December 1, 2016

“This is how dying should be”

The Sisters Who Treat the Untreatable. At a Catholic nursing home in New York, comforting patients who are dying of cancer.

Rosary, which is run by Catholic nuns and accepts no payment from the families of those they treat — all of them with incurable cancer. The nuns, who are members of the Dominican order, care for those of all religions and backgrounds — Laub’s mother-­in-­law was Jewish — and live by the prescient words of its founder, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, a daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne: “We cannot cure our patients, but we can assure the dignity and value of their final days, and keep them comfortable and free of pain.”
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As the nuns cared for their guests, Laub followed them with her camera — it’s her way. Then, even after her mother-­in-­law died in late September, she found herself returning to Rosary again and again, still wanting to capture something of the kindness that her family had found there. She asked the nuns to sit for portraits, in which she stripped away the background to show their eyes and faces in clear focus. “I wanted them to be quiet,” she said, “so their power could come through.”

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Gillian Laub photographer

The nuns in particular had moved her. She was struck by their tenderness with the dying, how they painted women’s fingernails and combed their hair, changed them into fresh nightgowns and arranged flowers in their rooms. “This is how dying should be,” Laub says. “It doesn’t feel like a place of death. It feels like a place of living.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at December 1, 2016 1:04 PM | Permalink