News / USA

StoryCorps Gives Voice to Critically Ill

People with life-threatening illnesses record, preserve and share their stories

Gail Moore and her mother Dorothy recorded their StoryCorps Legacy interview at the older woman's home, where she now lives under hospice care
Gail Moore and her mother Dorothy recorded their StoryCorps Legacy interview at the older woman's home, where she now lives under hospice care

Multimedia

Audio
Adam Phillips

People faced with life-threatening illness are often moved to leave some sort of lasting personal oral history for their loved ones.

StoryCorps is an organization which provides people and their families with the opportunity to record, preserve and share their stories with loved ones, preserving those stories on CDs and in the archives at the Library of Congress.

Now, the group has created the StoryCorps Legacy initiative. Partnering with hospitals, hospices and cancer centers, it helps people with life threatening medical conditions record their stories.

StoryCorps staff member Perri Chinalai takes a break in the chapel inside the Mollie and Jack Zicklin Hospice Residence in Riverdale, New York.

It's a facility where people come to die in peace but Chinalai explains it is also a place where life is celebrated and expressed through storytelling and careful listening.

“The motto of StoryCorps is that ‘Listening is an act of love,’ and we really believe beautiful things can happen when we actually sit down with one another to have a conversation and listen to what we have to say to one another," she says. "Sometimes when you are sharing your story and you know that people out there will be listening to it in the future, it brings some validation to all of the life that you have lived."

Reign Voltaire and his niece, Jennifer Pena, are recording her stories. Pena, 32, has suffered from tubular sclerosis since childhood and breathes with the aid of an oxygen machine.

Jennifer Pena and her uncle, Reign Voltaire, found a way to cherish memories while also discussing difficult subjects during their StoryCorps Legacy experience.
Jennifer Pena and her uncle, Reign Voltaire, found a way to cherish memories while also discussing difficult subjects during their StoryCorps Legacy experience.

Voltaire finds that the seemingly trivial memories they share - a trip to an amusement park or Thanksgiving meals - acquire a special luster and significance.

“Even though it is a simple memory of ours, I felt it was something to honor, because it is her legacy," Voltaire says. "It is something we will always remember.”

Sometimes the conversation can be intensely intimate, and things that might have been left unsaid, are not. Gail Moore's mother, Dorothy, lives in her own home, her daughter is her caregiver.

"I just want to say what a privilege it is to be your daughter," Gail tells her mother.

"I am privileged to be your mother," Dorothy says. "We have had a very, very happy existence."

Then Gail asks her mother what she thinks about the notion of dying.

"People should think about dying because it only gives them so much time to make their mark on this world," Dorothy says. "If you did not know there would be a limit to how long you were going to live, when would you get started?"

For veteran facilitator Debra Parmet Sondoc, that sort of wisdom helps make her StoryCorps volunteer work worthwhile. She helps set up sessions at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

“It is life affirming. People talk about appreciating every moment and every day," she says. "Being able to be so strong and be so positive and find the people in their lives that are there for them, it is a wonderful thing.”

The deep listening that StoryCorps promotes can also help health professionals. Palliative care specialist Dr. Daniel Spurgeon often works with terminally ill patients at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, California.

After facilitating and conducting storytelling sessions, he's realized a patient’s words and demeanor can offer vital clinical information that laboratory tests cannot.

"And the more present and the fuller my heart can be, the more I can do this work," Spurgeon says. "I feel that when I engage with a person's story, I am going beyond their identity as a patient and engaging in their personhood. And I think there is where real compassion, there is where the 'being' of healing is, rather than doing of healing."

That has been the experience of the thousands of people who have been touched by StoryCorps: that authentic conversation, in which one person speaks from the heart, and another truly listens, is a rare and precious gift.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid