What true stories—the funny, the weird, the strange, has your loved one told over the years? What awards have they won?
Alive Hospice volunteer David Lasseter has been saying, “Tell me your story…” to hospice patients since 2011. He records life story memoir, and we began doing that in the same year! In addition to interviewing, and recording, my business Perfect Memoirs adds ghostwriting, editing, and producing books for families and individuals. Sometimes these are for people who know they have a terminal illness, for others it is fulfillment of a life-long dream, for some it is a preservation of the family history that will last long after they are gone. David’s work is invaluable to the families of the terminally ill. One question that always gets an interesting answer is,
“What one thing would you like your family to know about you a hundred years from now?”
How Alive Hospice Volunteers Help Patients Preserve their Legacies
Personal historians love what they do, and Lasseter is one of ten volunteers in Middle Tennessee who interview and record the last stories of the dying. We are colleagues who have just met, thanks to Alive Hospice. “Tell Me Your Story: How Alive Volunteers Help Patients Preserve their Legacies” was the topic of their monthly Lunch and Learn in August, and Community Outreach Director Angela Brown invited me to attend.
She noted at the meeting that we lack ceremonies for the elders. “Our society worships babies, even holding gender reveal parties. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is nothing at the other end of the spectrum of life that equates to that. There’s no societal push to capture wisdom and celebrate a life. We need to be creating events to celebrate life.” People gathered to hear about end-of-life storytelling commented about good celebrations of life on funeral days that they had attended.
Like Lasseter, Perfect Memoirs has recorded many stories. One memoir for family, Thad Martin‘s That’s the Gist of It, was used after his death at age 99 at his Celebration of Life/Funeral Service. As the preacher read Thad’s dry, humorous story about his wet baptism, the laughter began to roll. It built with each excerpt, leaving the audience a huge positive reminder of who this man really was, in his own words.
“Recording a life story from one person, just before they died, was one of the top ten experiences of my life,” shared one participant. Lasseter’s eight years as a volunteer attest to the same.
The Legacy Left Behind
This volunteer records audio and gifts the legacy recordings to the hospice patients and their families. One difference between these audio recordings and a book is that the audio is captured in the voice of the person, and the book maintains the literary “voice” with transitions and editing. The volunteer recordings aren’t edited, so Lasseter keeps professional by talking very little, focusing on the person who is reminiscing. Occasionally, the storyteller may say something that will make for an uncomfortable listen later. Lasseter confessed he is afraid at least one recording revealing unpleasant truths may end up being trashed. He will keep recording, though, saying “Good things can be abused, but you shouldn’t stop doing good things.” Like other personal historians, Lasseter knows the telling itself is a soul benefit for the teller.
“I have captured the stories of drug addicts, alcoholics, and even a story about a murder,” he says, “and talked with a country preacher and his wife who smiled happily the entire time. But one story is not any more important than another.” How like the motto of the (1995-2017) International Association of Personal Historians : “Every life story is important!”
With pathos, Lasseter relates how he has arranged with a family to record a loved one, but, “Many times it’s too late.” He advises that if you have this idea, take action to save the story as soon as possible. Like Lasseter, I have worked with people who died during the days allotted for recording. He’s right: the time to tell is now. Honor the living with memory:
Save That Story!
Hospices In Your Area Offer Services and Education
Contact a hospice in your area to learn more about services for dying with dignity and support for families. In the Middle Tennessee area there are several.
Alive Hospice offers free, public Lunch and Learn programs monthly in Franklin, Lebanon, Murfreesboro, Hendersonville and Nashville. Septembers’ programs are on the topic of Surviving Loss After Suicide. See all programs on the website https://www.alivehospice.org/learnor for more information contactAngela Brown, Community Outreach Coordinatoranbrown@alivehospice.org, 615-290-2916 of para Espanol: Liz Johnson, Community Outreach Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org, 615-569-0306.
Contact me, Deborah Wilbrink 615-417-8424 if you want a professional, paid personal historian to produce your heritage memoir or family history book. I also offer how-to public speaking topics and workshops about writing your own book.