Humans live in Sea of stories. Our minds continuously assembly pieces of images, memories, emotions into almost unending narration. We construct a story upon a story. There are stories we tell ourselves and stories we hear from others. There are stories of illness, love, grief and happiness that intertwine, run parallel, end and start again. We are the actors, directors and script writers – all at the same time.
We all love hearing stories, as they are the basic mechanism through which we attempt to understand ourselves. Questions: why am I here? What I’m supposed to do with my life? are usually answered by the grace of a story that moves us.
Which story however should we listen to?
You can imagine my struggles when one day a 22-year-old girl ( I will call her Heidi) was admitted to our inpatient hospice unit. She came in the middle of the night, in a wheelchair, paralyzed from waist down from a tumor that has spread to her spine. She was caring a six-month old baby in her lap. She flew across America to meet her sister whom she has not seen since childhood. The first night in a hospice Heidi spent with her daughter at her side. The next morning her sister came in and Heidi gave her the baby. I went to see her afterwards, prepared to handle a crisis but Heidi was surprisingly calm, resting in bed. She answered my standard questions politely and then requested not to be bothered by visitors. She died peacefully in a few days.
We all felt terribly sad and distressed. Why would a 22-year-old mother have to die from a cancer? It seemed, her story had no sense; no meaning at all.
I went back to those few days she’d spent with us. To our daily visits, to my attempts to strike a conversation. And then I suddenly saw something I had not realized before. Heidi had never complained. Since her admission she had been unusually calm, given her circumstances, and completely not afraid. She knew she was dying and she just did what she found was appropriate at the given moment. All the perceived meaningless of her life was simply my projection. And then I saw her story as a story of fearless devotion to her child and a story of genuine heroism. All of a sudden I realized deep meaning in her story that changed it from dark and chaotic tale into moving and beautifully clear narration.
So, I do believe in the power of a Story. Story with a capital S. Story that is far bigger than our daily overdramatic and never ending narration. Story that benevolently picks events, and arranges them according to its own line of narration, adds tempo and tone as it wishes. Story, which end is unimaginable; a story we can understand only in moments of stillness. Then we get to see a fragment of vast picture, we get a sense of meaning. This I believe.
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