Review: Passed and Present by Allison Gilbert


My grandparents passed away at the same time on a terrible day in 1992. I can’t believe it’s been 24 years since I last held them in my arms. I was 22 when they died and probably too young to stop to think what they left behind or how I would memorialize them, but I’ll tell you one thing I do know. If I had a copy of PASSED and PRESENT Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive by my friend, Allison Gilbert, I would have known how to preserve their memories.

Passed and Present

This past Sunday, I attended her first official “Memory Bash” in a nearby town to celebrate the launch of her new book, which I devoured that night. The book is a celebration of life, with the hope that remembering promotes healing and will help people live longer, happier lives after the loss of a loved one. After the loss of both her parents, Gilbert set out to find ways to keep them in her life, so that her own children would somehow feel connected to the grandparents they never met.

She writes about how it’s important to honor loved ones – allowing them to remain present in our lives, rather then push their memories away. She offers a number of ways to do this, all very tangible, viable and approachable. She has thoroughly researched the topic and has compiled her findings neatly in an easy read, yet the book somehow features eighty-five ways to celebrate and honor family and friends we never want to forget.

At the “Memory Bash” I was introduced to several creative strategies on how to repurpose with purpose, and I have images of some easily made items that memorialize loved ones below. Gilbert took her dad’s tie collection and had a quilt made. She put her mother’s dishes together to create a serving tray (which can easily be used as a knick knack for decoration). She had a drawing made of a photo of her mom to frame in her office. She took her mom’s recipes and created a very special recipe box. All useful and all sentimental ideas.


Technology Integrates Loved Ones into Daily Life

Gilbert then goes into how existing methods of technology can integrate your loved ones into your daily life. There are so many tools at our disposal today (compared to when I lost my grandparents in 1992). From home videos to audio recordings to web sites built to memorialize loved ones to customized hash tags on Twitter to random acts of kindness promoted via social media, there are more opportunities than ever to remember our loved ones, which leads to increased support from friends and one’s community. It’s even possible to fabricate a loved one’s history by traveling and tracing their steps using software and technology.

Of course, there is also food, music and rituals – all cultural norms that help one remember loved ones. Gilbert provides a monthly guide full of “Forget Me Not’s” to help the planning of chances to honor loved ones, as it may feel overwhelming or many. This section is particularly useful to someone like me, who can feel overwhelmed by so many valuable options.

Travel Creates Opportunities to Make Connections with Loved Ones

The last section is about travel, obviously a section I paid close attention to, as a travel writer myself. A few years ago, Gilbert and her colleague, writer Hope Edelman, took a group of 16 of their readers on a trip to Machu Pichu, where they hiked and worked in an orphanage. (I had asked to go, but alas was turned down as I am not parentless, something I am grateful for.) It was there that Gilbert learned the true value of travel and its incredible contribution to honoring memories of loved ones. She takes us from Mexico to Japan to Israel and further around the world to tell us important events and landmarks that help us find our own connections to the past.

It’s also important to add that the book is beautifully illustrated with drawings by Jennifer Orkin Lewis. The pictures accentuate the book’s mission of celebrating life. The book is a great shiva gift or gift for someone who suffers a loss – maybe not right away but down the road.

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary copy of Passed and Present to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own.




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