Why death?

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“Why do we wait til a disaster occurs before we say those heartfelt words to our loved ones? Why can’t we tell them all along not just that we love them but why we love them? And why can’t we all just appreciate we are alive and how lucky we are?”

I read these lines a few months ago in a blog written by Louise Page, a Scottish woman in her 40s who was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer last Christmas. Page had been fighting a rare form of the disease in her left leg since 2004, and after it spread to her lungs, was told by doctors she had a short time to live. On the advice of her husband, she began a blog, “Lou’s Story,” about her experience.

Sadly, she died on May 19.

Reading Page’s blog got me thinking about mortality and my own fear of it. I wondered how people who are surrounded by death every day — either because of their own health situation or career —  make peace with it, like Page did (she not only made peace, she often approached her impending death with humour in her blog posts). This is what inspired my series “Living With Death,” which concludes in today’s Telegram.

If you’ve followed the series over the past four days, you will have read the stories of Laurie Anne O’Brien, a longtime palliative care nurse who has seldom forgotten a patient or family over the past 30 years; Anglican Cathedral curate Father Jonathan Rowe (a junior high and high school friend of mine) and Rick Singleton, regional director of pastoral care and ethics for Eastern Health, both of whom find themselves counselling the dying and the grief-stricken; Geoff Carnell and Amanda Laite-Rogers of Carnell’s and Fillatre’s funeral homes, respectively, who have provided services to thousands of families; and, in today’s paper, Dan Norman, a Gambo man who died and was resuscitated.

I tried  hard, over the course of the past three months, to find a person dealing with their own terminal illness who would be willing to do a gentle interview with me for this project. I did speak to a number of them and two people agreed but then declined at the last minute, preferring not to talk about it after all. I understood.

No one escapes death, but it’s not something that’s generally talked about or explored unless we’re grieving. I wanted to write a series of articles that looked at the peaceful side of death, not the morbid side, and the subjects in the stories taught me that a hopeful, celebratory aspect does exist.

None of them particularly fear death (especially Dan, who, having died and come back to life, says it was a wonderful experience and jokes how he can’t wait to go again), but look at it as the simple fact of life it is.

I filmed each of the interviews for the series and produced four videos to go with the written stories, and you can find them online here:

http://bit.ly/16VD8Zo (or here, if you’re reading on a mobile device: http://bit.ly/15YzaJi).

If you’d like to read Page’s blog for yourself, it has been continued by her husband, and can be found at alancainsley.wordpress.com.


— reporter Tara Bradbury

Organizations: Anglican Cathedral

Geographic location: Gambo

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