In this touching and enlightening episode of Global Spirit, host Phil Cousineau and his guests focus on the human dimension of dying and the preciousness of this transition from life. It can be, they convey, as profound and poignant as the miracle of birth. Although many of us admit to being frightened of death and the suffering of leaving behind this world and our loved ones, this much-needed program makes it clear that dying is a natural rite of passage and a completion of our life.

Two sensitive and seasoned caregivers, Therese Schroeder-Sheker and Frank Ostaseski, who have spent years being companions to dying persons share their experiences as they discuss the transformative power of death, the art of being truly present, the value of touch, the need to express love, the role of forgiveness, the witnessing to pain and precariousness, the mystery of not knowing, and the strength and tenderness which are the fruits of serving others. Cousineau shows film clips from their work and uses these up-close and personal moments to draw out of the two guests their special gifts in the contemplative care of dying people.

Therese Schroeder-Sheker is a lay Benedictine, the founder of the Chalice of Repose Project and the palliative medical modality known as music-thanatology. Therese and her musician-clinician colleagues work in hospitals and hospices to facilitate intensified living through the possibility of a blessed, peaceful or conscious death.

Frank Ostaseski, a practicing Buddhist, is the co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project and currently serves as the director of The Metta Institute. He leads workshops at hospice centers, encouraging people to use death, tragedy, and vulnerability as catalysts for powerful transformation.

To Continue This Journey:

  • What are your major fears about death? Have you done any preparation for this event? Share your responses to Frank Ostaseski's suggestion that we deal with the losses of our daily life as a prelude to death.
  • On the program, both caregivers salute the healing power of touch for anyone who is dying. In your experience, what can be conveyed through this ancient bond between people?
  • If you were at death's door in a hospital, hospice, or your own home, what music would you want played?
  • What role has forgiveness played in the deaths of people you have known? Which kind of forgiveness would be hardest for you: forgiving others or forgiving yourself?
  • What kind of person do you want to be your companion as you are in the process of dying?
  • Discuss Sister Joan Chittister's thought in In a High Season: "If death teaches us anything, it teaches us that everything will someday end. The lesson, of course, is to wear suffering well, hold beauty lightly, and fear nothing."