Dying, Death and Loss

Something I enjoy about 3L year is taking classes outside the law school. I appreciate the opportunity to take courses in different disciplines. For example, right now I am taking a class at the Social Work school. The class is titled “Dying, Death and Loss.” The teacher is a former hospice social worker.

Our most recent class was on the death experience. We saw a fascinating film, 203 Days, which depicts the last days in the life of a woman named Sarah. At the start, we see her as a healthy and vigorous woman, who takes great care in her appearance. We don’t know what has afflicted her, but it is clear that she has a terminal condition. Over time, she becomes thinner and weaker. She grows more unable to care for herself. Sarah’s daughter has taken her in and cares for her, but eventually is unable to do so. Sarah is transferred to a nursing home. In her last days, she is hardly responsive, and passes in silence.

I enrolled in this class because I plan to work directly with people in poverty, and death will be near to many of my clients. This past summer, a woman came in asking for help. She was facing eviction for allegedly not paying her rent. She was concerned about ending up homeless, but even more concerned about how the eviction would affect her family situation. She had two children who are now in foster care. They had been taken from her because there had been a fire in her previous apartment, a fire that she did not cause. The landlord had neglected to install a smoke alarm. That same fire also killed her baby daughter.

What can I say in that situation? I am not a social worker or a minister. My focus is on the legal task of helping her keep her home. And yet, there is grace in sitting with her in her grief, letting her know that she need not experience her sadness alone.

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