Palliative Care in Other Words

"In any man who dies there dies with him,
his first snow and kiss and fight . . .
Not people die but worlds die in them."
--Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Our beginning rationale at the start of this program is articulated as follows:

  1. Understanding the value in a moment along with the whole of a life, attaching power and meaning to a fragment along with a decade, feeling persuasiveness in a half-second as well as in a 30 year career--these, all, have been part of our lives, with the very big parts and feelings not always equating to great lengths of time.  The great lengths of time, too often and too readily, we equate with meaningful lives.  What feels like disconnection or distraction are often just the opposite--they are what has been missing in defining a whole life.  Long, neat, pretty narratives are rarely how our real lives work.   That said, a simple moment as well can simply be beauty itself, in need of no defense or explanation at all.  In this sense, looking for meaning in surprising places measured by no regular ruler or compass should be our aim.  A surprise to us will often be a surprise to someone else as well, and will often feel like the best kind of discovery--finding something new in what's been right in front of us all this time. 
  2. Similarly, in working with people who do not have long to live, comfort is not always synonymous with entertainment.  For some people, lives of service must add up to something, and to be simply entertained at the end of days is to be profoundly misunderstood.  Someone whose life has been voluntarily in service to others needs to have some sense of still serving, or else they have already stopped living.  This deep sense of belief can be hard for many of us to understand.  We must, of course, distinguish service from burden or responsibility. 
  3. Lives of service and receiving comfort, clearly, are not mutually exclusive.  Comfort is after all the appropriate and best result of service--knowing that you did something that mattered to or helped someone else.  This kind of comfort, however, is earned  differently.  If someone asserts something similar to what you are going through, then you no longer own it in its entirety--that is, it does not belong only to you.  You can no longer claim full ownership and the whole burden.  You share it.  Yours becomes in that moment a share of the burden and not the whole thing, and a share of something simply weighs less than the whole.  This kind of juncture is where service and comfort meet.  This lightened sensibility does not diminish pain or sorrow.  Rather, it suggests just how immense these conditions are, and how astounding our capacity, therefore, as human beings to feel and to understand and to withstand them--and how much better we are at doing it together.

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