This I Believe | Subjects live on in stories

June 29, 2013 

I believe in telling stories.

Stories establish legacies and immortalize memories. Stories explain beyond what we see on the surface.

I’ve been an amateur reporter since high school. Until my sophomore year of college, I pursued a sports journalism career for two reasons: I had a knack for writing and I loved sports.

But now, a few hundred articles later, I want to write for a totally different reason. I want the subjects of my stories to be remembered.

Just last year, I got to meet and write about a variety of people while I was interning at a newspaper. One of my interviews was with 46-year-old Jay Saunders, who was organizing a cancer fundraiser.

At the time of our interview, Jay was in his second year of treatments for pancreatic cancer, a disease that usually kills patients in less than a year.

The first sentence of my article was “For Jay Saunders … death is not an option.”

In a perfect world, that would have been true. He died later that year.

But his memory lives — in the thoughts of his wife, Tammy, and his toddlers, Jason and Sienna. And I’ve realized his memory also lives in my words, especially in this day and age when everything is archived online.

I learned something important while I was writing about Jay.

My byline isn’t what matters. What matters is that, one day, when Jason grows up and Googles his father’s name, he’ll be able to read about his dad.

Jason will be reminded of little details, like how he and a friend tried to raise money to find a cure for pancreatic cancer. They set up a lemonade stand and raised $5 and 25 cents.

It matters that anyone curious about Jay’s life will be able to read about his tireless work ethic before he was dragged down by cancer: how he would wake up at 5 a.m. to exercise at the YMCA before getting his kids ready for school and then putting in a full day at the office.

And while Jay is one of my more memorable examples, I hope I will always remember to write with the intention of giving much more than just a superficial description of events, people and teams.

Even in my most basic stories, I want to find ways to add depth and show what something or someone is all about.

Now I see my purpose more clearly than ever.

The facts and figures surrounding someone like Jay are important. But, ultimately, what endures is someone’s story.

I believe in writing about what matters. I believe in telling stories.

Matt Bufano lives in Exeter. His essay aired Thursday on WPSU.

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