In early August StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled to Columbus, Ohio, for three days of recording with the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML), a 2011 awardee of the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal.
It was fitting that the scope of our participants’ conversations was wide, as members of the CML community were invited to share the stories of their lives. Parents and children shared family histories. Two women discussed their children’s marriage to each other. Best friends talked about the bonds of their relationship. And two of our participants, April Johnson and her fiancé, Michael Dornbusch, discussed their life together during their cancer diagnoses.
April had beaten ovarian cancer and met Michael after he’d been diagnosed with leukemia. Having both been diagnosed with cancer at an early age, April and Michael feel they have a special understanding of each other. They remembered some of the hardest moments of Michael’s treatment, but they remembered some of the best, as well, like when 300 of his coworkers at the paper mill donated blood in an effort to find a match for him.
Reflecting on their journey together, April remarked that it’s a common misconception for people to think that Michael is lucky to have her as he continues to live with his illness; despite her own experiences with cancer, April felt she had no knowledge of how to help Michael during his illness. “I didn’t know how to help you,” she told him, “so I did the only thing I knew how to do, and that was to love you.”
Shortly after his diagnosis, one of Michael’s doctors gave them a copy of Listening is an Act of Love. Sharing their experience with StoryCorps at the CML, they said, was like coming full circle for them. and it made sense that a book could mark the beginning of such a significant story of their lives.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awards The National Medal to five libraries and five museums for extraordinary civic, educational, economic, environmental, and social contributions to their communities. This award is the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries, and StoryCorps is proud to record the stories of these distinguished institutions. Click here for a full list of this year’s winners.