Andy’s College Essay

Andy, a volunteer for two years, who graduated from Harvard in 2007, wrote this for his college applications:

“No se como decirles, pero yo les quiero con todo el alma.” Translated into English, this means, “I don’t know how to say this, but I love you with all my soul.” I viewed the speaker on the monitor, a middle-aged Hispanic woman, dying of cancer. She appeared ill, gaunt, and tired, but she still had the energy to leave a comforting message for her two daughtes who could play it over and over after her imminent death.

For the past year I have volunteered for an organization named LifeChronicles, whose mission is to assist individuals in communicating with loved ones by recording messages of comfort, reassurance and lifetime memories. This is an organization that records dying or elderly people on film and creates videotapes of these people and their messages for their loved ones and family. This non-profit organization has allowed me to bring together many of my skills, including interpersonal communication, video production, film, sound, and photo editing, and my fascination and facility with the Spanish language, to help others through the process of dying.

While I made several LifeChronicles film testaments, none of them compare to the impact I felt creating a film of this cancer stricken mother for her daughters. At times I found myself crying and truly feeling a part of her life, but the most amazing aspect of the tape is that I felt like I knew her after only watching her speak on tape. Nothing has given me more satisfaction than to give the tape to a family that I only know because of what she has conveyed to them. This tape will be with her seven-year-old daughter for her entire life, always allowing her to watch it and be with her mother. “Te quiero mucho,” she says time and time again to her daughter. “I love you so much.”

My only regret is that I did not finish the tape sooner. While I was still editing it, this woman died the day after we filmed her daughter’s birthday party. This summer I completed a forty-minute tape for the family. After over sixty hours of reviewing tapes, editing them from seven hours down to forty minutes, translating her colloquial Spanish, adding pictures, music and titles, and viewing and reviewing the final product, the tape was complete. I could then present it to the woman’s family, which I know would mean more to them than I could ever fully understand.

In half sadness and half happiness, the last words this mother left for her family on the tape were, “Espero que estemos juntos algun dia,” meaning, “I hope that we are together one day.” I likewise felt a mixture of happiness and sadness when I completed and delivered the tape. The family’s gratitude was a gift to me, which more than rewarded me for all of the work I had done. Like I told the local news station that interviewed me for LifeChronicles, not only do the families gain a tremendously meaningful keepsake of their loved one, but the person behind the scenes putting together the remembrance is also tremendously affected in a very poignant and positive way. While that feeling is always different and intangible, it undoubtedly provides me more than I feel I have given, and that, indeed, is a priceless gift.

Share