Here at my desk in my home office, an old computer monitor serves as my bulletin board. Stuck to it via post-it notes are a number of choice quotes or ideas I have come across that have actually changed how I perceive something. And so it is my altar to human creativity! The quotes’ authors range from Job in the Old Testament to Art Garfunkle to Stephen Colbert to Bono!
But one quote draws my attention these days as I’ve been helping create end of life ceremonies for others and as I begin the largest project I’ve taken on—co-creating the end of life ceremony with and for two separate women.
I read it over and over: “Healing can happen even when a cure does not.” This is a quote by Kit Turen, a writer and sister Life Cycle Celebrant® who practices in Washington D.C.
Each of my two clients has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and each is thinking beyond her last months to the impact her passing will have on others. Both women are very hopeful that their end of life ceremony can offer the opportunity for healing the hearts of those they love, those they will soon leave behind.
In working with them to craft their unique ceremonies, we first consider their intention—what it is each wants to accomplish through ceremony. One of them is compelled by her realization that her adult children aren’t ready for her passing. They have been actively and valiantly caring for her for many years now as she has struggled with Parkinson’s Disease, but doing so distracted them from thinking about life without her. There is so much she wants to say to them, and thinking about how she might do that through creating an end of life ceremony is healing for herself, because she knows that she is doing the ultimate mothering: she is helping them come to terms with her own mortality.
The other mother has one adult child, who needs considerable care himself due to a developmental disability. Since her initial terminal diagnosis, she has focused her energies on securing his care in a local assisted living facility. She has created a trust to take on his legal and financial responsibilities. And now, she is feeling more ready than ever to create for him and for her large circle of community an inspiring end- of-life ceremony to help them adjust to her passing when the time comes. Her intention is to inspire others at her death to think about their own lives more actively, to choose how they want to live.
Both of these women, in their final illnesses, are looking to promote healing in those they love. And in doing so, they are generating healing in themselves, taking care of what most needs to be cared for: our loved ones and the emotional legacies we leave them. Neither woman has much time left, yet each is focused on healing her own heart through healing those she loves. Healing truly can happen even when a cure does not.
Are you curious about the quote by Bono?
“There is no end to grief. And there is no end to love.”