A Southbay Contributor Reflects on an Unexpected Call to Action

Invitation to live.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Alison Clay-Duboff
  • Illustrated by
    Yuiko Sugino

Deep within us, lying in wait in the deep recesses of our souls, dwells our purpose. Walking through the world with purpose is a divine gift. Unearthing our inner compass oftentimes comes as the result of a personal tragedy. 

The tipping point for me was when my husband was terminally ill on hospice care. He asked me a painful question: “Al, do terminally ill people just lay in bed and wait to die?”

On that day we didn’t know Ken had a choice. I didn’t have an answer for my husband. But when we found out from hospice that, yes, he did have a choice, he went from despair to living again.

What I thought was the end of my life became a surprising new beginning—a gift born from my difficult loss. Much like the painful physical experience of childbirth, the physical pain recedes and is eventually replaced with supreme joy. Well, until they become teenagers.

My sadness, which was emotional and physical, metamorphosed into a call for action. Perhaps purposeless inaction brought my grief to an intolerable standstill. I need something positive to come from Ken’s death.

I decided to forge my sorrow, harness the energy of my grief into a tangible, rewarding purpose, and there seemed a blindingly obvious choice. I found End of Life Choices California and signed up as a volunteer. As a global public speaker, I will be giving presentations to various organizations, including hospices, retirement communities, senior living facilities and whoever else needs to hear that there are choices for people nearing the end of their lives. 

The holiday season stokes my sense of purpose, and it bubbles up from deep within me. The end of one year and the birth of the next. This year is the second season without Ken, and I’m choosing to lay myself bare and talk about that big elephant in the room. The one bond that links us all: our mortality.

I’ve grown and expanded. My heart has doubled in size as I meet the challenges of this unique sort of volunteering. I’m talking about death while living life. It’s an accomplishment—deeply fulfilling to know that my actions could bring profound joy and closure to those who seek it. I’ve pulled back the curtain between life and “next” by trading my sorrow for a soaring leap of faith to enlighten those who have yet to experience the need for choice.

The season of giving is upon us. Even though there is no shelf life for generosity of spirit, dig deep, open your heart, cruise around your soul and find your purpose. I promise the rewards will be immense.