One of my clients is a cancer charity, CHARIS, that specialises in offering complementary therapies and tailored counselling for people that have been diagnosed with cancer. It is recently opened.
CHARIS is located in the most beautiful scenic location overlooking Lough Fea. It is a remote and achingly desolate part of the Sperrin foothills. I first visited in February 2010 to meet the centre Director Imelda and Valerie, the CHARIS fundraiser, herself having survived a cancer diagnosis.
I found talking with Imelda and Valerie to be unusually inspirational and optimistic, and I found myself at times in awe of their upbeat enthusiasm for their difficult but necessary work. Thank God I have not been closely exposed to someone suffering from cancer although I watched from a distance as a number of friends and family members passed away. In many instances these individual were inspirational in the way they faced their future with indomitable courage on the outside at least.
In briefing myself on the reality and rigours of cancer, up to the our final hours in this life, I found it a difficult but strangely calming subject to understand. Nietzsche wrote that “If you stare into the Abyss long enough the Abyss stares back at you.”
And so, it was with a curious realisation that it dawned on me that death like life must be faced and dealt with head on. We know not the time or the hour, but a peaceful end to the journey has to be a good thing.
In researching the background to complementary care I came across the story of Maggie Keswick Jones after whom the Maggie’s Centre in Scotland takes its name.
In writing of her own cancer journey, Maggie confronts her own future with a fearlessness I could recognise from the illness of one of my closest friends. She wrote:
“I mean to keep on marching, down the tail of the statistical curve and on, into the sunset, and then, when I eventually I must die, to die as well as possible.”
It is a strangely cathartic experience to read the personal, confrontational and ultimately brave account of this woman. It is inspiring and devastating in equal parts.
You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;
I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care.
As the peach-blossom flows down stream
And is gone into the unknown,
I have a world apart that is not among men.