Chicago Tribune Article

Chicago Tribune Article

In health crisis, a loved one is only a ‘play’ button away
Compiled by Wendy Navratil and Cassandra West

You’re facing major surgery next week. But all you can think about is your 4-year-old. Who will sing his favorite songs with him when “Blue’s Clues” comes on, and who will read “Goodnight Moon” at night before he goes to bed?

Or perhaps your neighbor’s 10-year-old is undergoing chemotherapy and sorely misses school. How can she feel like she is not forgotten by her peers?

Life Chronicles can help. A not-for-profit organization, it provides videotaping services to help people stay connected in a health or life crisis, says board member Donna Lee Caringella.

Life Chronicles can arrange to have Mom videotaped, reading her child’s favorite stories and singing favorite songs. Then at home, she is only a “play” button away.

For the child isolated by illness, her classroom pals can be taped telling her jokes, wishing her well and filling her in on who kissed whom behind the jungle gym.

The organization was started in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1998 by Kate Carter, who sought to help widowed friend who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Together they decided to videotape a message from the woman to her children, for them to remember her by.

Caringella, who heads up the fledgling Chicago-area branch, says, “It’s all about connections. There’s a universal need for this kind of service that really hasn’t been fulfilled to this point.”

When Life Chronicles receives a referral from an area hospital, hospice or an individual, a project manager is assigned and meets with clients to discuss what is desired. What do they want to tape? How do they want to appear? Doing what? What type of music, if any? Do they want to incorporate other video or photos into the project?

There are no fees for these services; funding comes through grants and donations. (Life Chronicles does have a for-profit branch called “Loving Wills,” for those who are not in crises but want to make a video “just in case.” There are charges for “Loving Wills” services.)

The first project in the Chicago area involved an ill father who was not expected to live to his daughter’s wedding date. Life Chronicles arranged to have the father videotaped expressing his wishes for the couple. That film was incorporated into the final wedding video.

Another example of Life Chronicles’ work was for a woman who gave birth to twins she was giving up for adoption.

“She wanted to leave a videotape for her children explaining why she was letting them go,” Caringella says.

Caringella realizes that to some people, this work may seem depressing.

“It may sound sad, but these videos are all very life-affirming,” she says. “They’re all about why it’s great to be alive. It’s very positive and very forceful experience.”

Anyone interested in more information, making a referral or helping out can contact Life Chronicles at or check the Website at

Janet L. Stoodley