Travelers on the Path

by Sybil Shane

When I picked my mother up at the Sacramento airport, my brother brought her to the car in a wheelchair. I looked at her grey face. “She’s dying,” I thought. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the doctor said she didn’t have long to live. My brother and I got her settled, and then drove her to Lake Tahoe to see the beauty there, and also to pursue some alternative treatments.

The first week, looking frail and wan, she would eat just a bite or two, not even leaving her Lazy Boy. The next week, I saw some color coming into her face, and she began joining us for meals at the dining room table. By the end of the third week, she looked vibrant, and cooked one of our favorite Southern dinners—collard greens, black-eyed peas and rice.

We brought my mom back to our home town in California and spent many wonderful months with her. She grew stronger and had an amazingly good quality of life before she passed the following summer, one year after her diagnosis. She baked a cake three days before she died.

Mom had a home death with us by her side. It was a profound and moving experience, and I felt it was a privilege to be with her through her transition.  She moved through her illness and death in a way that made me want to do the same. She accepted each day, as well as her life and death, just as it came, with grace, fearlessness and acceptance that still inspire me today.

As a result of that experience, I felt a need to look deeply into what was important to me and what gave me joy. I did. I transferred my accounting and tax practice, sold my home, and took more than a year off to be with my son, who was only nine years old at the time.

Finally, I had some time. I visited Japan, brought back some beautiful handmade papers, and began experimenting with them, just for my own pleasure. Initially, I created origami paper vessels, and after that, I learned how to paint on silk. Then I started painting Asian calligraphy on silk—a pursuit that blossomed into a fulfilling career, as well as an arena for the passion for form and color that lives within me. I now collaborate with two other artists in bringing new series to life. Our goal is to bring art into the world that calms, inspires, and nourishes, and we’ve just celebrated our twelfth year of being in business.

I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer two years ago. I am not afraid. I know that the journey is a little bit of everything – joy, pain, and an exquisite view of the world. I’m now touched every day in the tiniest of ways. Touched by those people I love, touched by the living world of critters and creatures, and touched by everything in between.

My deepest wish is that I will partake of this journey in the same wonderful way that my mom did, and that somehow, in some little way, my experience may move or comfort others who share this journey.


Sybil Shane lives in Grass Valley, California. She wants to give back to the cancer community and it is with gratitude that she is offering 20% of product sales to Healing Journeys. Go to her website by clicking here.