May 29, 2017 - Robert John Hadfield

The 9-Word Legacy

A sad and sobering story that happened in our little business.


Memorial day is always a time of reflection for me. Although it was specifically created to remember those who died in war, I can’t help but think of it in more general terms. I think about my grandparents and other loved ones who have gone. And from there it’s a short leap to myself. How will I be remembered, or better yet, will I be remembered at all?

I think it’s safe to say that most of us will be long forgotten in a hundred years, but for the people who care about us right now, perhaps we have a responsibility to make sure our legacy remains for a while at least.

But what, if anything, are we doing about it?

Years ago I had a terribly sad experience as part of my business, and I thought it would be appropriate to share on this blog.

We get packages in the studio every day. Sometimes those packages are filled with hundreds of tapes from a church or government agency. Sometimes the package contains a single tape from someone on the other side of the country. But no matter what, the contents of the package are always sent to us for the purpose of preserving something from the past.

One day a package arrived in the studio that impacted me deeply. It didn’t appear to be anything unusual, it was just a padded envelope addressed to our studio. I opened it to find a microcassette. Once again, nothing unusual. The order form was filled out and there was a check included for the conversion fee and the return shipping. Typical of the thousands of orders we receive. But then I noticed a little hand-written note. It read, “this tape came from an answering machine. My grandmother left us a message on it some time ago. She passed away recently, and this is the only recording we have of her voice.”

I put the tape in and proceeded to digitize it. It was only a few seconds long. I normally only listen enough to hear if there are any issues with the recording, but this was so short, I heard the entire thing. It said, “Hi kids, this is grandma, I love you, bye.”

Nine words.

Nine words!

Eighty, maybe ninety years of a life. Ninety years of love, learning, experience, tragedies, triumphs, passions, desires, and only nine words are left behind.

Honestly, it was one of the saddest things I have ever heard.

If you can learn anything from my little business and this experience, take the time today to start preserving memories. Start preserving your words for those who care about you. Start preserving the words of your loved ones too. Don’t wait. Call your grandmother or grandfather this week, visit your mom and dad and record what they say. Ask them meaningful questions and capture their words, their thoughts, their experiences. It is as important as anything else you have on your schedule.

If you don’t have the technology to do it, or you are not sure how to use modern tools, don’t be embarrassed and don’t put it off. Call me and I will mail you a small tape recorder and some tapes you can borrow to get the job done. Yes this is my business, but it’s also my mission. If you don’t have recordings that truly preserve you and your loved ones, if you don’t have recordings that preserve your experiences, your passions, your knowledge, etc.  I hope you will learn from this sad story and start preserving them now.

Death is a rough experience for everyone involved, but it becomes truly tragic when nothing is left behind for those who love you. No matter who you are, you are important to someone, so start creating something they can hold onto when you are gone. Encourage or help those around you; your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters.

Don’t let yourself, or anyone you love, leave a 9-word legacy.

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