Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Laura Gray

In Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, a twenty-four year old woman, known publicly only as "Laura", has just been granted the right to die by doctors. She does not have a terminal illness and the illness she does have is only life-threatening by an act of her own hand. She suffers from severe depression.

For the past three years, she has been a live-in patient of a psychiatric institution and has attempted suicide on several occasions. She made a public statement to journalists: "Death feels to me not as a choice. If I had a choice, I would choose a bearable life, but I have done everything and that was unsuccessful." 

The date of her death has yet to be decided.

This legal decision about "Laura" is sparking outrage and debate regarding Right to Die Laws, just as Brittany Maynard's choice under the Death with Dignity Act in Oregon did last year. (Although there have been clarifications distinguishing the two, pointing out that Brittany had terminal brain cancer and "Laura" is "merely depressed".)

As a part of humanity, we each have rights. Some are protected by laws, some are expanded by laws, and others are dictated by laws. Some exist solely as a deeply felt moral code or ethical dilemma. As a society, laws often seek to control the boundaries of our choices and command over the gray areas of what is viewed from either a compassionate or a moral ground. It is a protective measure most governing parties take to protect the lives of its citizens or the views of it populous.

However, no one has the right to judge another person's "enough", that unique breaking point of suffering, because agony is extremely personal. Pain is relative to the person suffering from it.  Yet, as a culture, we often do. 

It is often debated and everyone seems to have very strong opinions about rights to die. Many people feel we do not have the right to choose at all. That that choice is allowed only to a particular divinity or twist of fate. Others feel that it is a personal decision which laws shouldn't try to interfere with. There is a faction which look at the circumstances of "Laura's" request to die and respond that she is too young, only depressed, and not facing a terminal diagnosis. Other factions see Brittany as a tragedy who courageously chose to escape the pain of the inevitable with dignity surrounded by supportive family and friends.

Like pain and survival, there is no black and white, or right and wrong. What could be deemed correct for one could be combatively opposed for another. Each choice is individual to the situation and every choice therefore is gray. 

We each cast a shadow when light strikes us. But the length and strength of our shadows are determined by a variety of factors. Shadows can change and shift without warning when the light is altered. It is all a matter of perspective, timing, and circumstance.

We are all different people. We face different battles which can lead to a variety of unpopular choices. Sometimes we choose correctly and sometimes we do not. Sometimes choices are made for us which we don't agree with and have no control over. Other times we make choices during a crisis we would never have made otherwise, but are the right choice for us in that moment.

The need for some choices could change with time, treatment, understanding, and healing. Or they could compound and intensify. There is no way to be sure in the moment.

As a survivor, I choose to wish peace for those without hope and hope for those without peace. And have respect for each individual's journey to find a way through the pain, because it is their's, relative only to them.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Gray Fairy Boat

When I was a little girl growing up in the South, we used to hunt the beaches for Slipper Shells, which we fondly referred to as fairy boats because of their appearance. But, more than the grace of their shape, they hinted of a magical world where lovely creatures sailed safely on exotic seas. The imagined promise of an ethereal world just beyond our own, the proof of which we could hold in our hands and collect along our windowsills.

Later, as an adult in the Northwest, I would look forward to the occasional ride on a ferry boat across the Puget Sound. Although the boats were basically a shuttle to take people and their cars from Point A to Point B, there was nothing basic about the sunsets which could be viewed across the stern. And in the half light of twilight, with the waves dancing along the hull, if you closed your eyes just right, the view of Seattle would blur into a mythical skyline of possibilities revealing a world quite unlike our own.

Earlier yesterday, I read an article about the writer and performer, Spalding Gray, in The New Yorker, The Catastrophe, by Oliver Sacks. It delved into his traumatic brain injury and the medically un-explainable descent into crippling depression he suffered in the wake of it. An injury which so altered his life and changed who he was, it eventually led to him taking his own life.

One of the last things Spalding Gray did was board the Staten Island Ferry. He left no note. Told no one of his plans. The last moments of his life had no witness and his body washed up on the shore two months later.

The article was gracefully written by someone who knew the artist in the final years of his life, attempted to treat him, and grappled with trying to understand what was going on in his head.

However, it was read by a survivor who intimately understood far, far too well: the chaos of his brain injury, the pain in his body, the hurt in his mind, the evaporation of creativity, the despair of his soul, the isolation within, the loss of self and the end of hope.  Debilitating and consuming.

Throughout the day, the words of the article returned to me. At times, it literally paralyzed my thoughts in ways which can not be adequately conveyed. I understood as only a survivor can.

We all look into the abyss and at times the abyss most assuredly looks into us. But, as most survivors are secretly aware, sometimes the abyss actually calls out to us.

Like a Siren on the watery rocks below, the abyss can sing to us with whispered notes which reach into the darkest and most wounded part of us. A haunting voice promising escape and bittersweet relief from the ocean of hurt. A song which can both torment and soothe.

Reading words about a stranger's life, I recognized my own turmoil, frustration, and grief. I felt anew the loss and mourning of self so many survivors face daily. In a day already wrought with pain, it overwhelmed and took my breath away.

I fight daily to choose life. I face incredibly harsh realities to avoid taking a fairy boat of illusions. I feel the tug of the abyss for I have looked into it far too often. Sadly, the same Sirens are the soundtrack to my life and dreams. I know the promise of which they sing.

Surrounded by love, support, and medical treatment, Spalding Gray took an actual ferry boat in search of an elusive fairy boat to escape from the relentless pain and drowned in the East River.

His unique talent and powerful voice silenced and missed. His loss felt.

I can not judge him his choice, for I know the call of the abyss, the misleading safety shroud of the water below, and the song the Sirens were singing to him.

But just because we know the words, doesn't mean we have to sing along.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

New Normal

Everyone on the planet has a view in their head of what an idyllic normal family is. Yet, despite the Hallmark card kind of perception, few people would define their families as normal or idyllic.

As a survivor, normal goes right out the window. Everything in your life can feel askew when dealing with the weight of trauma or illness throwing everything off balance.

Family, during times of crisis, becomes what you make of it, with who you need it to be. Your normal is whatever you create to survive.

A friend may become a lover, a boyfriend starts to feel like a husband, or a child turns into the primary caregiver. Whatever the dynamic, crisis can shift your version of normal, throwing things both out of alignment or into what feels like the most natural of positions.

Don't beat yourself up for not achieving the idyllic illusion. Don't regret something so elusive. Embrace your new normal, whether fleeting or permanant.

If those who you thought would be close are distant and those previously distant feel closer, redefine your sense of family and your idea of normal. Surround yourself with this redefined family support, whether that family be one of blood or one of unrelated emotional connection.

We all once came from mothers and fathers, and may grow to have brothers and sisters or daughters and sons. But, as we survive, our family may come from something different and be uniquely beautiful, cobbled together through hardships and joy, from family, friends, and strangers, who in your heart evolve to truly become your family.

Normal is for greeting cards and 50's television shows. True support and family in times of crisis often come from surprising sources which are far more powerful then a random ideal.

Allow yourself this normal. Be thankful for it. It is far more precious and affirming then the one you previously imagined, because it is real.

Your heart's family, who weather the storm with you, are the most precious gift of all. Even if they never achieve the un-achievable normal.

Today is Father's Day, take a moment to remember fondly the person or people in your life that guided and protected you. Whether you ever called them father or not, they helped you survive and be you.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


In the early hours of Wednesday evening, a young man sat down with a supportive group of people to listen to them discuss the Bible, God's presence in their lives, and to pray. After about an hour sharing this type of intimacy between strangers which occurs so often in Southern churches, he stood up and opened fire with a small caliber gun. He reloaded numerous times and took nine lives.

A white man in a predominately black church, who had been readily accepted into their prayer group.

Despite being unrepentant, he would later confess he almost didn't shoot them, because they had all been so nice. Despite his unrepentance for this merciless act, family members of many of the victims have stepped forward to publicly forgive him.

In a state whose capital still flies the Confederate flag, grieving family members came forward to forgive a man who senselessly and methodically murdered their loved ones.

I grew up just north of Charleston, South Carolina. I have walked its cobblestone streets and strolled beneath its grand oaks with their moist drapery of Spanish moss. I have shopped for trinkets in the old slave market and ridden in carriages pulled by horses. And, like that young man, I have attended prayer meetings in AME churches. (Not to mention Sunday services, Spring weddings, speaking in tongues revivals, and emotional funerals too many times to count.) And, I have friends and loved ones who remain their still.

As a survivor and a Southerner, the thing I am most drawn to and literally can not escape thinking about is that, that young man spent an hour with those people. 

He shared moments of their humanity before taking their lives. He recognized that they were nice and treated him with open kindness before murdering them.

As a culture and a society, there is something extremely broken in that. 

It goes well beyond the pews of that church and the cobblestone of that city. We live in a world where, even when we recognize briefly the humanity of another, we can dismiss it, diminish it, and extinguish it. 

We should not just mourn the loss of those nine human beings, but should be awakened to the reality of the world we live in. We should be horrified and angry. We should stop being selfish and ignorant. We should speak out and stand up.

It is time to recognize each other's worth, not briefly, but always. Every moment of every single day.

No one person's humanity is worth more than another. 

We share this planet: in different time zones, with different languages, with different ideologies, under different flags, and believing in different higher powers. But, we are all human. 

Every life has worth. Our humanity matters. We must fight for each other, even in our differences. We must believe we each matter, seeing the worth in ourselves and each other.

Don't just recognize the humanity within the person beside you- embrace it, fight for it, and believe in it. 

Never commit a single act, or allow through inaction an act, that would dismiss, diminish, or extinguish the beauty that is another human being.

That man took nine lives.

Take the first steps in reclaiming your own humanity by respecting the humanity of others. We need to help each other survive. 

Take the Confederate flag down.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Damn Boundaries

All people have boundaries individual to them. Even figuratively, these are tangible lines everyone needs to be aware of and respect.

However, survivors often face the overstepping of boundaries due to ignorance, disregard, personal views, misunderstanding or disrespect. It is sadly commonplace and comes in many forms.

Doctors and nurses speaking together unaware of their voices carrying private medical information beyond your consent zone.

Priests administering their belief system for your salvation without your agreement or believers judging your situation because you are outside of their belief system.

Friends and strangers asking forward questions or making insensitive comments about your illness or trauma without an educated understanding of the depth of it or issues you may be facing. 

Individuals with a sense of power, lecturing, questioning, or trying to dictate behavior outside of their scope of knowledge or expertise.

The list of perpetrators can go on, since any person can, at any given time for their own reasons or incomprehension, overstep a boundary of another person.

Often times the people overstepping are unaware they are overstepping and too often survivors find themselves accommodating this breakdown in boundaries because deferral is easier then confrontation.

It is hard to defend private and uniquely personal things. It is awkward to have to explain yourself about yourself or your crisis.

These boundaries can feel like great dams, holding back a literal sea of issues, which when ruptured can cause vents and overflows of awkwardness, humiliation, anger, sadness, guilt, and feelings of being disrespected.

Recently, I faced two such boundary breakdowns.

Firstly, during an emergency room visit, awaiting treatment during escalating pain, a stranger, who introduced himself as a pastor, laid hands on me. He administered prayers and litanies resembling last rites with a request for my burdens to be lifted which could allow me into heaven. He did this without my consent, since I was in no condition to even verbalize a consent. 

Hunched over moaning, just trying to manage to breathe through agony, is not an invite to be saved, merely a human struggling at their most vulnerable while seeking medical treatment. It was an assumption on another's part, no matter how well intentioned, and a boundary was crossed. 

A nurse interceded on my behalf, as I was in no position to protect myself.

Secondly, while visiting another survivor, a "director" questioned and chastised me regarding my support dog. They went as far as to correct me on his official capacity and amend his medical purpose, despite being appropriately tagged. They disregarded all legal documentation in order to facilitate the outcome they desired, which was me relocating my visit to a less public area.

It was an uncomfortable exchange, which I deferred to in order to accommodate the request temporarily and be respectful of their surroundings. However, after the fact, I provided the documentation and expressed my concerns, of the boundaries crossed, to supervisors, since some of those boundaries are protected by federal law.

We have the right to our boundaries. We have the right to be respected and not be belittled for what we are each individually going through. We have the right not to explain or be judged for whatever trauma we are surviving. We have the right to not be made to feel awkward or apologetic for who we are.

Dams are built for a reason. We need to respect them, even when we may not be clearly able to see or comprehend the waters they are trying to contain.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Yellow Petals

Hope is like a rose. 

It can bloom and grow strong. It bends and climbs, reaching for the light. 

A rose will literally tilt and open its gentle petals to the sun. Fragrant and delicate, a beautiful balance on a fragile stem.

However, it's deeply effected, and often altered, by its environment.

A rose without proper care will wither and die before its full fruition. Neglected, un-watered, left to the dark or cold, its once vibrant petals will cascade softly to the ground or dry utterly on the vine. 

Hope will also wither when not nurtured. It will evaporate if care is not put into it. Hope is literally a living, breathing thing, since it is part of what helps us as humans to live, breathe, and survive. It is as important to our survival as oxygen. 

We must have hope and be vigilant in its care. We must protect it and keep it safe. We need to feed hope and place it firmly in the light. 

Hope is delicate. It is fragile. But, it is beautiful and worth nurturing.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Digging Deep

When he knows what he wants, the Irish Rogue digs on you. Whether it be more attention paid or an understanding empathy, whether needing something or desiring snuggles, when my dog wants it, he digs.

Sometimes it is the sweetest, softest, most endearing pat with a single foot. While other times, it's a relentless onslaught of exuberant digging with both feet and all the strength he can muster. Over and over with the digging on you, as a gentle reminder not to forget or an insistent demand to hop to it,

He knows what he wants. 
He knows what he needs. 
He believes and trusts in others enough to ask for it.

Survivors could learn a lot from this simple act.

In times of trauma and crisis, it is hard to express need and ask for help. It can be difficult to trust ourselves and others enough to reach out. 

We are overwhelmed which often leads to isolation by not wanting to overwhelm another, overstep a boundary, or become a burden.

But, we have to speak up, even if only figuratively in simple acts or genuine expressions, to accurately convey what we need. 

We can not be afraid to ask the hard questions. We shouldn't hesitate in trusting those we rely on for support and aid. If we go unheard, we must find our voice and formulate our words to ask again, louder and more insistently. It is vital we reach out.

Even in chaos, deep inside us, we know what we want and what we need to help us survive. We have to trust each other, and ourselves, enough to ask for it. Sometimes you have to dig deep to heal.

Note: Watch the Irish Rogue demand to go to the Dog Park.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


We all have a favorite pair of jeans. 

Maybe they are our favorite because they hide our flaws while enhancing our attributes. Or, because they fit us like a second skin. Or perhaps even because we have worn them so often, they have worn down in all the right places, Whatever the reason, we prefer them over others. 

We wear those jeans so well. They uniquely suit us. So much so, we will keep them long after the worn-in holes have become inappropriate and look more shabby than chic. We will become almost defiant in the wearing of them. We can not be convinced to throw them out and will actually mourn their eventual demise. Afterwards, we'll search way too hard for a replacement and find the new pair rarely compares. 

When in the chaos of crisis and pain of trauma, the familiar can provide calm. The comfortable becomes a place of refuge. Whether a person, place, or thing, or even a state of mind, emotional outlet, or belief system, which is inherant in us, the comfort of the familiar can be a harbor amid the storm.

No matter how inappropriate it may appear to an outsider, or how frayed it seems to be around the edges, we must pull close that which helps us hold on to who we are. We need to treasure what helps us survive, without feeling the need to justify or explain to others why it is important to us.

If your favorite source of comfort is a person, share as much time with them as you can to heal and remain whole. If your favorite harbor is a place, visit it often and linger there to find your zen. If your favorite shelter of safe resides in an object, hold that thing near to you when you feel unease. If your favorite strength lives in an emotional or spiritual understanding, seek peace and knowledge within that foundation.

Like your perfect pair of jeans, when you're wearing them or merely staring at them in a wonderful discarded pile on the floor, having just stepped out of them, keep them close.

How we survive is uniquely personal. It is suited to us. Don't let anyone take that away from you. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Spicy Caviar of Change

Pimento cheese is a common fixture in Southern comfort cuisine. A simple spread made of cheese and mild spices, sometimes referred to affectionately as the caviar of the South. Scooped onto vegetables, spread on crackers or sandwiches, and often mixed into other foods, it is popular with the locals and prized during summer picnics. But, for many, outside of the South, it is a strange, acquired taste. Unique and foreign.

Recently, while sitting vigil for a survivor, we tried a version with jalapeƱos, foreign to the standard mixture of pimento cheese. (Tried only because it was free, donated to a hospital hospitality house and we were hungry.) But, in partaking, it exploded with texture and layers, full of spicy goodness. Taking something comfortable to another level. 

Now, we seek out this pimento cheese with a kick when we want something familiar, yet slightly different.

Life needs to have spice in it. We all need a little flair sometimes to help us take notice.

It is easy when struggling with trauma or illness to become complacent and accept the status quo. To hide in our comfort zones. To sit back and let what is happening to us run its course. It is human nature to hunker down with what we know and trust during times of turmoil.

But, sometimes it is vital we mix things up and contemplate adding a kick. Change things up to find something else that will work or come at our views from a different direction to find other solutions. 

To do so can aid in clarity, change perceptive and perceptions. It can help us find another path to our intended destinations. It can also expand out, making our safety net wider and more secure.

Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone while struggling to survive. Add spice to your life and be open to changes which can enhance your survival.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Kraken Unleashed

Since before the 13th century, in Icelandic lore, there have been tales of a mythological sea-creature, believed to lurk along the coasts of Norway and Greenland. The Kraken, a legendary monster of large proportions, dangerous tentacles, which rises from the depths of the chilly water with vengeance and an insatiable hunger to devour men and destroy ships without warning. 

A creature so mysterious and suspect that no clear picture of its origins, appetites, and ways of possible eradication have emerged. Instead, the terrifying myths have expanded out over time and continents, inspiring literature and nightmares for sailors and land-lovers alike.

Facing the merciless onslaught of trauma and illness can feel like a Kraken unleashed. Tentacles flailing, battering you in churning, murky waters. Waves whirl-pooling in the wake of the enormity of an altered reality, sucking you under, as you gasp for air amid the overwhelming pressures of drowning. No way to prepare, no adequate way to fight back. Reactionary, instinctual responses to a relentless predator.

The dread of the next onslaught looming even larger with each attack, until the moments of potential peace are so wrought with the stress and worry about the next hurdle you get no relief.

Like in mythology, in trauma and illness, monsters do exist. They live in compromised immune systems, cancerous cells, altered psyches, damaged organs, diseased bodies, tumors, addictive personalities, abuse, depression, and shattered emotional states.

Creatures of the abyss slink back into the darkness, but they do not have to take you with them.

You must fight to steal each surviving breath and rage against the tentacles bent on pulling you down. Remember waves do break and clutches loose their grip. The sun rises and the current shifts. There can be calm seas and clear skies again. Have hope. Do not let the Kraken win.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Every Yesterday for All Tomorrows

Yesterday, June 7, 2015, was National Cancer Survivor's Day

A day which celebrated cancer survivors, worked to inspire the recently diagnosed, gathered support for families and friends, and reached out to the community.

In our lifetimes, we will all be touched by someone with cancer. And, yesterday, we were meant acknowledge all those who have, do, and will struggle to survive. A day dedicated to supporting the community of survivors as well as their families, friends, and caretakers.

But, that was yesterday. Today is today and tomorrow will be tomorrow.

Surviving is constant and challenging. It  is powerful. It touches and changes us all. It evolves and truly is ongoing.

It exists in each day, not merely the beautiful ones dedicated to noticing.

Yesterday, I hope we all took a moment to honor and embrace a survivor or our love of someone lost, who survives in our memories. And breathed brave in honor of survivors all over the globe.

But, I hope we all remember today, and tomorrow, to continue to fight all trauma and illness, That we all find the will each day to endure and survive, That we all find the strength to heal and give love.

We are all survivors and we are united.

National Cancer Survivors Day

Friday, June 5, 2015

Library Voice

As any one who often speaks too loud with dramatic flair can attest, there is a common saying used as the polite way of telling someone to shut up or quiet down.

"Use your inside voice."

As any survivor can attest, there is also a deeper level of quietness that goes beyond that. This is your Library Voice. A voice more hushed than any other.

All you have to do is imagine a diminutive, yet stern librarian, her glare like daggers, ordering silence, to understand the completeness of this level of the quiet down decree.

Survivors both benefit from and loathe this voice.

On the one hand:
When we need to rant, rave and vent, it's incredibly frustrating to be contained.
When we need an outlet to talk things out, it's hurtful to be told we can't share.
When we need to seek knowledge and ask questions, it's damaging to be told to keep quiet.
When we need to speak up, it's wrong to be told to shut up.
When we need someone to listen to our struggle, it's disheartening to be silenced.
When we need the support of another, it's devastating to go unheard.

On the other hand:
When we need to soothe the turmoil inside us, it is calming to seek a quiet place within.
When we need space to sort things out, it is helpful to take a private moment without chaos.
When we need to reconnect with who we are, it is powerful to take the time to collect ourselves.
When we need to contemplate and prepare for the battle, it is vital to steal the time to review our situation.
When we need to push back the loneliness, it is imperative we have a safe place to invite someone in to nurture and inspire us with understanding.
When we need to listen to our heart, it is necessary to hush the noise around us enough to find the sound of its beat.

As in a real room surrounded by books, our Library Voices can be their most positively potent when we have the chance to share the camaraderie of whispers, and at their most destructively negative when we get stifled by silence.

The key is to keep and embrace your Library Voice, but in a library of your own making.

Build the library you need to survive. Brick by brick. Personalize it to your needs. Don't allow yourself to be shushed by others, but give yourself all the quiet you need to heal.

Stock the aisles with your thoughts and feelings. Arrange the shelves with the pages and chapters of your own story. File the catalog of who you are in a way which lets you find yourself again when you are lost. Invite others to share and enhance your collection, but throw out the pages they may add which tear you down. Lock the world out when you need to stroll the stacks alone. Contemplate in peace.

Close your eyes and inhale the wisdom of the stories within, like aged cherished paper. Run your hands down the binding, feeling how it all is held together. Feel the safety of never being alone, because your thoughts keep you company.

Libraries are beautiful, special places. Your voice within is also unique and beautiful. You are special. Find your voice, no matter how quiet. Fill every page of every book with the story of you and hold them close to your heart.

Don't be afraid to speak up or shut up. It is your library. Sing and laugh, or weep and yell, or temporarily hide or reveal as much as you want.

The books who live in the library of your own creation will never mind the ruckus or the meditation you utilize to create your road to recovery. Your Library Voice has the ability to speak to you the loudest.

Note: An interesting place to peruse books is Goodreads. Maybe there is an actual book there about the crisis you are facing which you can add to your library.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sweet Sixteen

In the paradise that is the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i, on the outer most edge of the peninsula, at the base of the highest sea cliffs in the world, lies the Kalaupapa village,  once home of the infamous Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement. It is still home to six of the surviving sixteen leprosy patients. The survivors range in age from 73 to 92 years old. 

From the 1860's through 1969, as many as 8,000 leprosy patients were forcefully exiled to  this location to live out their lives. Over a thousand, mostly unmarked graves border the  village. Over the years, numerous Catholic missionaries, dedicated their lives to helping the exiled. Some eventually died of the disease themselves, most famously Father Damian, who became a Saint for his martyrdom of charity.

Many, if not most, of the female patients in the village, gave birth to healthy children at some time during their exile. These children were forcefully taken and given up for adoption. Their records sealed or lost, most never knowing of their parents or original bloodlines. 

After the exile quarantine was lifted, long after leprosy cures were common practice, most of the survivors chose to remain in the village because they were either too disfigured or too traumatized to return to the outside world, having known no other life, or outside family, for so long.

Island locals consider the village a sacred place, because of what occurred there. It is now a national historical park. Controlled numbers of tourists, excluding children, are allowed access to the area, which is in many ways stuck in time and pristine in its natural elements. There is great debate what should happen to the community and surrounding lands once the last of the surviving patient dies, and how it should be protected.

Speaking in pidgin Hawaiian earlier this month, one of the last surviving patients, Clarence  “Boogie” Kahilihiwa, told The Associated Press, “Come when we alive, no come when we all dead.”

For a survivor, even in its simplicity, that is a powerful statement.

Funerals are somber ceremonies, full of grief and memories of the lost. Often, people come out of the woodwork to attend, for there is a camaraderie to the event. People seeking solace with others and sharing recollections of the deceased. It is an important step for those who are living. It's a time of reflection on a life and allows for closure.

However, it does nothing to lift the spirit of the individual lost.

Those faced with fighting trauma and illness often feel very alone and isolated. Although it can be very painful and daunting to be present during such a struggle, it is the time when support and comfort are needed most. Survivors need help surviving, and dying can be extremely hard.

There is great strength in basic companionship. Hope can be born in the simple task of holding another's hand during their darkest hours. Fear eases within time spent with family and friends. Love is felt very deeply, often in its truest, most simple forms, when shared during complex times of struggle.

Do not wait for grief. Do not allow for regret. Give of yourself while those living are alive. 

Share these precious moments while you can. It is the greatest gift you can give another person and one of the greatest you will ever receive. Give love while someone can still feel it. Be present while they know you are there. Heal a heart before you mourn a person.

Read more about the fate of the colony at The Atlantic.