Why is it that so many novels, plays and films about persons afflicted with illness end with that person dying? For that matter, folks, what really is a “terminal illness?” Okay, yes, of course there are medical conditions that will be more than not likely to terminate with a person’s passing. (That condition applies to us all, “in the end.”) But there are many “better ending” scenarios that could be focused on instead of mainly spotlighting the loss and grief associated with transitioning from the body or losing a loved one. For this post I choose to focus on the many possible BETTER ENDINGS facets of such conditions.
Firstly, many people with “life-threatening” illnesses either do not succumb at all (live out a normal life span) or they survive much longer than was at first or is generally anticipated. In such cases, such ‘illness’ conditions offer the person many tremendously positive opportunities for growth, improved health, and greater spiritual awareness or empowerment. These outcomes can be beneficial regardless of the progression, or reversal or remission, of the health condition leading to such positive results.
Carolyn Myss, in her well known 1996 book, Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DTEMVYW/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1#nav-subnav) , looks carefully at some possible cultural or ‘energetic’ aspects of health conditions as well as healing. She asks why it is that sometimes a person might “hold onto” an illness condition, choosing to continue with “unhealthy” behaviors rather than choosing to make some possibly health-improving changes.
As a Better Endings theme, I invite you to think of some health-related story you are familiar with that “ends badly” (to you) or perhaps is too predictably about a character’s eventual decline and their loved ones’ loss and adjustment.
Steel Magnolias (http://stageagent.com/shows/play/705/steel-magnolias), for example, is a movie I cannot even watch fully through a second time because it caused me to sob throughout the last scenes and for probably an hour afterwards when I watched it for the first time. M’lynn’s daughter Shelby (played by Julia Roberts) suffers from a severe diabetic condition which she dies from while giving birth to her son after marrying the man of her dreams. Shelby’s mother (played brilliantly by Sally Fields) tries to persuade her daughter not to bring her pregnancy to term, knowing the dangers. Shelby risks these dangers to bear her husband a child and she dies as a consequence.
A Better Endings scenario might have found Shelby and her Louisiana born and bred husband Jackson (played by Dylan McDermott) deciding to adopt rather than to risk Shelby’s life in this manner. It could have been about the joy of adopting a child from China or Nicaraugua, for instance, and the joy that child brings to all in the community rather than spotlighting the loss and grief M’lynn and the rest of the family endure.
Please all, I am NOT saying that death and bereavement are ‘bad’ occurrences in themselves or that they are by any means often ‘unnecessary’ or avoidable. All I am getting at here is that illness or other heavily impactful circumstances are opportunities for positive growth and reflection, whatever the outcomes. We can celebrate all the potential GOOD that might come about from our positive responses to these conditions in our own lives or others’ rather than stigmatizing or even sometimes marginalizing people ‘afflicted’ with such challenging life conditions.
images are from pixabay.com
I welcome your comments and stories.