Holding Our Own: Embracing the End of Life is a documentary film that shows aging and dying as anything but morbid, and death as the final healing in the hospice way. Art and music are combined as a way to bring people into a subject that they'd rather resist.

The film begins with an art opening in New York City and with the commentaries of curator and others as they view Deidre Scherer's large fabric and thread paintings (see annotation of "Surrounded by Family and Friends")--of people at the last moments of their lives. The artist has captured for us, even in the midst of suffering, genuine moments of tenderness.

An interview with palliative care physician Ira Byock guides the conversation, presenting a most refreshing doctor's perspective. The commentaries of hospice personnel, artist, and members of the Hallowell singing group punctuate the profoundly intimate scenes, filmed in institutional settings and in homes. The singers, who sing to the dying patients, see beyond their own fears; they recognize and want to honor dying persons for who they are: "This is not about singing it right for an audience...its about being totally present for the people you're singing for...and wanting it to be a gift." They model the magic of human connection called by Byock "the ground substance of therapeutics" The healing is mutual: "I can feel sad, cry, I can feel a heavy heart...but it's not depressing....It's a can feel love, joy, sorrow, but so alive.... you feel the blessing of your own life."

Two additional segments, "More about Deidre Scherer," and "More about the Hallowell Chorus, and a concise study guide are offered with the DVD.


The content is amazing enough, but this film, so beautifully edited, is a work of art itself. Witnessing the artist, sketching at the bedside sitting with people in their last weeks, months and moments of death and then the process of translating her portraits to fabric before our eye is awesome.

This database affords excellent resources for contrasting juxtapositions, for example, Munch's painting, "Self-Portrait: Between the Clock and the Bed"; Mark Strand's poem "Old People on the Nursing Home Porch"; and accompanying positive "interventions" for all audiences: Mem Fox's children's book, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge; and Linda Pastan's poem "An Early Afterlife."




Miscellaneous Deidre Scherer received the 2008 Humanities Award from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Primary Source

Fuzzy Slippers Productions