Kerry Glass Helps Keep Memories Alive When Loved Ones Pass Away
For those of you familiar with my personal backstory, you know that a big part of the evolution in my career stems from the unexpected, early death of my husband. Certainly, the media has done their fair share of covering that tragic event in an effort to explain the rather unusual nature of my recovery, namely becoming a well-respected, highly influential propagator for social good and media-entertainment entrepreneur.
I am proud of the positive contributions to society that I have made as well as my ability to “turn lemons into lemonade” as my late husband would always say. The truth is, however, what I am most proud of is how my children turned out. All four of them are enormously successful and have dedicated their own lives to the service of others in one form or another.
Much of the reason, I believe, that each one of them survived so well was because I made it a point of keeping their father’s memory alive in our everyday. I also exerted a great deal of effort teaching them about him -- both measures necessary in maintaining strong identities and overcoming the immense loss with as little scarring as possible.
It is for that very same reason that Entrepreneur Kerry Glass launched Memories Live. Kerry, too, realized the critical nature of keeping dying loved ones’ memories alive for the benefit of those experiencing the loss along with the education of future generations. I truly wish I had, had this resource available to me when I needed it most but, since I did not, I wanted to share it with you -- part of that social good thing I’ve got goin’ on and the fact that I just plain care!
What is your personal mantra?
I’m not sure I have one but, I’m constantly telling my boys to be their best selves.
Briefly discuss your personal and professional background.
I graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in art and a minor in psychology. I earned my masters in art therapy from Pratt Institute. I worked at The Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale for 5 years as an art therapist and was the supervisor of the art department.
What was the catalyst behind launching Memories Live?
In 2009, a mother with two young children - living in a neighboring community - passed away from lung cancer. I immediately thought of her young kids who didn’t have the chance to really know her. They wouldn’t know the sound of her voice, stories of her childhood and words of wisdom directly from her. Her death really struck me as a mom of two young boys, myself. I decided to take my skills as an art therapist and a mommy moviemaker and marry them. So, in 2010 I launched Memories Live as a 501c3 non-profit. I told myself I’d give it a year and either I’d have a year of failure (where I’d learn a lot) or a year of success and I’d keep on going. Six years later and more than 120 movies made, we are “keeping going!”
Explain what this organization does? How it does it? And the time frame each individual video is usually completed in.
The mission of Memories Live (ML) is to help people with life-limiting illnesses preserve their images, stories and wisdom by creating personalized movies to pass on to their loved ones. These movies are created at no cost to the individual or their family.
Typically, potential clients learn of ML through a network of healthcare professionals that I have presented to. When I get a referral, I’ll email the list of questions I have created. The filming is a one shot deal. I’m usually filming people who are very ill so I have found that - emotionally and physically - one sitting does the trick. We’ll sit and casually go through the questions as the camera is rolling. We’ll talk about family & personal history; funny and heartwarming anecdotes; and advice for major life events. People sing songs, recite poetry, read stories, share recipes & family customs. I tell each and every client that there is no wrong way and no right way to do this; we will do it your way. When I edit, all I take out is my voice asking questions. The finished product is broken into chapters, which are the questions and topics we discuss. It becomes easy for the family to watch it as they can navigate through the movie and watch whichever chapter they’d like when they want. My goal is to have the finished product back to my client in 2-3 weeks, if not sooner.
At what stage in their illness do your clients usually contact you?
I’ve filmed individuals one day before they’ve passed and a year before they’ve passed. To date, I have filmed over 120 movies. The average age of my clients is 55 and the most common illness is cancer.
Share the story behind the most difficult interview you ever had to do.
I always refer to myself as the strength behind the camera. I’ve never broken down -- well, almost once when I shared the room as I filmed my client, a 42 year old mom with two boys right around the age of my own. So here I was pretty much filming myself. She was beautiful, funny, down-to-earth. She spoke with strength and honesty to her boys, whom she adored. At the end as she lost it, I nearly did too. This was the only time this has ever happened to me. It hit so close to home. She’ll never leave my memory.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from these experiences?
Wow, so very many but the most important one is to be grateful for everyday. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
How has this company changed your life?
I was very shy growing up and still am to this day. When I go out and present ML to hospital, hospices etc. I am so confident. It has given me a new voice and sense-of-self I never had before. I truly believe in my product and ‘sell’ it with confidence in a very empathetic way.
How do you manage to continue this work as it must take a toll on you, given the depth, and yet brief, connections you make at a time when circumstances are dire?
I take the good with the bad. The beautiful emails and handwritten notes I receive mean so much to me and constantly re-affirm why I am doing this. Additionally, exercise is a huge part of my life so swimming, running and yoga give me a place to “let it all out” in a healthy way. One more thing that is always waiting for me after an emotional day is a large glass of wine.
Do the families of the clients who have passed, reach out to you thereafter, on a regular basis? Explain.
Regular basis, no. I’m often associated with the loss so I rarely hear from families once their loved one has passed. I don’t take it personally; I get it. Some donate to my yearly event and may send along a short note.
How is Memories Live funded?
We are funded through a combination of grants and donations. We hold a yearly fundraiser as well.
When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered?
As someone who had an idea and made it happen.
You know, the value of a memory cannot be quantified, even moreso when caught on camera. I know my late husband would have loved to leave behind a video like this for his children to visit, especially when they were aching to hear the sound of his voice or see the love in his eyes when he spoke about them. It is something to keep in mind if you know of or come across a person or family in need. We will all be there someday, folks. Helping those facing that day now by suggesting Memories Live is an act of pure good and selflessness -- one which will live in your own memory for the rest of your life, I assure you.
Many thanks to Kerry Glass and Lianne Mandelbaum for making this interview possible