albert C. Gastonia NC
His legacy is a photograph?
My grandfather died at 45 of heart failure. My father hardly knew him as he was 4 when his Dad died. My Dad didn’t know his granddad’s name. Grandfather’s family lived in a different state. Who am I? What is my legacy? Who were these ancestors?
I looked back at the photograph and he stared back at me.
…Oh how I wished recordings had been available for his day!
The doctor left the room and the sunset shone through the window onto my chair, “I have a lot to share, and I will say it in my voice to my generation for their children and those afar off!”
And the photograph smiled…
Grandson F. Ortona FL