'Wild' author to speak on grief and gratitude

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BRATTLEBORO — Susan Parris wanted to do something really big for the Brattleboro Area Hospice's 40th anniversary this year. As the executive director she was charged with planning a special event. She made a list of five people she would love to invite to speak in honor of this occasion. She never imagined that her first choice, Cheryl Strayed, would accept her proposal but that is exactly what happened.

On Tuesday, June 25, at 7:30 p.m., New York Times bestselling author Cheryl Strayed will speak on "A Wild Life: Growing through Life's Challenges" at the Latchis Theater to help celebrate 40 years of the local volunteer hospice. Lead sponsors are Brattleboro Area Hospice, Brattleboro Savings and Loan, Chroma Technology Corp., Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium, the Trust Company of Vermont and Vivace Realty.

Parris was drawn to Strayed after reading "Wild" (Knopf, 2012). Parris says, "Cheryl is so honest. I really connect to people who are so willing to go deep and talk about their experiences - the beauty and ugliness of it." She adds, "Cheryl's the first woman to hike the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) alone which is incredible. She's really funny, wise and compassionate. Her book "Wild" is a meditation on what that journey meant to her, and how that experience changed her."

Parris believes that anyone at any age or stage in their life will resonate with her message.

CHERYL STRAYED

Strayed is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling memoir, "Wild," a book that inspired Oprah Winfrey to revive the tremendously popular Oprah's Book Club and Reese Witherspoon to bring "Wild" to the big screen in 2014. Strayed published "Torch," her first novel in 2005 and another New York Times bestseller, "Tiny Beautiful Things," in 2012, a collection of her popular "Dear Sugar" advice columns which appeared on The Rumpus website. She published "Brave Enough," a book of quotations in 2015. Strayed's books have been translated into 40 languages around the globe and have been adapted for both the stage and screen.

In "Wild," Strayed reveals her personal journey hiking 1,100 miles of the PCT alone in 1995 when she was 26 years old and grief stricken after her mother's death and her own divorce. Using her own story, Strayed inspires people to find unexpected inner strength in the face of obstacles.

When reached at her home in Portland, Ore., Strayed said, "These issues are close to my heart, having experienced my mother's death. All the issues around what it means to die and seeing how much our culture is afraid to face these issues and talk about them." Over the course of her book and speaking tours, she estimates she has talked to thousands of people about grief, death and dying. "I talk about what it means to die and what it means to love someone who is dead."

Strayed continues, "The inspiring part is the experience on the PCT - carrying that heavy pack on the trail when it was too heavy to carry. It's a metaphorical journey as well. What it means to live a life, to bear a loss that seems unbearable, to forge ahead with light, grace and hope. I talk about not just the sad aspects of bereavement, but the beautiful sides of it too. The way our losses can make us so much stronger.

"The work that Brattleboro Area Hospice does has so much value. The important role they play in people's lives, and the family members and friends who also need that support," she continues. "I wanted to be part of their (anniversary) celebration because their work is close to my heart. So many people's lives have been helped by the openness, transparency and courage of the Hospice. Being able to talk more openly about death and dying is so important."

BRATTLEBORO AREA HOSPICE

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Founded in 1979, Brattleboro Area Hospice in an independent community-based, non-profit volunteer hospice with over 150 volunteers who help in a myriad of ways. Parris explains, "Mortality and grief are universal human experiences. There has always been and there will always be the need for a kind person to sit with you while you are ill or while you are grieving."

Parris notes that, "Through our thrift store, Experienced Goods, and the donations we receive - we fund ourselves. We are 100 percent local and we are all volunteer, so no money changes hands and all of our services are free."

Brattleboro Area Hospice addresses the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of dying neighbors and their families. The group provides non-medical assistance to the terminally ill and their loved ones, bereavement services to Hospice families as well as the general public, and serves as a community resource on the issues of death, dying, bereavement and advance care planning.

Parris adds, "Over the years we have developed an extensive bereavement program, with volunteers, support groups and a Memorial Garden. The singing group Hallowell, provides great comfort to our clients. And our latest program - free Advance Care Planning assistance - is growing dramatically every year."

"The way people die - and how they live until they die - is unique for each person. We don't meet you and say `here's what we can do for you,' we meet you and say `what do you need?' and we do our best to meet that unique request. But needs are changing as society changes, and we are a responsive, flexible organization that has proven it can change faster and more efficiently than larger institutions," notes Parris.

Deborah Lee Luskin, local writer, blogger and educator, will moderate the event. Luskin reflects on the work of the Hospice and says, "Ask yourself what is important. Living the examined life is good preparation for coming to the end with grace."

When asked what advice Strayed has for young people today, she says, "Who you are on the inside is more important. Remember to be grateful and to try to address things with a sense of gratitude. It helps you persist through the hard times."

TICKETS

A limited number of VIP tickets are available to meet Strayed at a private gathering before the event at Peter Havens. There will be a Q & A session after the talk and then a book signing in the Latchis lobby. Everyone's Books will be selling copies of Strayed's books at the event.

This fundraising event is expected to sell out but tickets are still available. Ticket prices range from $25 to $100 and can be purchased at www.brattleborohospice.org

For more information on this event, VIP tickets or wheelchair accessible seating, call the Brattleboro Area Hospice at 802-257-0775 or visit www.brattleborohospice.org

For more information on Cheryl Strayed, visit www.cherylstrayed.com


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