Few things humble me more than my association with Joanne Cacciatore and the MISS Foundation. She was recently honored by the town in which she lives, Sedona, with an award on International Women’s Day. She talks about receiving this Philanthropy Leadership award here.
Following is what Joanne said at the event honoring her. She expresses so much of what is right in the world. It is privilege to call her a friend and an honor to serve on her board.
Thank you to everyone on the committee for this meaningful recognition and thank you to everyone for being here.
I wear many hats. Counselor. Nonprofit Founder. Animal rescuer. ASU Professor. Researcher. Clinical director. Grandmother. Mother and, like Sedona Schnebly herself, a bereaved mother.
You see, on July 27, 1994, my entire life changed when my fourth precious child died. Some of you have had these life changing days: Days when the person we love most in the world has died, and life can never be what it once was. It’s because of this extraordinary love that we experience extraordinary grief. It is because of their love- and that grief- that I am here today.
Dr. Bernice King once said, “As a nation, I surmise that we do not grieve enough. And in many respects I would say that many of our issues are a direct result of a lack of grieving.”
Grief is an energy that can be directed – when we are ready – toward a beautiful and productive and fiercely compassionate life.
Everyday people come from around the world to visit Selah Carefarm, a place where grievers can experience and practice compassion, but not because we help them feel better. Rather, because we help them feel. And feeling is a superpower. When we help them turn toward their grief, they learn to trust themselves with all their feelings. They learn to lean into their grief as it becomes a bridge that connects them to the suffering of others. Here at the Selah Carefarm, that circle of compassion extends to our 50 plus homeless, tortured and abused animals who, too, need compassion and love. And because these grievers have a safe place to fully inhabit their grief, that compassion and love can be an unstoppable force helping them change the world around them for the better, even though we wish it wasn’t so. Here, grievers discover, for themselves, that true strength comes from vulnerability. That bravery means learning to live with their fears of more loss. That fully loving someone means to risk facing grief again. That the superficial things in life are merely temporary sources of solace and distraction: true comfort comes from loving and feeling loved, even beyond this material world. They know that the meaning of life isn’t happiness: the meaning of life is living a life of meaning. That the only way to be our authentic self is to remember our beloved dead because they are, and will always be, part of us. They have learned that real compassion extends grace to self and to others, both like us and unlike us, and to all living beings – the four legged and winged and finned too- and even to our pale blue dot suspended in our mysterious Milky Way. They realize that the sun and moon exist in the same sky. And both provide what is necessary for life to be what it is. We need both the light and the darkness.
I’d like to invite you to take a moment to hold our hands on our hearts and remember someone we deeply love who is no longer with us because they are all worth remembering. —-And so, this recognition really belongs to all our beloved dead for whom I will accept it, thank you.
Thank you again to this committee. To the MISS Foundation and Selah Carefarm team who help us change the world for those suffering life’s most tragic losses. To my family, friends Beth & Kelli and supporters for nearly 30 years. To Dave who never says “no”, well rarely and only because of limited acreage, to rescuing a new animal for the Care Farm, to my colleagues at ASU who, for many years, have supported my research and community work, to the families who have shared their precious children, spouses, parents, siblings, grandchildren with me.
And mostly, to my precious daughter Chey who I will love and miss until the birds no longer have a song.
I’d like to close with one of my favorite writers, Wendell Berry:
I know that I have life
Only insofar as I have love & grief.
Help me, please, to carry
This candle against the wind.