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The Mothers' Living Stories Project

What People Say

The following direct quotes may not be used under any circumstances, except by advance written permission from the Mothers’ Living Stories Project.

From the Mothers

“I can’t tell you how happy I am that I did it. It’s made an extraordinary difference in my life. The most valuable part was being able to reassure my son that my illness is just a part of who I am and a part that he bears no guilt for. . . My son knows I’m doing this. We don’t have to wait for me to die for him to listen. This isn’t the final thing I’ll say. -- NEL

“Recording my story made me feel less afraid of death because death deprives you of helping your kids. So if you can mobilize to do this and leave it for them, you feel less grievous. And I can teach them about facing death. My whole understanding of death has radically changed. I’m more alive and happy than most people I know." -- KTA

“It was like therapy almost -- getting things off your chest. The whole experience was really enjoyable. I’m so happy your group is doing this. It’ll help the kids in the future. I think everybody should do this, mothers and fathers.” -- SDP

"It's a very good thing to be able to tell your story to somebody and have it received, REALLY received. That in itself is a very healing thing. It's intrinsically healing." -- JES

“It was great, cleansing. It unburdened me. I accomplished something I had wanted to do for a long time. I wouldn’t have done it alone. I’ve gotten more in touch with my heritage and with what’s important. By the time we got to the last tape it was more intimate. I cried a lot. I feel complete.” -- BMA

"You helped me a lot by [helping me] tell my children how I feel and things that are very difficult to tell them now because of the situation . . . things I wanted to tell them even when they get mature and I won't be there for them, so they can always read the story and learn from me things that I wanted to teach them. It will help them to learn about me. I felt a relief that the things came out of my heart, of my head, that I said them . . . You helped me to do something very important." -- ZN

“I’ve had a new [cancer] growth recently. Making the recording made me less worried about it, and less worried about a time when I won’t be there for my children. . . . It made me realize how little my children know about me or my background. I’m now trying to be more open with my older daughter about my illness.” -- PCA

“You think to yourself, “I don’t have anything to say,” but once you get going, you realize it’s going well: ‘Oh my god, I’ve talked an hour and a half!’ I talked with a friend who said we should all do this. We should all have grandma on tape. It’s sad that it takes something like cancer to make us do it. I would recommend this to anybody.” -- KCO

"Sitting and telling my story has been an incredible experience. . . I think the process is a great gift. It's a great blessing. I mean, it is a big, time-consuming thing. It's not like a boom, boom, thing that you can hand somebody. But it's exactly that that is so honoring. It is exactly that. . . . I think one thing I got from it was saying to my friend Ed when he was dying, 'Did you write something down for the kids?' I felt I could just pass on the idea of it, so I hope it becomes really accessible, really soon." - - NCP

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From Volunteer Listeners, Transcriptionists, and Others

"After I became involved in the Project, I explained to my family what my role as a Listener involved. One of my sons said, obviously it will be important for the mother and the children, but I suspect you yourself will never be quite the same again. And he was right. Incredible, unexpected dimensions have been added to my life." -- Virginia Jouris, Listener

"Facing the mother's death with neither of us getting to complete the process was very challenging and disappointing. It was tragic. But for me it was also meaningful and profound. I learned so much about myself, and about letting go. I felt very supported by the permission and wisdom of the [Listeners'] group." -- Karen Zeldin, Listener

"When I first offered to transcribe interviews for the Mothers' Living Stories Project, I thought it was just a good way to make a contribution to the Project. What I didn't realize is that I would get far more from the process than I could ever give back. Now that I'm facing cancer in my own family, I am finding the lessons learned from these very brave women are helping me get through." -- Dale Ogar, Managing Editor, UC-Berkeley Wellness Letter, Transcriptionist

"This work was harder than I realized, but I wanted the daughter to hear her mom the way she was. I would have done anything to have something like this from my biological mother. I took that instruction very seriously about trying to keep it in her voice in the transcription, because I know that any little thing can be so precious to you, even the fact that your mother said, 'you know' all the time, whatever her favorite phrase was. When you don't have anything any more, something like that can be so precious. . . It's a wonderful present. Of all the things you can leave for your kids, it's one of the best." -- Natalie Olivas, Transcriptionist

"I am a member of Motherless Daughters, Inc. and work with a support group for women who lost their mothers due to death. My mother died of cancer when she was 33 years old and I was one week shy of my sixth birthday. My brother was four and my sister was 16 months. She died 45 years ago, when death and grieving were ignored for children, not dealt with. Your work will be so beneficial to both the mothers and their children, in ways that people like myself couldn't benefit from, mothers preparing themselves and their children for the possible loss. I sincerely thank you for what you are doing. It's time!!!!!!!!" - - Taren Vayssie, Volunteer

"As a rabbi who works with the ill, I have served many women with breast cancer in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, a number of them have been young women, and of those young women, quite a few are mothers of young children. Never in my experience has there been an opportunity for these women to sustain focused reflection in a supportive environment on the impact that illness makes upon their parenting. Furthermore, although many of these women are aware that they may die in the coming years and have expressed the fear that their children would not remember them, none has been presented with the gift of having their life stories and reflections recorded as a gift for their children. This project provides these unique benefits to women living with breast cancer. In addition, the information garnered from the interviews would be exceedingly useful for health care professionals as they struggle to support parents living with life threatening illness." -- Rabbi Nancy Flam, Former Director, Ruach Ami: Bay Area Jewish Healing Center, Advisory Committee

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