Remember Me
April 10, 2008 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Remember Me. A multimedia documentary about one family's struggle to deal with the loss of a parent. This series is the 2008 Pulitzer winner for feature photography.

It's kind of intense.
posted by chunking express (27 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I hate cancer.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:35 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

How hideously sad.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:37 PM on April 10, 2008

Very well done. Very sad too.
posted by zerobyproxy at 1:43 PM on April 10, 2008

This is so beautiful and so sad.
posted by mewithoutyou at 1:46 PM on April 10, 2008

posted by Toekneesan at 2:08 PM on April 10, 2008

You folks are just trying to kill me with these daily dead parent posts, aren't you? Daaaamn!
posted by miss lynnster at 2:12 PM on April 10, 2008

My mom died of cancer a few years ago. I got about 45 seconds into Chapter III and it just wrecked me for a good half hour. And then I saw the rest of Chapter III and it wrecked me again.

And I just had a sudden flash of anger with the realization that the last recording of my mom's voice was on an answering machine tape that I threw away when I moved the year after she died. I would give anything, everything to hear her voice again, even on tape.

If I were Carolynne's family, I'd go to this website every day.

I gotta go take a walk or something.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 2:18 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

That poor middle kid. Starts the standard teen transition just as his mom passes away before his very eyes and his stepfather becomes heinously overwhelmed, so he ends up at a behaviour camp and boarding school. Heartbreaking.

Also, this thought, as it happened during my viewing:
"Wow, the whole thing is so much different from the experiences of those in my less-well-off circle. All those people helping, all the comfort items, and it even looks like she can get all of the medication she needs...

...except for the part where she dies and the family fractures, just like the rest...

...I wonder if that makes it better at all?"
posted by batmonkey at 2:19 PM on April 10, 2008

This is like someone took the story of my family, and photographed it and made it into a website. I was 11. My brother was 8. My mother was 39. I used my school markers to draw interesting faces on the styrofoam heads that held the wigs and hats. At the end she decided no more hospital, that she wanted to be at home. We turned the living room into her room, because it was the only space big enough to accommodate the hospital bed and the monitors and the IV, and allow us to all be around her. The pain drugs were in little glass bottles in our fridge, in what used to be the vegetable drawer; the oncology nurses taught my dad and aunt how to administer them and when. The funeral home sent a private ambulance, and I remember standing in the front yard, and I was surprised that they didn't use the lights or sirens, until someone gently explained that they don't have to hurry when the person has already died. Listening to Melissa talk about what it's like to be an adolescent girl without your mom around was breathtaking; I might have lived it, but I never said it aloud. I guess my relationship with my dad was probably destined for doom, through no faults of our own.

I've always told myself that there have surely been many breakthroughs in the treatments available for liver cancer, since then -- that today, surely other moms have better experiences, other kids, other families.

I never understood why there's no word for a kid who has lost one parent. Two and you're an orphan... but you don't get a special title with just one, and when I was young, it never seemed fair that orphans had a way to quickly, simply communicate this enormous terrible loss, without having to explain, "my mom died."

I knew from the FPP that I shouldn't click, but I did. Sorry to bleat this all here, but the comment box was nearby, and it just sort of came out.
posted by pineapple at 2:31 PM on April 10, 2008 [19 favorites]

This was incredibly moving. I started to cry several times, especially seeing the children's grief. I certainly feel inspired to keep up the measures I need to do to stay healthy in the face of my disease (diabetes) so I can be there for my family as long as possible.
posted by Biblio at 2:34 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pineapple, thank you for telling your story. I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by ottereroticist at 2:52 PM on April 10, 2008

Now that I've become a mom, death has become my greatest fear - not the pain of death, but the loss, the idea that if I died today my son would miss me yet never know what he missed.

I did kind of wish they had explained more why Brian and Melissa's father was no longer in the picture. Is he dead? Just a deadbeat dad? Those children have experienced so much loss, and for Brian, especially, being, in effect, sent into exile from what family he has left.....
posted by anastasiav at 2:58 PM on April 10, 2008

My mom died of lung cancer in 2005 and I still flash back to it sometimes. Part III was painful to watch.
posted by mike3k at 3:17 PM on April 10, 2008

Thank you for the post, chunking express.

My brother-in-law died of cancer at 40, at home, with my sister and his four kids aged 4-11. It was enough like this family's story to set me sobbing - for this family, for my family, and especially for the children. The grief of these children is so painful to see. Poor Brian, that sweet boy, such raw pain.

I saw that in my nieces and nephews. It was so unspeakably painful to see them lose their childhood innocence and trust so suddenly.

My heart goes out to all of you who experienced the loss of a parent when you were young. Pineapple, thank you for sharing your sad story - you expressed it so beautifully, especially the part about there being no name for the loss, no way to signal your special hurt. I wish I could go back in time and hug you.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:45 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pineapple - thank you for sharing your story. I'm so sorry for what happened to you and your family. I was 50 when my Mom died of lung cancer and knowing how heart breaking it was for me, I can't imagine the pain of an 11 year old.

And thanks for posting this CE.
posted by bluesky43 at 5:28 PM on April 10, 2008

This is very hard to watch, given it reflects my life quite a bit.

Part I bothered me because I know what's coming and I'm not sure I want to relive the pain that's bound to surface in the coming parts.
posted by bwg at 5:49 PM on April 10, 2008

Painful and familiar. My sister died of multiple cancers three months ago, and we're all trying to pull it back together and get on with daily life without her. Thanks for posting this, and thanks to everyone here who shared their own stories.
posted by Kinbote at 6:31 PM on April 10, 2008

Boo, cancer. Yay, hometown paper!
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:07 PM on April 10, 2008

My mom died two years ago of pancreatic cancer - I was twenty six, and I photographed/documented our family's journey up until two hours before she died.

When I watched this I thought "I'm so glad I was fully grown" - those babies just broke my heart to watch. I had put the camera down two hours before she died so I could stand by her and hold her hand and yell into her ear (she was deaf, and likely couldn't hear me) that it was okay, she could go now and we would be alright.

I made myself look at the pictures frequently after she died, because I knew if I didn't I'd never be able to look at them again. The very last one shows my aunt curled around the head of the hospital bed, and in my head I think of it as a pieta.
posted by annathea at 7:19 PM on April 10, 2008

My mom was diagnosed with liver and colon cancer 2 weeks ago. Even seeing this I have hope. I need hope, she needs hope..
I'm 31.. but I may as well be 13 when you hear your mother may only have 6 months..

I'm so sorry for Carolynn, her husband, and her children. My heart weeps.
posted by czechmate at 8:12 PM on April 10, 2008

Thank you for posting this, chunking express.

My mom died of melanoma 2.5 weeks before I turned 11. 16 years to the day before Carolynne. I've never seen anything like this before, documenting the grief and heartache from watching someone die, as it relates to not just the sufferer, but the people around them - specifically, kids. Bereavement books make everything very clinical. Somehow, watching this, turned me a big old puddle of emotional goo, but cathartic in seeing very much what I went through. Many thanks to the family for sharing their story with us, and the photographer, too.
posted by raztaj at 8:41 PM on April 10, 2008

In the early hours of last Thursday, my father died of liver cancer in the living room of his apartment. We did not take a single picture, because we knew that my father did not want to be remembered as frail; his swollen feet, the protruding bones of his shoulder, and the sunken features of his face were not truly his own. Carolynne and her family were incredibly brave to follow through with this project. I don't know that I could have.

It still seems peculiar to me that so little is understood about primary liver cancer. The WHO listed it as among the world's top 20 causes of death in 2001 (PDF). Yet the greatest recent development for those with HCC, around these parts, was the FDA approval of a drug that increases life expectancy by, on average, only 2.6 months.

Strange that the liver—something of a glorified filter—should be something we don't really understand.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:57 PM on April 10, 2008

I took a fair number of photographs when my cousin was dying of cancer, but none of her. As time passes I remember what she looked like those last days less and less, which is fine by me.
posted by chunking express at 9:09 AM on April 11, 2008

my childhood was fraught with painfully distant, nearly non-existent family connections. seriously bipolar mother (who wouldn't seek/allow treatment), absent father, much-older-brothers who didn't care too much about an annoying little sister. mom had disowned me when i was 18, after she discovered that i'd hidden a rape/pregnancy/miscarriage from her.

when, in 1999, my mom was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, it was so terribly bizarre. everybody "pulled together" in the way that family is supposed to -- but, there was an eerie, unnatural silence. my brothers and i all took turns taking care of her, but we didn't talk about it with each other. the "sensitive" acts were left to me -- e.g. adjusting her catheter tube -- because i was the only girl.

about a month after mom was declared cancer-free (after nearly 2 years on an NIH drug trial), she developed progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. in short: her brain died slowly due to aggressive, untreatable lesions that were likely a result of her aggressive cancer treatment. again, none of us spoke about it. we had schedules to indicate who was on deathwatch when (we all took turns sitting with her, essentially waiting for when she'd stop breathing), it was the longest 2 months of my life. there is nothing like witnessing the slow decline of the human body...

...except doing so utterly and completely alone.

i can't make it all the way through this post. the whole thing is so incredibly heartbreaking. but, i also find myself feeling....jealous, somehow. losing a parent is never easy -- even if the relationship had been strained or ugly. but going thru the process of losing a parent without any familial support....ouch. double ouch.

thanks for this post. even though it's incredibly difficult, it's brought a very human element into this friday afternoon for me.

blessings to you and yours, for all of you who are currently dealing with this -- or who are grieving a loss of your own.
posted by CitizenD at 12:20 PM on April 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

shit. uh, yeah. it also would have been her 76th birthday today.
ouch ouch ouch
posted by CitizenD at 12:33 PM on April 11, 2008

With a few breaks in between, I watched the entire project. Very moving. Thanks for posting this, and thank you to everyone who shared their story.
posted by one teak forest at 4:46 PM on April 11, 2008

Not something to look at work. Gotta go hide the tears.

I avoided seeing my aunt look like this (lung cancer). My mom has stage IV breast w/ metastatic bone, spinal tumors, liver, and now spleen. No running allowed this time. I never experienced death before besides a funeral. Seeing this, I'm scared for the future.

Now to go look at dancing bears on YouTube or something goofy to brighten the day.
posted by dasheekeejones at 10:55 AM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

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