Remarks from LMM President Randi Belisomo upon receipt of the Agency Award from the Decalogue Society, the nation’s oldest association of Jewish attorneys. LMM Board member Mitchell Goldberg was inducted as Decalogue’s President:
The Decalogue Society is one that I have watched from multiple vantage points. As a journalist, I have witnessed your recent efforts to clarify the Constitution in times of political strife, collaborate to fight for justice, and so importantly- extinguish the stain of anti-semitism that still infects our city of Chicago.
I have also watched your organization from the standpoint of a friend, blessed as I am to be among the many who can call incoming President Mitch Goldberg and his family my friends. He has been, from the moment I first spoke to him, an exemplar of Decalogue’s values of justice, dignity, raising standards, loving one’s neighbor, and always doing good works….most often, under the radar.
Shortly after my husband Carlos passed away, I received a phone call from a Mr. Goldberg, who I learned attended DePaul University with my him.
I was in a haze, but Mitch quite confidently and kindly said that he would like to assist in making a memorial scholarship at DePaul named for Carlos. I was not in much shape to make this happen, so I said, “sure, great.” When I heard the number of dollars it would take, I could not imagine this happening….and certainly not if I had anything to do with it at that time!
However, before you knew it, the Hernandez Award was endowed for a journalism student. Mitch came through, honoring his friend, supporting students whose names we did not yet know, and most certainly, comforting the grief stricken.
You can then understand that when Dr. Mary Mulcahy and I first had the idea to create Life Matters Media, the first phone call I made was to Mitch Goldberg.
Five years later, we are celebrating four years in operation, as well as thousands of end of life planning conversations started and continued. Our first hire- still working with us today- happened to be the first Hernandez Award winner at DePaul. Daniel Gaitan remains an integral part of Life Matters Media, and Mitch joined Celeste and Reto Gallati as founding board members and true champions of what we exist to do.
The Proverbs tell us that when we gives freely, we gain even more. All of us believe that wholeheartedly.
It is “heart first,” as a supporter recently described, that we work to help others have end of life choices, end of life quality, and a greater understanding of the capacity that end of life decisions have to nurture the human spirit.
We started Life Matters Media on an act of faith, facing an urgent need in public health to improve the current end of life experience. Such faith and necessity keep us going every day to meet the demand for what we do.
We approach our work as an issue of justice, of honoring our mothers, fathers, loved ones, ourselves, and our own values and beliefs.
For many reasons, the vast majority of Americans have not received the opportunity to participate in the process that we facilitate, advance care planning: considering, communicating and documenting our end of life care preferences.
Among those least likely to have done so, tragically, are our society’s most vulnerable- medically, economically and socially. The consequences are so very real: worse care, worse symptom suffering, impeded communication with physicians, worse pain, more acute caregiver burden.
That isn’t right, so it is why we now direct the significant portion of our programs and resources to our city’s most vulnerable areas. There, residents hope for the same things most of us do- comfort, peace, autonomy- but thus far have lacked someone connecting the dots to make those hopes more possible to achieve.
It is a true privilege to do this work, because in doing so, the answers to some of the questions we ask of those we serve are ones that reveal the essence of a person. The questions so essential to the conversation:
What do you do that gives your life meaning?
What can you not imagine living without?
What are your fears and concerns about future care?
What gives you strength in difficult times?
If you know the answers, share them with those closest to you. These conversations unfailingly reveal aspects of ourselves that our families may not know. In sharing them, you are telling your loved ones how to care for you….love you….when you cannot speak for yourself.
We emphasize that the conversation is what is most important. However, as attorneys, you know to get things in writing. Advance directives are the last step, not the first. When you make one or encourage a client to do so, you are in a long line of faithful people who have done this.
Another bit of wisdom from scripture scholar Mitch Goldberg: the first advance directive in recorded history dates back to the book of Genesis. In the account of Jacob’s death, Joseph is summoned with his sons so they can receive their grandfather’s blessings. Jacob instructs them, asking to be buried in a cave alongside parents Isaac and Rebecca, grandparents Abraham and Sarah, and his wife Leah. Some Jewish scholars have called this the first hospice death in history. It’s a good death; his family was there, and they had guidance.
Thank you to the Decalogue Society, its board, and incoming President Goldberg. On behalf of our board and the older, the ill, the caregivers and the families we serve, we are grateful for this tremendous honor. It comes from an organization doing vital work for justice in the richest tradition, and with true faith.