A few hours after I learned David had started hospice I woke up in the middle of the night with an incredible urge: I had to see him.

I didn’t want to be a burden, and I felt like I was crazy, but I had to do it. Our last goodbye was not right at all, and I couldn’t let our friendship exist on the one-dimensional plain of “we both have brain cancer.” I wanted to know who he was as a person, outside of the disease.

I texted David the next day and asked if I could meet him soon for lunch. In his straight-from-central-casting, midwestern style, he texted back:

Come here?! From Cali?!

Yes, from Cali.

I booked a flight and a hotel room, and packed an overnight bag, then I hunkered down for a 36-hour trip that would take me from Sacramento, CA to Minneapolis, MN, and back, and I just went for it.

Little did I know my trip to see David would become one of the best things I have ever done in my life.

The StoryCorps App

Before leaving for my trip I downloaded the StoryCorps app to my phone.

If you are not already familiar with Story Corps, it is a program through National Public Radio in which regular people interview other people they know in one of NPR’s recording studios (or mobile studios, or their iPhone app) throughout the country.  Some clips from these interviews are occasionally played on the radio, and all of them end up stored at the Library of Congress.

Knowing that not everyone is lucky enough to travel to an NPR studio and make a recording, Story Corps, with the help from TED Prize and Knight Prototype Fund, created an app which allows people to making a recording using their own phone and upload them to the StoryCorps website to be shared with friends and found by anyone in the world. (I highly recommend watching this Ted Talk to learn more about Story Corps.)

Interviewing David

I wanted to interview David and learn more about his life and him as a person. After meeting for dinner, he agreed to let me record him in his home the next morning.

I had never made a recording with the app and so it is not as flawless as I would like it to have been, but David and I had an amazing conversation. (And special thanks to my friends Kevin and Allyson for loaning me a microphone that would plug into my phone.)

Since making the recordings available to David’s friends and family a month ago, they have had more than 700 listens. People close to David have sent me messages over the last few weeks telling me how much the recordings have meant to them, and have helped them understand him and this disease, and this last stage of his life.

I have been processing this experience for nearly a month and I still can’t quite put it all in to words. Even this blog post and the words used to describe my experience do not do justice to the memories I have created and been a part of.

You can listen to the two full recordings here:

PART 1 / 34 minutes:
Out of treatment options, Minnesota man with brain cancer continues palliative care, starts hospice and reflects on life

PART 2 / 26 minutes:
After living with brain cancer for nearly 8 years, David Salmi talks about his life and the decision to go on hospice

If you are just reading blog for the first time and want to know more about my connection with David please read David, Part 1 and David, Part 1B. Thank you.