Winter Passage


Acknowledging Spirituality in Life's Final Journey

September/October 2007


When I first met Andrea, she was a walking, talking spitfire of a woman, who could swear like a truck driver and weep like a baby. A vibrant 52, she laughed, patted my knee, and talked freely about her husband, with whom she fought continuously, and her daughter, whom she considered her mainstay.

Shed been referred to me by a friend after receiving a diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer. Yet during our first session, she reviewed her medical history as if she were bragging about what shed bought on a recent shopping spree. It all started, she said in a sprightly tone of voice, with a hysterectomy, then a bladder repair, a cyst on her ovaries, and finally a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Surgery gave way to chemotherapy, which gave way to radiation, which led to embarrassing hair loss, which she turned into a fashion opportunity: Hey, how do you like this scarf? she said, almost coquettishly.

As we started working together, it seemed unlikely that shed die, if only because she didn't have time for it. She kept working, kept moving, kept running as fast as she could, staying one step ahead of what was chasing her. She met daily with friends to shop, to lunch, to talk. She injected herself into the life of anyone who came near her, turning the black-and-white of daily existence into vivid color through her hold on living itself. She wanted to make everything better before she died; and she meant that quite literally, although shed laugh and say, I know, I know each…

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