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FIRST BREATH / LAST BREATH is a research project borne from personal experience. For this project I am accumulating the experiences or “personal stories” from individuals who have accompanied a parent through the end stage of Life. Just as the parent was present for the “first breath” of their child’s Life, the child who is present for the “last breath” of a parent’s Life, enters a sacred cycle of Life and Death rich with meaning.

Each person witnessing these final weeks, days, hours or moments is left changed in a unique way. Some find a new relationship to Life. Some, a different perspective on Death. Others, an opening to a spiritual connection which may be new or deepened. In some instances the chance to be with a parent at the end of Life, provides an opportunity for the parent/child relationship to be healed. Others feel an unexpected, eternal connection to their parent, in spite of the finality of Death as we have come to expect to experience it. There are as many opportunities for change or transformation, as there are individual stories.

Though each person has a very personal and unique experience, there are common threads that wind through these stories, connecting the people who have travelled this road to the “last breath”. It is through the research of collecting these stories that I hope to understand more fully what these common threads are, and how they might inform all of us as we move in greater numbers to a time when many of us may be part of a parent’s “last breath”.

The Method:

Participants in this project are asked to tell their story in the confidential setting of my office. A brief history of the parent child relationship is described. The circumstances of diagnosis and treatment of the parent are looked at. General questions are asked to help the individual tell their story spontaneously, always with a sensitivity and understanding of the tender nature of returning to the feelings that surround the memories of the experience.

Stories and experiences are spoken about in a comfortable timeframe of approximately 1 hour. Participants are encouraged to speak openly and freely about how the experience has affected them in a safe, comfortable, supportive environment. An audio recording is made of the session and is kept confidential, as is all commentary.

The Goal:

The hope for this project is for enough stories to be gathered so that the experience of supporting a parent through the end of Life can be understood, illuminated and demystified in such a way as to inform and support others who choose to participate in the time leading up to a parent’s “last breath”.

Please contact Teya to discuss this project and arrange a time to contribute your story.

“The spokes of wheels are like the spokes of our lives: our family, our community, everything that supports us. The center of our existence is the hub. And notice that when the wheel spins, everything is moving except for the center. That’s us, you know. Our wheels need to be true and straight. Be mindful of them, and tighten the spokes in the right way.”

—James Veliskakis, “Three Lives: From Biker to Buddhist”