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Anna Byrne

Tending to wounds with words

End-of-Life University
00:00 / 57:19

Suffering, Healing, and Building Resilience:

Thoughts shared on the End-of-Life University Podcast 

with hospice physician Dr. Karen Wyatt, MD




I want my life to be generative.

I’ve always been a tinkerer, following the bread crumbs that the Great Spirit leaves out for me.

So far, some of my stops along the way have been in soup kitchens in South Africa,

studying psychology and gerontology, teaching young offenders, and sitting at the bedsides

of people who are dying.


I first became acquainted with death in childhood, when my brothers, sisters, and I reverently created a small cemetery in the backyard for our pets. We lined cardboard caskets with cotton balls, made popsicle stick crosses, and said solemn prayers for our hamsters, rabbits, and birds that died.


When I was 27, my Dad died, and his physical departure from my life cracked me open in new and painful ways. I got clear about what was important to me and made room to more fully step into those areas. Five years later, when I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer, I walked through a gate that brought me into progressive levels of loss. Paradoxically, it was in that time of dissolution that I was also gifted with more joy, gratitude, and authenticity.


I had already stretched my Catholic roots towards nondenominational Protestantism, and then found the still deeper waters of meditation. I began studying at a seminary, and for my final project, explored the relationship between spiritual beliefs and Medical Assistance In Dying (MAID). I’m most at home in the yoking of contemplative practice and social justice, and I try to steep my daily life in the three sisters—simplicity, solitude, and silence—that outflows into compassionate engagement with the world. All of the people and places that I’ve had the good fortune to find myself among have been my teachers.


And I discovered that, through all the tinkering, I have always been writing.

I now offer my experiences as a writer, educator, patient, hospice worker, and spiritual seeker for book circles, keynotes, workshops, and discussion groups as a way of helping others who also want to more consciously engage with life. In many ways, what I’m really doing is accompanying myself as I journey through this life, following the bread crumbs that will eventually lead to my own death, and hoping that each stop generates more love and life.

I invite you to join me in curiosity, gentleness, and openness as we explore together.


Image by Yoann Siloine

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