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Need for Spirituality

Reflections on Spirituality at the End of Life: An Intimate and Profound Journey Through the Words of Those Who Accompany the Sick

Dear God … they call me Egghead, I look seven years old, I live in the hospital because of cancer and I have never spoken to you because I don’t even believe you exist …

With these words begins the account of the last days of life of Oscar, a 10-year-old boy suffering from leukemia, written by philosopher and writer Eric-Emanuel Schmit in his book “Oscar and the Lady in Pink,”[1] where the little protagonist, helps us reflect on that “need for spirituality” that, when going through illness and/or when life becomes short, becomes strong.

Research conducted by the EAPC shows that spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the individual’s way of seeking and expressing meanings and purposes and the ways in which one’s experience connects them to the moment, to oneself, to others, to nature, and to the sacred.

As Romano Madera writes in an article published in the Italian Journal of Palliative Care, “The need to reconcile oneself with one’s frailty, with the existence of a limit, with the awareness of having reached the end of one’s life gives rise , even in the lay person, to the need for a new spiritual attitude open to every declination that can facilitate the exit from the anguished grip of illness… without thereby confusing traditions, sensitivities and conceptions that are quite distinct from each other… It applies to believers and atheists, to those who trust in an afterlife and to those who believe only in earthly life.“[2]

If you will, since the first issue of Laborcare Journal, the topic of spirituality at the end of life has been dealt with several times, but that is precisely why we wished to address such a sensitive issue by relying on the “voices” of those who, on a daily basis, work “being beside” sick or elderly people.

With this number “eight” we wish to enter, “on tiptoe,” into such a difficult and intimate topic as that of spirituality which, as Luciana Coèn writes (Spirituality and Caring) “… is not religion, belonging to a creed or religious faith (unfortunately a commonplace nowadays) but a feeling that is transversal to everyone’s existence, which may belong to a religion but which exists, is perceived even in a person not belonging to any religion.”

The editorial choice was, therefore, to avoid “academic” writings and “commonplaces” that, at times, risk being reduced to learned rhetoric and/or demagoguery, whether religious or secular, in order to leave more space for sharing a thought, a moment of life, and emotions that can help the reader to find, in these, his or her own spirituality as stated in Sandro Spinsanti’s article (Spirituality and Death, in other words).” … the least inadequate way to approach that area of human experience we designate as ‘spirituality’ is to resort to metaphors.”

The “ultimate goal” of this eighth issue of Laborcare Journal can be found in the last part of the text written by Raffaela Fonda (Esserci …) in which we read, “… spiritual accompaniment consisting of traditions and rituals is as important as pain therapy and symptom control.; and, which means, not turning our backs even in the most difficult moments but remaining present with respectful attitudes, in the territory of mystery and unanswered questions.

As a conclusion to this editorial, we like to quote some definitions of spirituality given by distinguished figures of our time: for K. Waajman “spirituality touches the core of our human existence: our relation to the Absolute, and this problem, of the existence or non-existence of some Absolute, seems to escape no thinking man.

Spirituality is an anthropological category, as well as a philosophical one; before the Christian meaning, there is the human meaning, which emphasizes the spirit as the animating center of every human person.

As A. Amato “by understanding himself as spirit, man reveals the totality of his being, harmonizing soul and body, interiority and exteriority, being and acting.

For Enzo Bianchi, “There is also room for a spirituality without religion, without God. It is a spirituality that is nourished by the experience of interiority, the search for the meaning of existence, the confrontation with the reality of death as the original word and with the experience of limit; a spirituality that knows the importance of solitude, silence, thinking, meditating. It is a spirituality that feeds on otherness: it goes out to meet others and the other and remains open to the Other if it ever reveals itself.”

Offering spiritual support, according to Ostaseski, means “to enter into a relationship with life without mediation, to give the possibility of questioning about deeper meanings and values.

[1] Eric-Emmanuel Schmit, “Oscar and the Lady in Pink,” ed. Rizzoli

[2] Romano Madera, “The Italian Journal of Palliative Care” (vol.14, no.2-2012)

Gianluca Favero

Mariella Orsi

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