The following is some of the key text from a TEDx lecture called “Rethinking the Bucket List”.  It’s presented by Kathleen Taylor who is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, who directs the community engagement function of a large nonprofit hospice program:

People always ask me, “How could you enjoy your job … how could you like watching people die all day long?”  And I had the hardest time explaining that people at the end of their lives are incapable of bull shit.

When a person’s relationship with their body, with activity and doing changes, and when they’re facing the task of wrapping up the end of their life, a lot of the normal, worldly, daily distractions that tend to tempt us away from being honest with ourselves fall off the map.  And those distractions are different for everybody, there are things like being right, being important, being busy, being guilty, being self-conscious … that kinda stuff.  So good, bad or indifferent, at the end of their lives, many people become these … distilled … crystallized … pure versions of who they are. 

Out of this sense of authentic self, people get incredibly courageous, and open and intimate and honest.  They will talk about things they’ve never expressed before.  They will reconsider things that they’ve been certain about their entire lives.  They do brave stuff like change their mind.  And apologize.  And forgive.  They express love where it needs to be expressed and they manage to find joy in the smallest moments. 

As their body’s slow down, their perspective seems shift and their presence actually seems to expand.  The New York Times actually did a feature on a guy a former attorney who was diagnosed with ALS.  It quoted him as saying, “As I diminished, I grew.  As I lost so much, I finally started to find myself.”

I saw this theme of finding oneself over and over and over.  Not with everybody, but with most people and much more often than I would have thought.  The more I got to spend with people who were in their last chapter, the more I learned about the incredible transformative power of this kind of authenticity and what it could offer us and how it was possible.

Here’s the video in it’s entirety and it’s well worth your time:


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