Update on Elsie: Preserving My Mother’s Story

Every family has a story. Those stories make your family unique. As psychologist Marshall Duke explains, “Ordinary families can be special because they each have a history no other family has.” In writing this weekly Family Legacy Planning series, I’ve revealed stories about my own heritage, especially the stories of my four grandparents immigrating from Eastern Europe to America to escape persecution against Jews.

Research shows that heirs who know more about their family heritage, especially examples of ancestors’ resilience, have higher self-esteem and are better equipped to handle adversity. The best way to teach younger generations about their heritage is by telling stories. For that reason, I’ve become an active proponent to encourage people to document their stories. If not, these precious family jewels will get lost over the generations.

As I advocate for preserving stories, I’ve become the proverbial cobbler who is now taking care of my own shoes. I am now engaged in a full-blown effort to create “The Elsie Blum Story.” I can’t claim the credit for this idea. The seed for it was actually planted when Sam Daniel sent me the following email after reading of my brother Irwin’s unexpected death from pancreatic cancer at age 65, and how Elsie jumped in at age 85 to take over the family business:

Your weekly stories are now a must-read in my inbox! Your story about Irwin touched me deeply. Now this story about your mother is incredible to read! Elsie is a hell of a woman, and I mean that nicely! I think a wonderful way to honor her legacy is to sit down with her for a series of discussions about the family history. At Elsie’s age, she is a walking, talking wealth of stories and knowledge about your family history. Record her voice speaking about her life, your father’s life, her parents and your father’s parents. I wanted to do this with my mother before she passed, but alas, she developed dementia and was gone in a matter of months. Needless to say, I regret that lost opportunity.

Sam’s email was a wakeup call to record my mother’s voice before dementia or death come along (often unexpectedly) and then it’s too late. I wanted that history to be told in Elsie’s charming “Lady Bird Johnson” deep South accent. Fortunately, Elsie at age 91 is still going strong, and 100% sharp mentally. I teamed up with “Live On” to help create a video history of Elsie’s story. A few days before filming began, my mom expressed some reluctance (a common occurrence). She agreed to proceed on the condition that I sit next to her throughout the filming. Thankfully, we have now completed several hours of recordings, and the evidence is preserved. We now begin the next step of converting that footage into a final product.

In next week’s post, I’ll share more specifics about the process of creating “The Elsie Blum Story” and explore various options for documenting a lasting family history. I’ll also share a one-minute “teaser” video of Elsie’s story.

Elsie update: As the attached photo shows, Elsie has now added “runway model” to her resume, selected by The Stayton to model in their recent fashion show. Though her mind is still completely sharp, after two falls in the last couple of years, she agreed it was time to retire her high heels and use a walker. Some may have too much pride to admit the need for walking assistance, but Elsie is a role model to stand tall, use a walker, and walk with dignity. To anyone who is unsteady, please follow Elsie’s lead and take the safe route. It’s not worth falling.

Marvin E. Blum

Elsie Blum, adding runway model to her resume, an inspiration for future generations to stand tall and walk with dignity.