I was interested to come across several news stories about a new documentary created by filmmaker Lorraine Price. The film tells the story of an 83-year-old woman named Kathleen Mahony who, as Price tells us, “volunteered to do hair and makeup for the terminally ill at the palliative care unit at Notre-Dame Hospital in Montreal [for the past 31 years].”
Price was inspired to make the documentary in honour of her grandmother who had been a very classy and elegant woman. In this interview, Price reflects:
Her style was loud and unapologetic. But when my grandmother passed away in hospice care, on top of having dementia, she was barely recognizable to me—her hair was short and white, her nails nude, and her lips pale. It felt as though she was gone long before she left us. I was so absorbed by my grief and the desire to mitigate her suffering that I neglected to consider the importance of that outward-facing identity that she had cultivated her whole life.
I would love to see this documentary because we desperately need good examples of how to treat those who are approaching the end of life.
There is a universal, inherent dignity that is innate, yes. But there is also the matter of dignifying – we can add to a person’s dignity by bestowing honour, appreciation, and affection.
In another interview, Price remarked, “Kathleen doesn’t do their hair because these patients are dying. She does it because they are human and they deserve to feel dignified and like themselves even when they are at their most vulnerable.”
Kathleen’s service is precisely the kind of hidden work that will benefit our culture greatly by being brought into the light.
This morning, I was drinking some orange juice that I had picked up at Shoppers Drug Mart when I realized that it tasted nothing like the freshly squeezed organic orange juice that I have taken to buying at Farm Boy.
And every now and again, I eat some not-so-quality chocolate and realize its inferiority compared to the exquisite and delicious chocolate that I like to buy at Stubbe Chocolates here in Ottawa.
This is not about decadence or extravagance, but about quality and appreciation.
I remember reading a personal finance book when I was a teenager that discussed how foregoing $5 daily lattes (and similar “unnecessary” routine expenses) could lead to “building wealth” or “finishing rich.”
The other day, Fr. Mike Schmitz released this video, “The Key to a Happy Death” in which he shares that a student recently asked him, “In your experience, have you found that people who live a long and fulfilling life are more prepared, or better prepared to die–that they’re able to let go of their life more easily?”
And to this, he answered no.
I recently asked a young woman about what ways she has found to profit from the situation of living during a pandemic.
Her immediate answer was that she came to truly value attending church because this is something that had been taken away during to the periods of lockdown. Prior to the pandemic, she would often skip church because of her erratic work hours, but once she had experienced the loss of this possibility that was not on her own terms, she resolved to make church attendance, when possible again, a non-negotiable commitment in her life.
This is a testament that we value that which costs us.
If something costs us nothing, it is natural to expect that we will not value it highly.
And so I am also reminded of the ardour with which persecuted Christians attend church.