Friday, February 23 , 2018, 11:06 am | Fair 53º


Tim Durnin: Life Chronicles Helps Keep Legacy of Loved Ones Alive

Kate Carter and her nonprofit are gaining widespread attention for their efforts to leave a lasting impression

In the spring of 2002, on Good Friday, I spent the day with my father. He had just come home from the hospital and, in spite of battling lung cancer, insisted on keeping his Lenten fast. I made him a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

He was not yet bedridden, and we worked together on a few chores around the house. Later that night my daughters sang to him just before he went to sleep and we said our goodbyes.

He was supposed to have several months to live. I woke up the next morning to a phone call from my sister telling me he was gone.

The unanswered questions, unspoken communications and the too often withheld “I love you” were condemned to remain so. Like Peter, what I wouldn’t do to have that Good Friday back.

I had lunch with Kate Carter of Life Chronicles and, although she didn’t know it, my father was there, too, him and I surrounded by “what ifs” and “might have beens.”

This is familiar territory for Carter, who has made it her mission to leave people like me a legacy of the people they love, like my father.

Carter founded Life Chronicles in 1998 and has captured more than 700 personalities on digital video in the 13 years since. There are an equal number of stories — heartbreaking, joy filled, redemptive, vignettes of lives lived and wisdom shared.

The vast majority of those whose voices and images are captured are in the final days or weeks of their lives. Life Chronicles gives them an opportunity to have some control, some participation in creating and leaving a final endowment.

We ate outside at Silvergreens in Isla Vista. As our conversation commenced, Carter’s passion and enthusiasm filled the room.

It is clear that what started as a simple effort to leave a tangible and lasting reminder has grown into something much bigger. Carter has garnered the sustained attention of Stanford, Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities.

“Palliative care professionals have keyed into the fact that what we are doing is therapeutic,” Carter said. “They understand this is not a scrap-booking or last wish thing we are doing here.”

Carter has taped in 28 states, the United Kingdom and Canada, and there are plans to start a Life Chronicles chapter in Amsterdam.

A new program has Carter working with Casa Esperanza to tape the homeless.

“The project is therapeutic for them and also shows the changing face of homelessness,” she said. “In addition, many of these people will never see their families again. My dream has always been to videotape them so families will have some lasting memories.”

Life Chronicles is a nonprofit organization and does not charge for the services provided. Donated air miles allow for most of the travel, and generous supporters provide housing at diverse and distant locales. Of course, the organization is dependent on capital from donors, but it runs on a very lean budget.

Volunteers fuel much of the work. Santa Barbara High School’s Multimedia Arts & Design (MAD) Academy has been instrumental in populating the core of volunteers. There are eight new interns from the MAD Academy supporting the work of the organization.

Readers can get a taste of the impact of Life Chronicles at Mercado del Norte this Fiesta week. Visit its booth at McKenzie Park and record your one minute of wisdom for the ages.

Life Chronicles’ major fundraiser will be held in conjunction with the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The event, “Honoring, Celebrating and Remembering Life,” will be held at the Lobero Theatre. The $35 ticket includes the play I Was Greta Garbo, written and performed by UCSB professor Ottiliana Rolandsson, with a reception to follow. I will be there with my family.

It has been nine years since I lost my father. The tone and tenor of his voice have become more difficult for me to recall. His animated flesh and expressions have faded some in my memory. I miss him, but I am inspired by Carter’s efforts to make sure I don’t make the same mistake again.

For more information on the organization or to purchase tickets for the Sept. 11 event, click here or call 805.682.3411.

— Tim Durnin is a father, husband and serves as chief operating officer for Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for comments, discussion, criticism, suggestions and story ideas.

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