Monthly Archives: December 2014



Categories: Blog, end of life, Legacy|

Here at The Final Acts Project, one of the words we like to use is “legacy.” It’s a big, fancy word. We’d all like to leave our legacy. But what exactly does it mean, and why is it important? I believe that “legacy” means capturing the essence of an individual’s life, the part of a person that will live on beyond death. Sadly, the full richness of a person’s life is often not on display until a funeral service, where an entire personal history is recalled by loved ones in a special ceremony. Isn’t it strange that often, we wait until someone has died to honor his or her life and give it the remembrance it deserves? Because our society is often uncomfortable discussing death, focusing on someone’s legacy also may be neglected. No ceremony highlights someone’s legacy until that person has achieved an advanced age, is gravely ill, or

The Anatomy of Loss

Categories: Blog, end of life, stages of life|

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines loss as “the failure to keep or to continue to have something.” It also defines loss as “the experience of having something taken from you or destroyed”. Clearly, loss is not only defined in different ways between individuals, but between diverse cultures, and it can vary greatly over vast stretches of time. And how we each respond to loss is distinctly unique from individual to individual. For me, loss has always been a phenomenon that is both simultaneously real and ethereal. There is this mystifying duality I must confess I’ve never understood very well. In my world there is the abstract, and then there is the concrete, where boundaries of loss are simultaneously sharp and porous, delineated and amorphous, here and there. It reminds me of floating bubbles – in your hand one moment and gone the next. The last half of the twentieth century has slowly


Categories: Blog, Chronic illness, Medical profession|

Medical training prepares us to react to acute illness. We learn to use technology to do something, expecting to cure, snatch people from the jaws of death, and restore their health. This has made many people think we’re superheroes. Sometimes we find ourselves buying into that adulation, then we wait for the next acute episode, poised to use more technology, but most of us are at a loss when our capes become tangled in the cycle of chronic conditions. Today, the challenge of American health care is chronic illness, for which there is no known cure. The goal of chronic disease management is to keep people as independent and as comfortable as possible. We strive to avoid acute flares, and the hospitalizations that often follow, because technology isn’t the always the answer. When chronic illness takes its inevitable path to the end of life, the goal is a comfortable, dignified

The Contrasts of Life

Categories: Blog, stages of life|

Life can be seen as a series of contrasts. Everywhere, the rhythms of the natural world are evident, from our breaths (in-out), to our heartbeats, to the waves of the ocean. The light, and dark, the changing seasons, joys and sorrows – it seems we come to know each experience most intensely by also knowing its opposite. Could one even exist without the other? Would light have any meaning with no darkness? It’s ridiculous to think of breathing in, forever, never letting a breath back out again. But somehow, that’s often our mindset when it comes to life and death. We are enjoying the in-breath of life so much, we forget that the out-breath of death is required to make the experience complete. We forget that our lives have a start and an end point. Life seems to stretch out, on and on, and touch infinity – doesn’t it? We