About the artist:
“I’m a father, nurse, writer and humor lover. After my mom’s death in 1983, I became a hospice volunteer and then decided to go into medical service, leaving a photo career to do so. I went briefly into the NYC emergency medical service, then attended nursing school and went into AIDS and cancer home care and hospice work. It’s been twenty years now, interrupted in 2011 by colon cancer; the chemo rooms gave me some ‘no escape’ time in which I found that I could write.”
About the artwork:
“I met Bernie Siegel in my former photojournalism career. Asked about hospice, he sent me to meet his patient Sonny (pictured with her son, above, at the Branford inpatient facility). ‘Sonny was one special lady,’ he told me. He described how she asked a friend why he was hanging around with her instead of out having fun. He answered, ‘You have touched me, and I have grown.’
“When I was diagnosed with cancer, Bernie shared his insights. On treatment decisions: ‘Statistics can help you decide, but your potential is another factor.’ On chemotherapy: ‘When the nasty stuff comes up, erase the blackboard by visualizing something you love…don’t be afraid to make rules for yourself and your care…and laugh for no reason.’ On my newfound empathy for patients: ‘I call that native vs. tourist.’ On reticent patients: ‘I walk into their rooms with a cane and a limp – we are all wounded, and when you reveal your wounds, others share with you things they normally would keep hidden.'”
4 thoughts on “A Last Mother’s Day”
What a tender and intimate moment in this image of Sonny and her son at her deathbed. Thank you for your heartfelt tribute to Dr. Siegel as well, whose wise and compassionate statements always seem right on target.
To the list (“father, nurse, writer and humor lover”) add “friend.” We’ve known each other since the milk and cookie days of kindergarten, but the transition Terry mentions above is something I wouldn’t have been able to predict. Already an established, sought-after professional photographer, he said one day, “I’m getting tired of being a spectator in life–I want to be a participant.” That led to NYC-EMS and all else. Now, as you can see, he’s come full-circle–a spectator (I prefer “keen observer”) and a participant together, all in one. And a mighty fine writer to boot. Our 8th Grade English teacher, the late Wynn Shortz, would be very proud of him. I certainly am. My conclusion: the ingredients were there all along–cancer baked the cake.
So much expression in the photo which exudes the eternal hope that flows from love and connection. Here all is right in the world.
Terry Hourigan’s brief essay is layered with human wisdom…To be read and reread.
Thank you so much for that acknowledgement.
I’ve been so lucky that things have broken
the way they have through all of this.