I met my new BFF Lisa Gioia-Acres at a writers’ gathering last summer and instantly we hit it off. I dig fun-loving chicks and we have a lot in common—we’re both from upstate New York, we’re almost exactly the same age (Lisa’s two weeks older—ha!), we got married around the same time, we each have two kids and a precious grandson, and we both fit the “aging nymph” free-spirit persona.
What we don’t have in common is our family background. As I wrote my blog last Saturday honoring the memory of my father, I thought of Lisa, who never got to know either of her parents. Lisa and her three older brothers were brought up by their maternal grandmother, who had already raised a dozen children of her own. Lisa's parents died soon after her first birthday in the worst possible scenario of domestic violence: her father killed her mother and then took his own life.
Lisa grew up not knowing much at all about her parents; she just knew they were dead. Questions were always evaded, and anecdotal stories and references to her similarities to her mother made her want to learn more. She began a serious search of her history and was able to uncover the real story of the lives of and circumstances surrounding the deaths of the parents she never knew. Being proactive in learning more has helped to fill the void of loss. Lisa now has court documents, police statements, letters, interviews, photographs, and film footage of the parents with whom she never felt any connection.
The brutal events that occurred 50 years ago have shaped her path in life. With a master’s degree in history, Lisa now documents the lives and stories of others. Through her business, Mourning Dove Preservation, Lisa offers services in genealogical research, photo preservation, and the recording of oral histories and biographical memories. Her goal is to help people find a tangible connection to their ancestors that they in turn will pass on to future generations, adding their own legacy to the story.
If you ever meet Lisa, you’ll be immediately struck by her gregarious personality. She’s a blast to hang out with, and as we put away a few beers together at the Mountain Springs Saloon last Saturday afternoon, I wondered how someone with such a traumatic beginning could end up being so vivacious.
Yesterday she sent me an email saying I'm such a great motivation for her writing. Well, Lisa, you give me great inspiration for living. I’m really happy to have made this wonderful new friend.