More than 130 medical professionals, storytellers and patient advocates attended the Chicago End-of-Life Care Coalition’s fall benefit, an effort that raised funds supporting the CECC’s educational programming throughout the Chicago area. The evening, “Final Chapters: An Evening of Storytelling,” was presented by Chicago’s professional story-sharing group, 2nd Story.
At Revolution Brewery in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, a handful of storytellers narrated their experiences in facing terminal diagnoses and the loss of loved ones. “How many of us have run into a friend or colleague who recently lost a loved one and then not known what to say?” asked Lucinda Gryzenia, the CECC’s treasurer and coordinator of the event. “We seem to have lost the language to talk about death, and we seem to have forgotten how to listen to them. Our hope is that hearing stories tonight will make people more comfortable sharing their own stories of loss- sharing a second story out there.”
The organization’s board members said they were delighted by the turnout. “I actually started this organization 13 years ago, and I don’t know most of the people here- which is a good thing,” said Julie Goldstein, M.D., past president of the CECC.
Storyteller Fred Sasaki recounted his father’s quirks and final moments. “My father saved everything: placemats, nicknacks, empty cans of Axe deodorant, even my old gym clothes which he wore- frugal as he was,” he said.
In May, Sasaki’s 80 year-old father choked to death on a piece of steak at his favorite restaurant, Yoshi’s Cafe in Chicago. “I can’t help but talk about my dead dad. The sadness sneaks up on me — keeps me company — so I laugh at it as much as I can, and tell stories or make things that confront it as directly as possible,” he told Life Matters Media. “He liked his meat ‘nice & juicy,’ which I think also describes his life. That was a famous saying of his, and that’s how he raved about the very dish he ate time and again until it was his last meal.”
Sasaki said he was happy to share the gift his father gave to him: a lifetime of stories. “He gave me so many great stories during his whole life, and I think this story was the kicker, no pun intended,” he said.
LMM co-founders Randi Belisomo and Mary F. Mulcahy, M.D., are board members of the CECC.
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