While at the National Hospice and Palliative Care conference last fall, Greg Painter and Andrew Grossman, registered nurses at Bailey-Boushay House, were moved by a presentation from StoryCorps Legacy. The staff at Bailey-Boushay House (BBH) had been discussing for some time how to help BBH residents leave a lasting legacy and “make their mark on the world,” and the two nurses saw StoryCorps Legacy as the perfect opportunity.
“Everyone has a story to tell. I have spent countless hours with BBH residents and their families doing nothing more than talking person-to-person,” says Greg. “StoryCorps Legacy seemed like such a natural fit for these relationships and the type of work we do.”
StoryCorps is an independent, nonprofit organization with a mission to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs the opportunity to record, share and preserve their life stories, and it is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind. StoryCorps Legacy collects the stories of people facing life-threatening conditions and the thoughts of their loved ones. It offers participants an opportunity to celebrate their lives with generations to come.
Painter and Grossman returned to Seattle, where it took little convincing to get Brian Knowles, BBH executive director, and Gretchen Gerhardt, recreation therapist, on board with the idea. Within weeks, a partnership between StoryCorps and Bailey-Boushay House was born. In January, a dozen BBH staff members and committed volunteers were trained to record the stories of clients, residents and family members of those who have been cared for at BBH.
“All participants receive a copy of their interview and have the option of having their stories archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and our African-American participants also have the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian,” says Gretchen, who leads the BBH StoryCorps Legacy project. “Needless to say, participants feel incredibly proud to have this opportunity. In a way, it’s their chance at immortality. Most importantly, it makes our patients feel special.”
Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 40,000 interviews from nearly 80,000 participants through its various projects, including StoryCorps Legacy. For BBH residents, StoryCorps Legacy has provided a therapeutic platform — a chance to be heard and an opportunity to share their lives.
“I had the privilege of interviewing one of our residents, Dr. James Jones, and his wife Cathy Gaylord,” adds Gretchen. “Dr. Jones was unable to verbally communicate, so he used his laptop to write out his stories. Cathy read them out loud during the interview on his behalf. The interview covered the story of their relationship. It told of their travels and shared love of sailing, their trials and tribulations and their joys. The entire experience was very moving and ended with the two of them simply facing each other and expressing their love for one another. I felt so fortunate to have the chance to be a part of this experience and to get to know these two amazing individuals.”