• Sarah Hines

The Purpose in Death

The story of my time with Bree has touch many of you. Thank you so much for your personal notes and stories! I thought I would add a little more about what that moment has rippled into. I told that particular story because it is where I first felt purpose. I just didn't know it at the time.

That moment with Ann did stir something in me that was deeper than I knew to look. I knew, that standing there holding this baby all tied up in tubes was the only place on earth I wanted to be. That I was the luckiest person. That in fact, this whole journey into caring for the dying was this weird dichotomy between being selfless and selfish. That I honestly had no problem with the selfless part, I was restless with the need to be there in whatever capacity. But it was in this moment, I felt that I didn't deserve to be there and how incredibly selfish of me to want more.

When people heard that I was volunteering with palliative care children and their families. It was typically met with an immediate physical reaction. Like they couldn't walk away fast enough or they fumbled around trying to change the topic. On occasion I would receive a response of "Oh my God, I could never do that! How do you do that?!" My answer was always "I get more than I give."

And don't get me wrong, this shit was not easy! In fact, I walked away from it because it made me hard. It made adult death and pain feel trivial and ordinary. I fell into it so deeply that every complaint was met with "well at least your baby isn't dead." I was young and full or righteousness. I have since softened thankfully.

It was in that house on a cold winters day, standing with Ann, that I first witnessed unconditional love. It was here that I felt the most grounded, that I was most connected with a core that was just indescribable. It was this beautiful mix of raw pain that was being protected by love and safety. Protected because ,my god, it deserved to be there in all the ways it shows up but it also deserved to be held in hearts that loved and cared for it. Hearts that held the pain and protected it from suppression and frivolity.

It is this intersection where I felt my version of humanity. I felt the safety of silence, of not being responsible for the answers or the plan. I had seen this pain before and was not there to talk, judge or fix. Ann felt that too despite not really knowing her, she and I connected on something that has forever shaped my life.


Your absence has gone through me

like thread through a needle,

Everything I do is stitched with its color.

W.S. Merwin

My purpose is to live in connection so that others may be brave enough to find their purpose. And while, you may say, that death is a weird place to find purpose for living, it is probably one of the fewest places where we find a raw connection not only to ourselves but to those around us.

You will feel it if you are paying attention. It's in those moments that you feel strong and weak at the same time. It's when you feel connection but unsure why. It sneaks into your day and goes on without you. The people around you see it, and it's the foundation of why they love you. Giving it a name, living it intentionally and learning from it is more liberating than you can imagine.

Everything I do is stitched with purpose. Purpose does that too. It gets into you and makes you feel selfish while the rest of the world sees selfless.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@igorovsyannykov




Toronto, ON