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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora