One of the most difficult and heart wrenching parts of my job in representing families in wrongful death cases is watching the video compilation/tribute of the deceased person. We've all seen some form of these, as typically the funeral home will take selected family photos and put them to music on a DVD.
The irony of my task is that I'm trying to get to know a person I've never met and never will. And I have to know that person in order to convey what has been taken away from the family. After all, how can you represent a family for the loss of a loved one if you know little about the person who was taken away from them?
Personal contact with your clients is a must. Many times the best place to talk is not in the office, but in their home, where they can open up and share all the wonderful stories about their loved ones--what they enjoyed, made, constructed, or their favorite spot to relax or toil--essentially what made them "them." Often times the stories are wonderful and uplifting even if the tears flow while they're recounting them. It's on their terms and in their comfort zone this is exactly where these stories need to be shared.
But the video tribute always gets to me. It's a series of snapshots in happier times where you're given a small window to peek into the lives of others. You see the progression of a family from childhood to youth to marriage and children and beyond. You feel the enormity of the family's loss as best you can as an outsider, and it is a huge reminder of the enormity of the task placed squarely on your shoulders as their attorney.
And, I have to confess, it is a stark reminder of my mortality. A lifetime reduced to a six minute presentation. It often makes me wonder: what will my six minutes look like? What will any of ours look like? And then it's back to work, and the grind of more immediate and weighty matters, the things you can't compile in a video. Things like justice and accountability.