While listening to and thinking about the main characters in the film Seven Songs for a Long Life, the question that came to my mind was: “What is the difference between them and me?”
In some ways there is nothing different – for we are all human beings who are simultaneously living and dying. One main difference is about our level of awareness.
These inspirational characters possess certain knowledge - that a particular illness with which they have been labelled and whose assault they have felt deeply, will shape and shorten their life and will most likely expedite their death. Their hopes and dreams and all that we ordinarily take for granted about 'our tomorrows' have been dashed. They have come face to face with the reality of their own mortality.
By drawing us into their world of living while dying, they teach us what is possible if we embrace the tension of living in the knowledge that we are dying. There is no room for procrastination! But there is space for hope, for making the most of every opportunity, for cherishing everything that we have and focusing on the things that matter most.
They show us their determination to face the reality of losses, even when they seem layered one on top of the other. They teach us not to like loss but to live with and through it – and in spite of it retain dignity and strength and love for life. The irony is that if we acknowledge that our days are numbered – even if we don’t know the actual number - it changes what we do and how we see everyone, everything, today and in the future.
Marjory MacKay is Director of Nursing at Strathcarron Hospice (pictured with Doreen Asher)