My First Client: A Bittersweet Tale

My very first client passed away last month. I don’t remember every interview I’ve ever done, but I do remember that one. While I had interviewed hundreds of people during my 15-year career in television, this was my first actual client - paying ME money. It felt like a big deal.

These days, I have a whole preproduction process in place. But fourteen years ago, when I arrived at Lelia’s doorstep with camera and tripod in hand, it was the first time we’d ever met. I remember how gracious she was, letting me set-up and film wherever I wanted, and then so patient when I abruptly decided I wanted to change angles after I had finished setting everything up.

As I started listening to her story, I realized what a gem of a first interview I had landed! As a young married woman, she immigrated from Argentina to the U.S. and became a business owner in the male-dominated industry of architecture, working full-time while raising children - at a time when all those things were extremely rare. Her energy was inspiring to me, a young mom who, at that time, was trying to figure out the balance of working and mothering.

Early the morning after Lelia passed, her daughter emailed me. She was looking at the DVD we created and realized she no longer had a DVD player to watch it. After I transferred the video digitally for her, she shared how grateful she was to have this video of her Mom so alive and feisty. This was how she wanted to remember her Mom - wise, passionate, and engaging — not the way she had been as she suffered from Alzheimer’s these past several years.

My favorite Great Aunt also passed away from Alzheimer’s recently. I was sad not to be able to go to her funeral and support my cousins. Thankfully, many years ago I had convinced my aunt to answer some questions on video. I was able to share the recordings with my cousin, who was incredibly thankful to have a lasting memory of her Mom in better times.

Death is a part of life, but these stories just echo all the reasons why I do this work and gently nudge you to do this for your families, too.

If you haven’t recorded your story or those of your loved ones, what’s stopping you? With access to technology (cell phones, Zoom, etc.) and other resources (my company, the StoryCorps app, etc.) – it's easy to make a lasting treasure for future generations.

Take the first step – think about who you want to record. If you already know who that is, think about what you’d ask them – or if it’s you, what would you want to share.

In the meantime, I hope you will take this as a tender loving push to record your story soon.