By Lesley Machon, Calgary Jewish Academy
(AJNews) – Toward the end of the school year during Junior High English Language Arts class, CJA students were honoured to connect with the esteemed palliative care physician, cognitive behavioural therapist, and acclaimed author, Dr. Kathryn Mannix, via Zoom all the way from Northumberland, England. Throughout the school year, students engaged with her novel, With the End in Mind: Dying, Death, and Wisdom in an Age of Denial, as part of their curriculum focused on Dying, Grieving, and Healing.
With cups of tea in hand, students had the opportunity to hear stories and ask Dr. Mannix a wide range of questions, from her favorite football team to deathbed visions and the unconventional methods she has employed to bring comfort to her patients.
Dr. Mannix’s account of Pins and Needles, where she assisted Sylvie in sewing her legacy pillow for her parents while enabling her to receive chemotherapy treatment at home, resonated deeply with us. The tale of Sanjeev, who believed he was on a train to India to see his parents, and her acknowledgment of his journey as an honoured guest, taught us about compassionate witnessing. Her willingness to take care of Bob’s (a man with no friends or family) cat, ensuring his peaceful passing with the knowledge that his beloved friend would be well cared for, and her act of allowing Billy to curl up beside his mom after freeing him from his mandated prison handcuffs, left a lasting impression on us.
Furthermore, when Dr. Mannix was asked about her favorite fiction book, she revealed it to be Harry Potter. She shared a unique perspective on reading the series through a lens of death, bereavement, and healing. Her insights have forever transformed our perception of iconic elements like the Dementors and the Room of Requirement.
Most importantly, through Dr. Mannix’s stories, students realized that it is about the person first and foremost—emphasizing their heart and their needs—rather than just their medical condition.
CJA staff and students extend our heartfelt gratitude for the invaluable lessons Dr. Mannix has taught us and for the immense impact she had on our learning this past year. .