After my parents died – Dad in 1992, Mom in 1996 – we created the Tammeus Fund for Global Mission and Understanding at their church, First Presbyterian of Woodstock, Ill.
Although modest in size, it continues to allow members there to connect with the wider world and understand that world better.
It’s an example of what Meryl Ain, Stewart Ain and Arthur M. Fischman write about in their useful new book, The Living Memories Project.
This book came about as a result of the unmitigated grief Meryl Ain experienced because of the death of her mother, whom she describes as her “best friend and confidante.” As she talked with people about how to deal with this, she discovered that lots of people were creating various living memorials to their dead, from foundations to documentaries, special quilts to artistic works.
So she decided to bring her husband Stewart along, as well as her brother Arthur, to create a book that would be her mother’s living memory project. But the book would be an account of how other people had created such projects.
So they set out to interview the people who have done just that.
Among the more fascinating stories in the book is that of Robert Meeropol, who established the Rosenberg Fund for Children to help kids whose parents are imprisoned. So who were Meeropol’s parents? None other than the convicted and executed spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, center of a famous spy case in the U.S. in the early 1950s. (The fictional book to read is The Public Burning, by Robert Coover, an amazing piece of work from the 1970s that gets at the heart of the Rosenberg case in unique story-telling ways.)
Another project described in this new book is a documentary film about Babe Ruth done by his granddaughter. Linda Ruth Tosetti believed most accounts of the Babe’s life had ignored his humanitarian work.
I was unaware, for instance, that, among other things, Babe Ruth had signed a full-page ad in The New York Times in 1942 denouncing the ways in which Nazis were persecuting Jews.
Well, there are 30 or so living memory projects described in the book. Such projects can be one more means of coping with grief and of keeping alive the memory of people who have died. It always makes me feel good each year when I get a report from my late parents’ church describing the projects that the Tammeus Fund had made possible in the previous year. It gives me visions of my folks high-fiving me and my three sisters from beyond.
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I wrote this essay for The Kansas City Star that relates the values discussed in my new book, Woodstock: A Story of Middle Americans, with the values displayed in Kansas City after the recent shootings at two Jewish establishments. Have a read and see if you think I'm right.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter now is online here.