Mon, 23 Apr, 2018Danielle McCarthy

"Every person has a story”: Hospice volunteer writes life stories for patients

"Every person has a story”: Hospice volunteer writes life stories for patients

Kaitaia woman Lois Strong is providing Hospice patients with an invaluable gift - a book on their life.

She has written nearly 10 books so far, recording stories, detailing life events, and compiling photos into a book which is given for free.

"Every person has a story," Strong says. "I try to keep the written record just the same as I hear it, so when their family reads the story they can hear their loved one."

Typing up a Hokianga man's manuscript in the 70s prompted Strong to give her parents Pat and Ivan a tape recorder to share their stories. 

"To them it was just life but to us kids it was our history," Strong says. "I can remember Dad's face when he saw it, he cried lots reading it."

When her mother was unwell, Hospice supported the family and in 2011 Strong began volunteering. 

A school friend suggested training for Life Review writers and from there Strong's work began. A brochure outlining the service is given to new families who receive support. 

Strong sits with the person for around two hours at a time while the final book usually takes several months to complete.

"I love it; I've been retired since 2005 and now I wouldn't have time to go to work. I know families really appreciate what I do but I know I get just as much personal satisfaction in being able to do this for them," Strong says.

Strong has developed a timeline that helps to jog people's memories.

"I start them off with when and where they were born, who their parents were, then they just go from there."

Strong encourages every family to make sure their older generation's stories are recorded. 

"Even if you record them and type them up later, at least have the stories.

"You be the one who says, 'Come on, Grandad tell me a story, I'm ready to listen', not the one who says I wish I had written Granddad's stories down.

"There is no time like the present. Time has a way of beating us to the end."

Written by Bayley Moor. Republished with permission of Image credit: Bayley Moor/Stuff.