Article Title: Lights, Camera, Action Bubbe
“Your show will go on long after your last breath if you capture your wisdom, your history and your traditions on digital video now like the brilliant seniors turning the video camera on themselves for public broadcast. Last week in an interview with Lynn Isenberg, End of Life Celebration Planner and author of “The Funeral Planner”, pointed me to a recent Wall Street Journal article “Using YouTube for Posterity” about the fastest growing segment of the population, the 65 and older folks, starring on YouTube.
One of the more famous series is “Feed Me Bubbe” of Bayla “Bubbe” Sher cooking chicken soup while sharing stories of her youth. Bubbe, the Yiddish word for grandmother, and her 23-year-old grandson, Avrom Honig, came up with the idea as a way to preserve their family’s recipes and spend time together. The series resembles the Food Network-style cooking show.
I’ve spent many hours with people at the end of their lives while researching my book “Parting Ways”. I’ve learned building and preserving memories sooth the final passage for the soon to be departed and the survivors. So, I applaud the seniors calling on the younger folks to help them record and upload these precious clips to YouTube. Yet, perhaps more rewarding for these seniors is the behind the scenes inter-generational conversation and relationship that can ward-off isolation and meaninglessness often felt in the later years. Another YouTube star is Paul Gordon, a housebound 92-year-old, playing a few jazz numbers on the piano and then sharing his and the piano’s history.
These episodes, which are in effect lessons for the young, remind me of “My Life” the 1993 movie. Michael Keaton plays a young father, with terminal cancer and an unborn son on the way, who gets in front of a video camera to teach his son how to shave, how to jump start a car, how to slam dunk and how to deal with love.
For my book research, I’ve been following a life review guide interviewing hospice patients about their life from birth to the present. The video interview is then synthesized with a chronological montage of photos and married to music from different eras of their lives.
I think these YouTube performances add an entertaining dimension to the video interview. The YouTube seniors follow the advice “Show, don’t tell,” that we as journalists strive to achieve in chronicling life. Bubbe cooking recipes in her own kitchen capture her essence and customs that make up family history. The video interview can be conducted virtually anywhere such as filming dad or grandma leading a walking tour through his or her favorite garden or golf course. This day trip creates a new memory of returning to a favorite place while dynamically recording the reminiscence.
Elizabeth Vega, a journalist and life review guide in my book, says the Azteca believed you die three deaths: one when your heart stops, the second when you’re buried and third when everyone who can remember you passes on. I’d say the brave stars of YouTube will live on for many generations in their own family and the minds of their audience.”