The diagnosis of a life-limiting illness can represent one of life’s most devastating experiences. It’s a crisis that families and communities must address in order to help individuals grieve and develop resilience. With appropriate support, access to resources and opportunities to express and share life stories, palliative individuals can emerge triumphant upon reliving their story. Storytelling can support people coming to terms with a life-changing diagnosis, offering a process of evaluation and reflection and can have therapeutic value through improved well-being, dignity, quality of life, reduced depression, improved/preserved self-identity and a way of connecting with others.
On Oct. 19, Matthews House Hospice at Alliston held an open house to mark the launch of the new Live on Legacy program and to celebrate a $72,700 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation that will allow the documentation of life stories of community members.
The giving and receiving of legacies (stories) can evoke the entire spectrum of basic human emotions: hope, longing, regret, anxiety, fear, dread, jealousy, bitterness, rage, a sense of failure, a sense of accomplishment, pride, contentment, joy, gratitude, humility and love.
The Live on Legacy pilot program will provide access, inspiration and opportunity for people of all ages to record, preserve and share their life stories. Coordinated by a program leader and facilitated by trained volunteers, 40 individuals at end of life will have access to participate in audio and video interviews using provided equipment. The program is intended to transfer wisdom from one generation to the next and to leave a compelling legacy for the future. The preservation of stories is important in order to build connections between generations, create a more compassionate community and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, an invaluable archive for future generations will be created.
With the involvement of younger family members and students, the Live on Legacy program serves as a vital catalyst to individual resilience and social empowerment. Known as dignity therapy, the community arts practice of storytelling allows listeners and sharers to become keepers of community culture.
Photo, from the left, Andrea Roylance, gifts and gratitude manager; Margo Cooney, president; Kim Woodland, CEO; and Debra Walker, storytelling coordinator.