Don’t Run Out of Time
Updated: Jan 25
Two years ago, my father in law was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was the height of covid, everyone was still quarantined, and we couldn’t be with him like we wanted to. Looking back, we wish we had ignored all the covid protocols and just spent time with him, but we thought we were doing the right thing. If he got sick, he couldn’t get the tests he needed or start the treatments. We were all doing the best we could with the knowledge we had.
Because of the quarantine, we couldn’t have the conversations we needed to have. He couldn’t tell his grandchildren the stories he wanted to tell them. And all the facetimes in the world couldn’t bridge the feeling of separation at a time when we wanted more than anything to be close with him.
To help us through that time, I started building a simple iPhone app that allowed him to take a picture of something and capture a 2-minute voice recording. It was an easy way to help him go back through his life, recount memories, and share stories.
He would look back through photo albums, take a picture of an old photograph, and tell the story of who was in the photo, where they were, and anything else that came to mind. Then, he'd share these stories with us and our kids -- hearing Papa's voice telling them a family story.
It was meant to do all that, but we ran out of time...
In January 2021, a month after diagnosis, he took a turn for the worse and was gone in a matter of weeks. It was way too fast, and all the phone calls, facetimes, and voice recordings weren’t enough to soften the blow.
In the years since then, we’ve gone back through phone videos of birthdays, and family dinners -- even an old voicemail he left us. Hearing his voice is so much more personal and meaningful than written words — it captures his soul in a way a journal or letters never could.
I just wish I had finished in time to capture his stories.
Since then, my parents and I started using the simple app I built, and we now have a collection of family memories -- stories I had never heard before and that I can pass along to my kids and (someday) grandkids.
This year, I've decided to release this app so other people can capture these same family memories. I added daily prompts and artwork — ways to inspire someone to tell a story or jog a memory. I also added what I call Journeys — a series of prompts around a single theme.
Sonolog's main features are free to use every day and can help pull a family together or through a hard time. It has helped my family through the hardest of times and captured family memories so that our children can know their family and hear our stories. I hope it helps your family too...
Life is too short and we need to capture our family’s stories while we can. And please start before there’s a deadline -- while you can still share these stories with each other. Before we run out of time.