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Videos Preserve Memories, Messages of Terminally Ill

Anna Marie Dorcas shares her memories with her family on a "legacy video"

Hospice centers around the world help to comfort terminally ill patients suffering physical and emotional pain. Some patients fear leaving behind family, and relatives know they are losing a piece of family history. One hospice in Florida that is making a difference by taping video documentaries to keep those family histories alive.

Dawn Woodward is a director at the HPH Hospice Center in Spring Hill, Florida. There, she and a team of volunteers record legacy videos for patients like Anna Marie Dorcas.

"I thought I was smart. I got on top of this yacht and dove in the water. Then this shark went by just as I dove in!" she said.

Dorcas suffers from congenital heart disease and receives special care at her home. In the face of death, Dorcas is recording her memories on video.

ANNA MARIE DORCAS: "I love my grandchildren all of them, I got a bunch of nice ones. And my great grandkids too. I have 14 of them, and I suppose I'll have more."

Dorcas' daughter Marlene Vasquez wants to make sure the next generation has something to remember about her mother.

"All these stories that are going to be lost unless I can get mama to record them cause she has all the details to them," she said. "And I only know little bits to the story."

The video program is Dawn Woodward's idea. The private facility where she works helps care for people with medical conditions that leave them just weeks or months more to live. In many cases, patients tell hospice staff of stories and messages for their loved ones.

"That's the information that fueled the fire to get this going," said Woodward. "Because sometimes we hear it and the family never does, and they're hearing it for the first time through us. That's not fair."

Volunteers Jim and Kerry Henderson visit patients' homes to film Legacy videos. For Jim, it has become the focus of his retirement.

"It's a happy occasion," he noted. "The families are really pleased to be able to capture the stories of their loved ones. And the loved ones are happy that their stories won't be lost."

The Hendersons say the videos add a deeper level to many family histories.

"I'm very interested in genealogy," said Kerry Henderson. "I research facts and figures and dates on people, but I don't have any interesting stories about our families. That is what is so interesting to hear about."

Legacy videos offer a unique opportunity that few families have. In spite of her illness, Anna Marie Dorcas is spending valuable time with her family and leaving behind a video record of her life.

Woodward says it is an opportunity her nephew would like to have had, before his mother died at age 36.

"He mentioned to me that one of the biggest things he missed was the sound of his mom's voice and even trying to remember the sound of her voice," Woodward recalled.

For many families, history is passed down through photographs, keepsakes and other items. Woodward says legacy videos can add a great deal more.

"When someone is gone, the memories go with it. The legacy program is a way to keep those memories alive. It is a living legacy, it is a living gift we can give those families," added Woodward.