Living well … take the chance you’re given

As I write this, a cluster of devoted career and employment counsellors is hovering light and energy over one of their flock. Just 44. A twin. A financial wizard. A woman cut down by a brain aneurism on the day after Christmas.

One local story of loss lost among pages and pages of devastation in Asia Pacific.

As we cope with the heaviness of being human, feelings flood in… guilt, fatigue, anger, sorrow, humour (yes, humour), determination, relief (yes, relief).

It’s the taunting reminder that we’re in this life right now, that not one of us will ever know when we’ve given our last kiss or tucked in our kids for the last night. Which is to say that we hold in our hands the gift of our lives. In a way, those who leave early toss to those who remain what is, I think, the ultimate challenge.

Live well.

In fact, each of us would live quite differently than we are right now if we knew that 2005 was our final year. We would make different decisions. And we’d make those decisions differently. Some of the most eloquent advice pieces on living are given to us by those who are dying. Erma Bombeck. Morrie. Audrey Hepburn. We could fill this page with wisdom shared.

So, rather than fill our notebooks with resolutions for the next 12 months (or two weeks!), we could honour the lives that have been so prematurely snuffed out by simply living well.

I guess we each have a definition for living well, but it might include …

* knowing what our values are
* honouring those values always
* giving people a second chance to make a first impression
* giving unconditionally, with no expectation of return
* using our ears twice as much as our mouths
* figuring out what we¹re absolutely best at, then going for it!

That’s what Fiona Rooney has done.

A computer programmer by profession, Fiona has plied her trade at large corporations (with large mainframe computer systems) always wondering why career happiness has eluded her. Maybe the next job will be better. Maybe I’m just not cut out for… Excuse after excuse as she strove to find the job she loved, and the job that loved her.

It wasn’t until Fiona was sidelined by grief after her grandparents died. Separated from them by an ocean, she took time to go ‘back home’ and grieve. And that process changed her life.

She took what felt like the ultimate gamble and set the programming degree away in a cupboard. She travelled to Toronto day after day, week after week, taking all the training, courses, practica, and sessions that she needed to become a gestalt therapist. And then she added a grief specialization to her skill set and she’s moving into a unique area of working with people who are experiencing loss.

It may sound odd to say that Fiona has found her calling, her peacefulness, in working with the grief recovery process.

She’s added a new activity to her therapy and is offering group sessions for people coping with loss. She’s designed once a week morning and evening sessions to help remember and celebrate the life of a loved one by actually creating memory books. Using photographs, icons, words, stories, recorded messages, artwork, Fiona guides clients through the grief process. She helps people honour their sadness, find a place for it in their daily lives, and move through it to a place of peacefulness.

By launching these six week sessions and offering daytime and night-time choices, Fiona is committed to giving people a healthy opportunity to say goodbye. What a gift to individuals, and what a contribution to our community! (

This remarkable young woman, who has had the courage to shift her life, is living well.

And she’s using her work today to let other people live well.

Isn’t that the best we can be?

Thanks, Fiona.