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End-of-life planning part of a meaningful journey

Maginley's own near-death experience helped to illuminate his life's work as an interfaith spiritual counsellor.
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Spiritual counsellor David Maginley will be presenting Unpacking for the Journey on May 9. DAVID MAGINLEY/Photo


Unpacking for the Journey

Presented by Rev. David Maginley, with host Carmen Leibel

Monday, May 9, at 7 p.m.

Virtual presentation via Zoom

Tickets are $15 each 

Proceeds from the evening will go to St. Albert Sturgeon Hospice Association to support local hospice care at Foyer Lacombe and in our community through its compassionate care volunteer program.

Visit for more information.

Preparing for the end of your life can be much like preparing for a trip somewhere, explains Rev. David Maginley, though the analogy might make you think about packing your luggage. The way he explains it, it’s more like a process of unpacking — unpacking yourself, that is.

“Our identity is, of course, who and what we are in the world. As you are approaching the end of life, who you are at work falls away, and then your role in your family falls away, and your mobility and your independence erodes away,” he said, referring to this process as ego deconstruction.

“So, your identity is fundamentally being reduced down to the fundamental, which is really about your story.”

Maginley has made this the focus of his upcoming presentation for the St. Albert Sturgeon Hospice Association (SASHA). Unpacking for the Journey reveals the beauty and spiritual enrichment of end-of-life planning. Where many might see the sadness and finality of death, Maginley sees it as a source for healing, hopefulness, and positive transformation.

As an interfaith spiritual counsellor with the cancer, palliative, and ICU programs at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, N.S., he has gained a lot of wisdom to help those on their own journeys.

He’s also a four-time cancer survivor whose own near-death experience helped him to gain more insight into the nature of consciousness.

There’s a lot to unpack at the end of your life, he said, adding there is some emotional work involved that can be uplifting, though it's important not to diminish the grief and the difficulty in any way. That isn’t something to be fixed, because it’s all important to the success of the process.

“The grief and the gratitude can live in your heart at the same time,” said Maginley.

“It is probably the most difficult thing a human being can ever go through, and at the same time, it is when you will be giving the ultimate lessons of your life and of love to those who support you by being compassionate with yourself, by reflecting, and saying the four most important things you could ever say. This is critical. In order to have a good trip, you've got to be able to say, ‘Thank you. I love you. I forgive you and forgive me. And then, finally, to say goodbye," he said.

“When you do those, well, then you leave much lighter than you, your imagination, thinks, you know, you will.”

SASHA board member Luanne Sirdiak is pleased with how this information aligns with the organization’s mission to support, educate, and empower those facing the end of life.

“His philosophy is that the final moments of life can be profoundly rich,” Sirdiak said, adding that discussing your end-of-life affairs with your loved ones doesn’t need to be as difficult as many people might think.

Talking things through also takes a lot of stress off of family and caregivers. They might otherwise have to make decisions “in crisis mode.”

“Opening those conversations is a challenge and the more awareness we have out there in the community, I think, [the more we give] people an opportunity to open some of those conversations.”

She said she appreciates community sponsors who helped to make the presentation a reality.

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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