StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit Levine Children’s Hospital for three recording days. During these days we had the opportunity to listen to the stories of current and former patients and their parents, as well as hospital staff.
We set up our recording equipment in the hospital’s Family Resource Center and listened to stories of resilience and hope. Children came in to talk about what it felt like to confront death and spoke of how the strength of their families and friends helped them through. They spoke of finding fun and laughter inside the hospital walls. Hospital staff talked about being the support of parents and children, of how the babies of strangers become their own. They recalled falling in love with babies and experiencing the loss of them along with their parents without losing sight of the other children that still needed care.
We also recorded the stories of the parents who lost children. Some lost their children right after their birth and some, like Michael and Diane Restaino, lost them at a moment when they thought their child’s life was just beginning as an adult. Mike and Diane came in to remember their son Joe and, in doing so, recorded the story of their lives together.
I loved listening to their commitment to always having dinner together as a family, and seeing the smile on their faces as they talked about their “infamous family dinners,” where Mike, Diane, Joe, and his twin brothers, Tony and David, shared food and laughter for hours. In order to reflect on their saddest memory, Mike and Diane spoke of their happiest memories: moments from their own childhoods and memories of how they first met. Mike chuckled as he remembered how perfect their wedding was, but they both agreed that the birth of their three sons ranked as the happiest moments in their lives.
I learned through the bravery of participants like Mike and Diane that there are many ways to share our saddest memories and that remembering those doesn’t take away from the brightness of the happy ones.