Reclaiming the End of Life
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After a freak accident where 11,000 volts of electricity arced from the outside of a passenger train through his wristwatch to his body, B.J. Miller became a triple amputee. As the doctors removed first one leg, then the next, and then his arm, Miller wondered about life after the accident. His initial remedy: fake it 'til you make it. His hope was that his mind would catch up with the pretend perspective that everything would be okay. He was determined to see his likeness with society rather than his isolation from it. As he studied art history, he found the beauty in ancient sculptures--almost all of which were missing appendages. Still faking it, he attempted to embrace his differences, and eventually, bit by bit, became confident in his new self, and his sleek prosthetic limbs. 

This transformation in Miller's outlook is the basis for his palliative care practice today. As Executive Director of the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco, Miller's goal is to "de-pathologize death." "It has been a liberation to realize you can always find a shock of beauty or meaning in what life you have left," said Miller in his interview with the New York Times

While gifted with natural charisma, it is perhaps Miller's very evident success at not only surviving a terrible injury but coming out on the other end thriving that mesmerizes people. His TED Talk has over 5 million views. 

"The message I get from my patients and their families, and from this work, is to enjoy this big, huge, mystical, crazy, beautiful, wacky world." It is upon this foundation that he makes a difference for his end-of-life patients at the Zen Hospice Project, helping them realize their dreams in the precious time they still have left. And, perhaps more importantly, helping them realize that the time they have left is indeed precious. 

Source: New York Times

Posted under: Death

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