My mom loved pens and was always buying them. She grew up in a time when we wrote to one another, when two people would have long and meaningful correspondence with one another. You could get to know a person writing to them, update them on life's biggest biggest moments putting pen to paper, or fall more in love with them with every lick of a stamp. Can you imagine such a thing today?
Molly had this beautiful, distinctive handwriting. She printed instead of writing in cursive, but each letter was angled and fluid; her handwriting was beautiful to look at. She loved to write, and she had a great eye for the best writing instruments. If you ever borrowed a pen from her, you wanted to steal it.
This is one of those little things that was a part of the big person that was Molly Gray. It's something you can't find in a photo, and album, or a video. You had to be close to her and love her to know it. I saved it in her Memory Kit under "Little Things". -Jeff
Memorial Day and Memorial Day weekend has always been a time of reflection for me. When I was very young, it always involved a trip to the cemetery to place flowers on the grave of my grandfather E O (Manny) Harris. He lied about his age to volunteer for the Army in order to serve with my uncle, Russell Harris, in France during World War I.
Several members of the Gray and Harris families served in the military through the years. During WW II, my uncle, Raymond Gray, served under General Patton In his tank assault across Europe. His sister, Beatrice (Babe) served in the Waves, and my cousin, Max Harris, was a Navy gunner instructor during that same war. Cousin, Bob Curtis, served on the Air Craft carrier Wasp following the Korean conflict. During that same period cousin, Wayne Gray, was a member of the Army at Fort Leonard Wood.
I spent my active duty with the 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. My Army Reserve unit, 776 Quarter Master Company, Aerial Supply did weekend duty during the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962. Several months after release from active duty my unit, Headquarters Company, 502nd Infantry, was deployed to Vietnam. Several of my friends, and comrades were among the 58,000 plus who lost their lives in that conflict. As a result, Memorial Day had an even greater significance to me.
Memorial Day weekend 2015 changed the focus for me, and my family. Molly Gray, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend too many succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease ten days earlier. On May 30th, friends and family gathered together in West Hollywood, California for her memorial service. Many wonderful words of remembrance were spoken. Through tears and laughter we celebrated her life.
This weekend I still remember all those who served our country in peace and war making us a secure nation. My heavy heart still makes me recall that beautiful day of remembrance for our Molly, May 30, 2015.
45 years ago today my dad, John Gray, began his career at CBS Television in Chicago. It was the beginning of a great 32 year run - from the Windy City to the Big Apple and back (twice), and then out to Television City in Hollywood. He started as an account executive and retired 13 years ago as a Senior Vice President. (Slacker).
Dad loved his job a lot, and the people he worked with even more. As a family, we loved the fun and adventure that came with his career. CBS became, and still is, a part of our DNA. I never needed to know the address to CBS in Los Angeles - it was just right there on the corner of Beverly and Fairfax. But I'll never forget the addresses to the Chicago and NY offices - 630 North McClurg Ct, and 51 West 52nd. (The former was the home of the first televised Presidential debate in 1960).
Here's to you, John Gray. Remembering a what a great career you had, and how much fun we had being a part of it!
On a sunny spring day in May of last year those near and dear to my mom, Molly Gray, came together at the Chateau Marmont Hotel to celebrate her life and legacy. It was an informal gathering on the lawn where anyone who wanted to share a memory could take the mic and pay tribute to a life so brilliantly lived.
We were pleasantly surprised by the arrival of a guest that no one knew; a stranger to us, but not to Molly. David was striking: 6'4", his hair pulled back, wearing a black suit with no shirt. Awesome! I chatted with him before we began and learned that he helped care for someone else at the memory care community where mom lived and had met her there less than a year ago. What he told me, and later shared with everyone, was that he had been introduced to Molly in a unique way: one afternoon she was aggravated that he was in her way and punched him in the back! But more poignantly, he told us that she was so helpful, thoughtful, and caring of the other residents that he thought at first that she was one of the caregiving staff. Hearing this was a great gift to our family because over the last year of her life she became very confused and agitated when we visited, so we rarely got to see much of the real Molly we knew and loved. David told us that he almost didn't come because he hadn't known mom very long and didn't know our family. But, as he beautifully put it, "she was a person you didn't need to know long to feel like an old friend". Without knowing it at the time he had become a member of Molly's clan.
Having a loved one with Alzheimer's taught me a lot about the value of memories, and their fleeting nature. We're building The Memory Kit to bring people together in an entirely new way, so that the richest possible remembrance of a lifetime can be captured. So many people have memories to share, and we know you'll want to hear them all; from your family and friends, co-workers and colleagues, and, yes, maybe even a stranger or two. #yourmemoriesmatter
Do you see those photos on the wall behind me? That was what we called "The Wall of Fame" in the den, at my parents' home in the Hollywood Hills. For 26 years we added photos to it and they sprawled across the wall in a wonderful haphazard way, the photos commemorating births, graduations, marathons finished, weddings, road trips, loved ones lost, and other great memories of our family and friends.
I spent as much time in that house as any other single place on earth and I'll tell you, I never got tired of looking at that the photos on that wall. And it was like a magnet for first time visitors to the house. You could gaze at it and get a true sense of the great life that my mom and dad built together, and if your picture was on the wall you could not help but feel lucky to be a part of it.
When we had to pack up and move after selling the house, the very last thing to go was the Wall of Fame. I remember my sister and I were there, along with some painters who were touching up the walls in a now empty house. We told them not to start on the den until we gave them the OK -- we were going to photograph the wall and then take down the pictures ourselves. I can't remember why, but we went out to run a quick errand, and when we returned one of the painters had taken it upon himself to "help" us; he had pulled all of the pictures down, and they were lying in a huge pile on the floor. Amy and I were devastated. There was no way to reconstruct it, no way to capture a parting photo of all those memories.
For me, that sad experience represented the all too common process of losing the memories of a loved one's life -- especially in the midst of dealing with a terrible disease like Alzheimer's. Once the odyssey began we could barely keep our heads above water. Over time we downsized, packed things up, stored some, sold some, and donated the rest. And every step of the way we had a nagging feeling that we should be doing something more to preserve the story of such a remarkable life.
The Memory Kit was born in that pile of photos on the floor. From that moment came the spark that ignited our passion to make it easy for everyone to capture and share the story of a lifetime, to get a head start and let your family and friends contribute along the way. Because you never know when your wall is going to come down.
Your memories matter.
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