A journey's end is like breath itself: it will happen whether or not we give it any thought, and yet we can shape it and make it meaningful, just as a singer shapes breath into song.
The metaphor of a journey speaks to the way we make meaning in our lives. Looking back, we construct a coherent narrative, a path that, for all its accidental turnings, has led from there to here. We cannot control events, but we give them meaning and coherence in retrospect. We are the authors of our own stories.
And the same is true as we look forward: we cannot know what the future will bring, but we can bring our beliefs, fears, and dreams to bear on shaping where we go from here. The poet Robert Frost describes this work of giving meaning to what lies ahead as "believing the future in."
The work of believing the future in, essential for all of us, becomes urgent and fraught with unknowns for those facing advanced incurable conditions, whether from illness or the aging process itself. Too often, patients and their loved ones find themselves in reactive mode, relying for coherence and direction on health care providers, whose authority lies in their knowlege of the condition, not the patient.
With the aging of the Baby Boom generation, we face the urgent challenge of relieving the burden, both economic and spiritual, of medical treatment aimed solely and reflexively at prolonging life. Meeting this challenge requires us to rethink our understanding of death itself— to see it not as the negative outcome of medical treatment but as the culminating act of a life well-lived, a kind of work we are called to do and to share as a life comes to an end. Any life. Every life.
What You Will Find Here
Some reflections on how to begin a meaningful conversation, how to keep it going, and what to expect as you move toward the journey's end.
An anthology of poems to help you find words for what is hard to say and some thoughts about how to say them.
Let me lead a workshop for your group or organization on
Other sites and suggested readings for
The aim of this site is to help those living with advanced incurable conditions and their loved ones sustain a sense of meaning and purpose, of being the authors of their own stories, right up to the final page — and beyond, because this work is as vital for those whose journeys will continue as for those who are nearing journey's end.