Capturing Memories (And an “In Memory Of…”)

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce the death of Bliss Michelson. Michelson died yesterday from complications of COVID-19.

He was 71. Last month his beloved wife died in New York City from complications of COVID-19. Michelson was the host of one of my favourite classical radio stations, WRTI in Philadelphia. Mornings aren’t going to sound the same! First, it was Gregg Whiteside’s abrupt departure, now Bliss is gone!

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After I heard the news, I looked through the photos I took of WRTI’s Block Party in September 2019. I remember Bliss standing next to the stage, but sadly, every photo I took of the stage Bliss wasn’t in them! I was sad about that and I was even more sad with the fact that I talked to Bliss briefly then, thought he was a kind man, but was too nervous to ask for a photo with him or a selfie. Now I wish I did.

I was having disagreements with some people on one forum site and many of the posters told me to put down the camera, stop documenting, and start living life without documenting. I disagree. I live every moment fully, but I also want to capture it. I also want to write it. I think documenting is important.

Many others would agree too. Scrapbooking and photo book making are a multi-billion dollar industry. I have never said and I never heard anyone else say, “Man, I wish I didn’t take so many photos of grandma!” “Gee, I wish I didn’t write down my vacation in Poland!” No. I have heard, however, “Gee, I wish I took one last photo with grandma.” “Boy, I wish I did take photos and I wish I did document my Sabbatical to Israel.” We can live in the moment and we can document. We can do both simultaneously.

Bliss’s sudden death yesterday had me looking at old photos before dinner. I found photos of Great Grandma, Pop-Pop, Nan, Aunt Kelly, Aunt Millie and some of Mom-Mom. However, I wish I had more photos with Great Grandma and Pop-Pop when I was a teenager. I wish I wasn’t an angry teenager who was angry at Pop-Pop and resentful towards the end. I wish I had more photos with him towards the end. Same with Great Grandma, although I wasn’t angry with her.

When I was given my first camera, that was right after her stroke. She was 94 when she had the stroke and lived by herself until she was 96. My great aunt placed her in a nursing home in the last two years of her life – she died at 99.5. I wish I wasn’t self-conscious about taking photos when the Irish came to visit in 2008. It was a year before Great Grandma died and it would have been nice to have photos. Aunt Kathy is a photographer and I believe she took photos, I think I will have to ask her. I want to make a scrapbook.

I was angry with Nan after her cancer diagnosis, I think when I’m in active grieving, I don’t get sad and teary, I get angry. Angry is how I grieve in the beginning. Nan’s cancer came back in July 2012, it was stage 4, she was 89 and decided against chemo. It wouldn’t prolong her life. She accepted she was dying and I didn’t want to lose Nan. I was both angry and sad. I held it against her in the first two months, but in her final four months, I took as many pictures with her as humanly possible. I will probably make a scrapbook with those photos and talk about her final months. Fill the pages with beautiful memories too.

Mom-Mom died when I was 7 and there are quite a few photos of me with her when I was a child. She was 57 when she died and we had similar birthdays. I’m July 4, she was July 2. I have a sweet photo with her blowing out our candles on our birthday cake. She had throat cancer and she was really sick in the photo. While I wish there were more memories and photos, I’m grateful for those I have and can remember since she died so young and when I was so young.

Part of joy is our relationships with our families. Part of joy is making memories and keeping those memories. Part of joy is sharing those memories with others. We only regret the moments we didn’t have, the photos we never took, and anything we never did.

Rest easy, Bliss. May your memory be a blessing. Rest easy, Nan, Pop-Pop, Great Grandma, Mom-Mom, Aunt Kelly, Aunt Millie, may your memories be blessings.

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Creator of the Happiness Box Project Initiative, a project where you write your happiness or gratitude each day, then open the box in the New Year. The Initiative is to teach joy and gratitude, to pass it on to others.

One thought on “Capturing Memories (And an “In Memory Of…”)”

  1. Hi, Jessica Marie!

    I am terribly sad to read about another loss that hit close to home, another one connected with the radio station you love so much. Bliss Michelson was my age and that’s too young to die. This isn’t the first story I’ve read in the last year in which someone passes away soon after the death of their husband or wife. The death of a spouse is an extremely traumatic event in one’s life, and with or without COVID in the picture, the shock can have a devastating impact and drastically shorten one’s life. It was a blessing that you had a chance to chat briefly with Bliss at that block party in the fall of 2019 before the pandemic struck. Although you didn’t take pictures of him and some of your relatives you mentioned, your mind snapped pictures and you will remember those people always. As you stated, memories of people we loved and admired who are now departed are blessings. I agree that you can live in the moment and also take time to record images and later write about those experiences. Most people I know regret having forgotten to take pics of important moments in their lives and/or to get their memories written down while they are still fresh in their minds. I’m sorry to learn that your Mom-Mom died at such an early age – 57.

    Once again I offer condolences on the loss of another person who meant a lot to you, dear friend JM. Life goes on, and I wish you a good week ahead if not a great one!


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