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Do Not Use · 17th March 2009
Nathalie Roy
"Dying is our true teacher, as faithful as the earth" says Stephen Jenkinson, one of Canada's leading palliative care teachers and a spiritual activist in the care of the dying.

Stephen will be on Cortes screening Tim Wilson's film, GRIEFWALKER, a new National Film Board production about his work and ideas, at MANSON's LANDING HALL on Saturday March 28, 7:00 pm. A spirited Q&A with Stephen will follow.

"astonishing .. at once visually lush and scripturally poetic."- The Globe and Mail

"lovely...challenging, moving and controversial" - The Montreal Gazette

view Griefwalker clip:

The film is part expose of medical technology’s dominance of how we die, part plea for dying to be allowed to be the village-making thing it once was. Whether sitting at the bedside of a dying woman, or speaking to clinicians whose job it is to delay death as long as possible, Jenkinson bears a message that most people do not want to hear: that our deaths are not something to be denied or avoided, but "befriended."

Griefwalker weaves an illuminating picture of a remarkable man, and leaves us with a deeper understanding of how our deaths should be held as "a prized possession."

GRIEFWALKER played to a standing room only crowd at the Salt Spring Island Film Festival and won the audience favourite award.

If you have ever seen a counsellor or therapist you know that the focus seems to go automatically to your childhood and your parents, to your personal style or lack of it, to your ideas and your conjured personal myths: It goes automatically to you. The reality that psychology and self help grant to you is the reality between your ears, your interior life, your Own True Self. At the end of the counselling you are released back into the sorrows and consternations of the culture that gave you your personal limp and ache in the first place, a culture as unchanged by your personal improvement as it was inured to your personal misfortune.

In a culture like ours, so unsure of itself, so without a shared understanding of life for its peoples, there are subtle, enduring consequences that visit themselves on individuals as personal inadequacies, failures of will, inability or unwillingness to live deeply. What I’ve seen over the years has convinced me that these are not problems or struggles best understood as bad psychology, worse parenting or lousy personality development. What we suffer most from is culture failure, amnesia of ancestry and deep family story, phantom or sham rites of passage, no instruction on how to live with each other, with the made world around us, with our dead, with our history. Any counsel worthy of the name should have culture at its core. Any counsel worthy of the name should begin to make a place in personal life for the rumoured, scattered story of who you come from, and where and why, making some solid answer to that question: To whom do I belong?

Counsel well done makes a home for the orphan wisdom of personal life in the life of the world, and comes to the matter as Rumi did:

All day long I think about it, then at night I say it:
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
Who hears with my ear, speaks with my tongue, sees as my eyes see?
And what is the soul?

You can learn about Stephen Jenkinson's work of cultural redemption at