I recently had the honor of attending the 10th anniversary of the storytelling project A Peace of My Mind by the photographer John Noltner; a project that began simply by asking the question, “What does peace mean to you?” Ten years, two books, hundreds of interviews and thousands of miles later, voices all over the country are being heard as people’s stories are being encouraged, recorded, and shared.
This is much the same work that I do, eliciting the stories and voices of those who are experiencing a closer relationship with end of life than most, not by choice, but because their life experience as a person with terminal illness, or those who care for them precipitate it. Storytelling connects us with one another, but also to something so much larger than ourselves.
One of the many questions I like to pose to the folks that I work with is, “How has living in close proximity with death influenced your life?” For some it is a gift, and for others a curse. For some, they try not to think about it at all. And yet for others, it is both/and situation. I have found that the impact of story, as with most creative pursuits, helps people to feel more connected to their own experience and through that, helps them feel more connected to others by sharing their perspective. The alchemy that occurs in that vulnerable and tender space of sharing for both the speaker and for all of those who listen and receive is the glue that has the potential to hold us all together.
The stories of others are our stories. Not only do they inform and surprise, they also carry the tremendous power to heal. Stories are so much more than the facts of our lives. Stories are the heart and soul of them.
What is your story? In the spirit of the continued and richly unfolding work of Bruce Kramer and Cathy Wurzer, and of all of us fortunate to be a part of End in Mind, we pose the question to all of you: “What does it mean to you to live with the end in mind?”
If you would like to share your story, we would love to talk with you. Please leave us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.