by Rita Charleston
It ended — or rather it began — with the death of their mother in 2006. That’s when Arthur Fischman and his sister, Dr. Meryl Ain, decided to write a book to honor their mother. The end result is a book called “The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last” (196 pages, recently published by Little Miami Publishing Co.), which shows how grief can be transformed into positive action and living legacies.
“My mother and my sister were very close, lived just five minutes from each other on Long Island, and her death left a huge gap in my sister’s life,” said Fischman, a former lawyer and now a freelance writer and musician. In the past two years he has played numerous times with his band at the Mermaid Inn in Chestnut Hill and the 7165 Lounge in Mt. Airy.
“After my mother was gone,” said Fischman, who asked that his age not be mentioned, “my sister began asking others how they dealt with the loss of a loved one and the grief that follows, sometimes for a very, very long time. Many people talked about projects, like starting foundations or scholarships. And soon my sister thought that all the good advice she was getting could probably make a good book.
“During her life, my mother loved to write. She loved words, served as an editor during her time with the Women‘s Army Corps and had written a couple of manuscripts. She was also planning to write a book that would record her life and be left as a legacy for her family.”
But their beloved mother died before she accomplish that. So Fischman, his sister, who holds a doctorate degree in education, and her husband, Stewart Ain, a journalist whose mother had also died, joined forces. And after much hard work and many interviews, the relatives co-authored this book, something they felt would honor their mothers and that they could be proud of.
“The Living Memories Project” describes through interviews, anecdotes, essays, poems and photographs the way 32 people — the famous and the not so famous — remember loved ones in a variety of different ways. For example, retired journalist and television host Nick Clooney (father of movie star George Clooney) speaks about the way he memorializes his sisters, Rosemary and Betty Clooney. Jack Klugman recalls his longtime acting partner, Tony Randall. Lynda Johnson Robb speaks about her mother, Ladybird, wife of former president Lyndon B. Johnson.
Author Malachy McCourt discusses keeping alive the memory of his brother, Frank, famed author of “Angela’s Ashes.” The book explains how these individuals keep their loved ones’ memories alive through memory quilts, the arts, scholarships, poetry, recipes and other ways. For example, Jen Chapin, daughter of folk singer Harry Chapin, who was killed in a car accident, writes: “Whether your father is a talented artist or not and whether you have career aspirations or not, write a song or do some other satisfying endeavor. It’s good for the soul.”
Fischman says that writing the book, which took about three to four years from concept to print, proved somewhat difficult. “But the biggest challenge was finding a publisher,” Fischman said. “People looked at it and said there were enough books abut death, and they didn’t sell well. But we felt they were wrong.” And so did Little Miami Publishing Co. of Milford, Ohio, which sells the paperback for $18.95. Fischman says it is also available on Amazon and in select book stores.
Reviews of the book have been uniformly favorable. On Goodreads.com, a book review website, the reviews average four stars out of a possible five. A typical review by “Julie” read in part: “The stories that are shared are, for the most part, endearing and inspirational…Overall, this was an interesting compilation of stories about keeping our loved ones’ memories alive. I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for ideas on how to remember their loved ones and share their legacies.”
“Writing this book has been very cathartic,” Arthur Fischman told us, “but the thing that brings me the greatest joy is seeing my sister getting back to enjoying life. For me, that’s a wonderful feeling.”