Mothers’ Stories of Love and Loss from End Well
End Well is an organization with a mission of “making the end of life part of life.” The nonprofit, founded by Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, brings “well-known and emerging voices to drive a cultural shift around the end-of-life experience.” Solace is a proud sponsor of its annual, inspiring symposium.
This year, the virtual event called “Take 10” featured dozens of speakers including Maria Shriver, Andy Cohen and Taraji P. Henson and others — some famous and many unsung heroes — on topics ranging from end-of-life care and grief to the healing power of music.
Especially powerful were the stories of two mothers, Maya Scott, a social worker in palliative care from Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Laura Sobiech, an author and the mother of Zach Sobiech, whose song Clouds went viral and who has inspired a Disney movie of the same name, released in October of 2020.
Sobiech spoke with director and actor Justin Baldoni, sharing her perspective on what Zach’s story can teach us about the end-of-life experience.
“I think our tendency, especially in our Western culture, is to really view death as failure, like ‘if you die, you failed.’ … it’s this really strange thing because we’re all going to die. But we’re really afraid of it … One of the things that was so attractive to people about Zach was … rather than pursuing more days … he chose to really just focus on the people in his life.”
“She said ‘all done’ over and over … I thought I had evidence that she was fighting, too … but really, the sad realization dawned on me that she was communicating in a powerful way what took us far too long to realize … When another cruel illness weakened her body, we stayed home … in a tiny voice on a cold afternoon in January, Mari opened up her bright eyes and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to be a butterfly and fly into the sky. Won’t that be nice?’”
Scott’s personal end-of-life journey with her daughter has guided her career working with other families in need of palliative care at Seattle Children’s Hospital, while Sobiech now works with Children’s Cancer Research Fund raising money to research the cancer that ended her son’s life so early. Before he died, Zach was able to direct the royalties from Clouds to the research, and the song has earned more than $2.4 million.
Both women share a belief in the power of love and of listening.