Professional Mourner or Professional Joy Generator?

By Mary Anne Benedetto

I recently learned that in some ancient cultures, it was common to hire professional mourners to wail at funerals. Also known as Feb 2013 Albany guy dinnermoirologists, their duties could possibly include delivering a eulogy or simply weeping, moaning and crying loudly.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that even in current times, there are Mediterranean, Near Eastern and other cultures who still participate in this practice.  In the U.K. someone established a business called Rent a Mourner!

Imagine crying and wailing and actually getting paid for your emotional outbursts of sorrow? I know some chronic complainers who would probably excel at and love that job.

As caring siblings, children, parents and grandparents, don’t we sometimes want to mourn the poor choices and resulting situations of loved ones? One lesson that God has recently been teaching me is that I simply can’t control what other people choose to do, although I’d like to. I so wish that I could pave the way for my loved ones to walk in the lighted pathway the Lord has planned for them and never detour, but I can’t accomplish that any more than my own parents could spare me from making less than stellar decisions during my teenage and young adult years.

So what can I do? I can be vigilant as their prayer warrior. I can literally get on my knees and pray that they won’t stray too far away and that their early upbringing will always bring them back into the loving arms of Christ. They were already forgiven at the cross.

Since prayer is really the only way I can help besides showing them tons of love and making sure they know they are in my daily prayers, I choose joy. I choose not letting the decisions and acts of others steal my joy. I choose remembering that I can’t dictate their actions, and so I will be a professional joy generator.

Nehemiah 8:10…Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (NIV)

Philippians 1:3-6  I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Never Say Perfect Book CoverMary Anne Benedetto is a Certified Lifewriting Instructor and the author of 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, Eyelash and Never Say Perfect. Please visit her at and


Capture the Memories

By Mary Anne Benedetto

It seems as though we were just in the midst of the heat of summer with its tornado and hurricane warnings, floods, and humidity so thick it sometimes felt like you could chop it with a machete. Now here we are rapidly approaching the holiday season!

Whether you are celebrating by devouring luscious Thanksgiving turkey, accompanied by all of the requisite trimmings, or perhaps seated around a Christmas ham and trying to keep the little ones quiet long enough to say grace, this is a time of year when we hope to enjoy some quality family time with loved ones. From the presence of senior citizens to the smiles of sleeping newborns, memories are being made at these events. And stories are being told. The seniors sometimes like to reminisce about holiday events back when they were growing up, but do we really listen? And do we actually capture and preserve the stories they are telling?

Lauren and Clara Greene

Some grandparents and great-grandparents may sit back and remain fairly silent, shell-shocked by the chaotic activity surrounding them. Perhaps they need coaxing to join in and share some of their recollections. What we must remember is to take the time to make them feel special. Let them know that you value hearing what life was like for them when they were growing up. Some of them are under the distinct impression that no one is interested. Are they correct?

The sad truth is that once they are no longer here to sit at that holiday dining table, unless their stories have been preserved, they are forever lost.  During this holiday season, why not attempt to engage the elder family members in conversation about their lives? A few tips are:

  • Ask questions about the paths that brought them from there to here.
  • Have a small, inexpensive hand-held recorder handy to capture the priceless memories.
  • Recruit a family member or friend to transcribe the recordings, producing a document that can be shared with future generations.

When I was working with a senior group a few years ago, their limitations prohibited them from  producing full blown memoirs. I devised a form, which I call the Mini-Memoir. It is a fill-in-the-blank one pager that will generate discussion about favorite aspects of life and can be utilized by the older folks, as well as the younger generation. Make it a family holiday tradition! This form is a free download at my Web site Click on the page called “Write About Your Life,” scroll down and print a PDF copy of the Mini-Memoir. Print as many copies as you’d like because it is my gift to you to help preserve some of those family memories which may erupt.

Ask the kids to tuck away their iPods, iPads and cell phones for a little while and participate. Everyone has a story, and involving the children in listening to the tales told by the older folks equates to creating lasting memories. Encourage them to ask questions and engage in meaningful conversation with Grandma, Grandpa or Uncle Joe.

Enjoy your 2012 holiday season, and please honor those beloved senior citizen family members by capturing some of their stories. You’ll be glad that you took the time because we can’t rewind! We can’t go back once they are no longer with us. God bless you, your family and your dear friends as you celebrate His love and grace during the holidays and begin a new tradition that will benefit future generations!

Mary Anne Benedetto is a speaker, ghostwriter,  blogger, Certified Lifewriting Instructor and author of 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time! and two novels.  Her passions include helping people preserve their life stories, creating Christian fiction, world travel and walking the spectacular South Carolina beaches.  Visit her at, and


Never Say Perfect

What is special about Never Say Perfect?

The setting includes Pawleys Island, Litchfield, Murrells Inlet, the Grand Strand—all in South Carolina and offers the names of some local points of interest such as Brookgreen Gardens, Hannah Banana’s Sunshine Cabana at the Waccawache Marina and Lazy Gator Gifts in Murrells Inlet. Other locations in the book are Cape May, NJ, New York City, and Milan, Italy.
What is a brief synopsis of the book?

Following a romantic second honeymoon in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, Dan Strickland mysteriously disappears at the airport. What inexplicable secrets was he hiding? Why had he seemed so loving and blissful during their vacation only to suddenly vanish? Will the weight of disaster cause Laina’s faith to crumble?

From Pawleys Island to Cape May, New York City and Milan, you will travel this emotion-packed journey with Laina and her family. Will they discover that one should “Never Say Perfect?”
What is the theme of the book?  What message are you trying to convey?

My purpose in writing this book includes demonstrating that our lives, as we currently know them,  can be irreversibly changed in an instant. Everyone has challenges in life, and no one is exempt from sad or difficult events. How do we cope? Even people with strong faith can experience times when they feel disconnected and distant from God, but the point is when we stop relying on God and placing our sorrows in His hands, the longer it will take us to recover. He is our strength.

Another message I wanted to share is how important our friends, and particularly for women—our girlfriends can be. Close girlfrends navigate any number of sorrows and triumphs together. Even if we are miles apart, we can still be there for each other, providing emotional and spiritual support. In Never Say Perfect, Laina’s girlfriends come to her rescue when she desperately needs them. She didn’t ask for their help—they just knew and took action. I have a group of friends who would do the same for me, and they are priceless. So a segment of this book was meant to honor them.

Just as in my first novel, Eyelash,  I wanted to tell a story that reminds us that family relationships can be complicated.  If no one makes an effort, nothing can be gained or resolved. Someone has to make the first move or the situation remains stagnant, and harmony is continuously obstructed.

There is more romance woven into Never Say Perfect than in Eyelash, but I have to be careful not to reveal too much of that aspect. I don’t want to spoil the mystery that was built into the story!


Are you taking a writing break now, or are there more books on the horizon?


Just a month before releasing Never Say Perfect, my nonfiction book, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time! was published. I’ve barely had time to wear the marketing hat for 7 Easy Steps and now Never Say Perfect is out and in need of marketing attention as well. So I’ll be juggling promotion and marketing of both books, as well as speaking engagements for 7 Easy Steps. There are definitely more book projects in the works, however. Never Say Hopeless will follow, as will Never Say Final if I live long enough! These stories will continue the saga of the life of Laina Strickland and her family.  Additionally, I have two more nonfiction works to finalize, which are currently in various stages of completion—lots to keep me busy for a very long time. I’m also helping a friend, who has led a rather bizarre life, capture her story.  It is more dramatic than a Made for Television movie, and the scary aspect is that it’s all one hundred per cent true. At any rate, I won’t be bored for some time to come!
Is there anything you would like to add?

Yes, only that I really love writing inspirational fiction. It’s exciting to be able to mold my characters into anything I want them to be and to put them into situations that are intriguing. I love writing dialogue, something that some authors say that they despise, but I get a real kick out of putting words into the mouths of my characters. At the end of the day, however, my fervent hope is that hearts and souls are touched by reading my books. Nothing makes me feel that it’s worth all of the time and effort more than someone saying, “Your book entertained and blessed me all at the same time.”
Where do we buy your books?


They are on Amazon, Nook and Kindle. A visit to my Web site, will present you with the links to all formats.
 How can you be contacted?



Web site:


Travel blog:
 Brief bio:

Mary Anne Benedetto is a speaker, blogger, Certified Lifewriting Instructor, ghostwriter and author of Eyelash, Never Say Perfect and 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time! Her passions include helping people capture and preserve their memoirs, guiding pet owners in writing their treasured animal stories, world travel and walking the spectacular South Carolina beaches. Visit her at, and

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