Writer and energy-work practitioner Deborah Mayaan recently co-taught a workshop for people with cancer and their loved ones in Tucson, Arizona, with Rabbi Stephanie Aaron. The workshop was co-sponsored by Congregation Chaverim and the Readings/Workshops program.
In a recent workshop on embodying our values, a woman wrote about her frustration with her mother, who had agreed to take care of a collection of large household items that had great meaning to her mother. We had been working on extracting the positive values from happy memories, and finding the life lessons in challenging experiences. When searching for what she might learn from this, the woman in the workshop first thought about the benefit of simplifying and not collecting things, because they can be a burden on future generations. But she was open to other perspectives, and several people suggested that the collection could be seen as a gift to be enjoyed rather than curated, and could even be dispersed throughout the family.
We agreed that stories can be the best legacies: They take up very little space in paper form and virtually none electronically. No one needs to dust them or move them from house to house. And when more than one person wants this legacy, there is no fighting over it; it can be shared infinitely among people.
When written down, a story has an enduring quality, so that the original writer’s thoughts and feelings are conveyed intact. And yet, it is still alive. Even when the story is received by someone with no memory of the event, or even of the writer, the reader’s perspective continues to evolve over time. This last point was especially important to one participant who had been diagnosed with metastatic cancer, who was considering the legacy he would leave his children.
At all three venues where Rabbi Stephanie Aaron and I taught this winter—the Arizona Cancer Center, Casa de la Luz Hospice, and Congregation Chaverim—people felt the power of stories to help us clarify our values and strengthen us so that we can make the most of each moment, and share our legacies with those around us.
Photo: Deborah Mayaan (standing) tells a story about values learned from her mother. Credit: Rabbi Stephanie Aaron.
Support for Readings/Workshops events in Tucson is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.