Five years ago, I was on a serious hunt to find people who had also lost both of their parents.
I started my blog, and soon after, learned about Allison Gilbert. I bought her book Parentless Parents and Always Too Soon on the same day and when I did, I immediately knew I wasn’t alone in the world.
Earlier this year I got an email about a new book Allison was working on called Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. The universe seemed to align shortly after and I was able to get an early copy!
This book speaks to my heart.
Using creativity and self-expression, in my opinion, are the two best ways of feeling your feelings and at the same time, having any slow moving, sad or depressive energy move through and out of your body, releasing stagnation. When you do this, you transition the thoughts and feelings you once had into something completely different. The process is healing and moves you toward wholeness. I have to say, this book is in direct alignment with these beliefs.
Passed and Present is chalk-full of creative projects that help to keep the memory of your parents and loved ones alive. There are 85 of ideas to source from; some cost money and are free, some require a bit of effort and planning while some require no planning at all. All of them help to show you that there are so many deep and meaningful ways you can stay connected with your mom or dad (or anyone else who has passed on). Most of the “Forget Me Nots” Allison shows you along the way are how to take personal item and mementos and turn it into something that can you can cherish in a completely new way.
The book is broken down into 5 sections:
- Repurpose With Purpose
- Use Technology
- Not Just Holidays
- Monthly Guide
- Places to Go
Are you someone who has a lot of your parents stuff but no idea what to do with it? Do you keep things just to keep them, but they don’t bring you joy? You can turn that pain into power by using one of Alison’s “repurpose with purpose” projects.
My favorite project in this section was “Shine a Light on Collectibles”.
In this project, Allison recommends finding things your parents collected (or in this case, I might add things my parents loved or had, not just collected), and getting a fillable glass table lamp to put them in.
Turning the light on is such a powerful and beautiful way to feel like your mom or dad is shining on you and showing you the way. I think the most important thing to figure out here with is what items bring you joy and what items make you feel sad (Allison has some good tips in her book about how to do this!).
I am noticing as I am writing this that the idea of trying to figure that out scares me a bit. I would have to really sit down and comb through their things to see if there was something that would bring me a lot of joy. I’m thinking in this moment something that could be fun might be to take my dad’s old radio tapes and put those in a lamp. That idea is actually really exciting to me! That makes me feel light and zinging on the inside. I know that could be a possibility. What kind of items could you put into a lamp?
Tied for my favorite thing in this section (no pun intended!) is “Give Fabrics New Life”. I have always wanted to make something else out of my dad’s old shirts and hats (and also my old concert t-shirts, I have so many of them!). Toes with Tales is one woman owned business mentioned in the book owned who turns clothing into meaningful bags!
My second favorite thing from this section – Repurposing old books into boxes or iPad covers! You have to check out all the ways you can re-purpose things like that from this section, my brain is like, exploding with excitement.
This section spoke very loudly to me, as my dad was a video engineer for CBS television for 20 years and is directly responsible for my passion and intuitive nature when it comes to learning and loving technology. When I was 2 years old, I learned how to set up the stereo system by turning on all the various settings (in the particular order one must) and push play on the Flash Dance soundtrack so I could dance around in my bare feet on the 80’s shag carpet in our downstairs living room. We had the Internet in the early 90’s, and I learned quickly how amazing and limitless it was. This year I celebrate 20 years in the web design world with 10 as a full time web designer – and I have my dad to thank.
My favorite project from this section was about digitizing. There is a company called Legacy Republic that will literally come to your house and help you digitize film, video, photos, and slides. I did something similar on my own last year with a local company in my neighborhood called Blue Moon Camera. It took a lot longer to get the energy to go there with my box of personal items. I wonder what it would be like to work with this company?
There’s another interesting thing Allison talks about called “Show and Tale”. It’s where you get together and kind of like you did in school growing up, you bring an item of your loved one and share the story about it, and it’s significance to you. This has inspired me to do one of these in my upcoming online workshop “Moving Forward After Loss” (and if you’re interested in learning about when this workshop launches, sign up to learn more).
The middle section of the book focuses on celebrating your parent or loved one at any time of year and has a plethora of ideas on how to do this. The activity that spoke to me the most was “Listen to Music” – it’s such a simple task, but when I listen to music my mom or dad loved or listened to while I was growing up, it makes me feel like I’m right back at my old house in Princeton Junction, waiting for company to come over (that was a time my parents often put music on) or driving around with them in the car (my dad was a big jazz fan).
The fourth section reminds me a lot of my posts and podcast episodes about holidays and how to prep for them. This section is done in month order, and you can get inspiration no matter what time of year it is. My favorite section here was for March, and it’s called, “Grow a Memory Garden”. I think that growing things to remember the ones you love is such a beautiful way to nurture your relationship; taking care of a plant with love and care, and even enjoying something that looks beautiful when it blooms can really bring a feeling of peace.
The last section is called “Places to Go”, and this is about showing you places all over the world you can go that are set up for special times to remember your loved ones. This section was inspiring, I had no idea so many things existed that celebrated those who are gone!
All in all, I think this book shows you *the coolest* ways to take your parents things and turn them into amazing additions to your life that bring you joy and peace. Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive is now available on her website, AllisonGilbert.com. I highly recommend it!
(PSST – If you order your copy by April 15, she has free gifts she is giving away!)