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C&C Magazine

A Sanctuary

By Barbara Coombs Lee

Together we have achieved great things. Over the past fiscal year we nurtured an open aid-in-dying practice in Hawaii, blocked choice-limiting hospital mergers in Kentucky, Connecticut and Oregon, and began a national campaign to stop the epidemic of unwanted medical treatment. Our years of engagement with media resulted in an avalanche of stories on the end of life. Compassion & Choices has grown by leaps and bounds.

But our greatest rewards come from opportunities to overcome America’s deep denial and phobia around mortality. Acknowledging death-not as an adversary but as a companion-strengthens our resolve to live each moment in fullness and love. In the wisdom of Seneca, “The art of living well and dying well are one.”

The founders of Compassion & Choices understood that a relationship with death evokes wholeness. We adapt to busy lives by adopting roles, suppressing pain, ignoring love and wearing masks. But those who carry out programs of Compassion & Choices-and you who make that work possible-tap on the door of something quite different. The home of a consciously dying person is a refuge from everything not loving or authentic in our culture. It can become a place of sanctuary. Working with people who are dying brings us to fuller, more conscious living.

As the year draws to a close, I am proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to the challenges the new year will bring. But most importantly, I embrace the opportunityto foster social changes that will enable us all to cherish and celebrate the lives we live.