Erica’s Cancer Journey: Creating Celestina

 

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff.
We are a way for the universe to know itself.”
– Carl Sagan

You: “I’d love to hear about what you are manifesting in your transition/dying space and how that feels. Is it empowering? Daunting? Sacred and comforting? I just noticed sacred and scared are almost the same word, with a tiny shift of letters.”

Me: World, meet Celestina! Celestina is the name of my sacred salon, a/k/a termination accommodation, demise den, parting parlor, dying domain, quietus sanctum…basically my room to die in at home. My death digs. I felt led to the name Celestina, combining “celestial” with a feminine ending. To me, it evokes freedom and release from physical form. Stardust.

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I had originally envisioned spending my final days in a screened-in porch, but I couldn’t pull off the expense. So we ended up converting our home office, which also enables us to utilize the space year-round.

We started by duping loving friends into helping us empty the room (thank you!). Then Mike and I spent weeks researching windows. Have you ever selected windows for a home-improvement project? Let’s just say it’s not exactly a straightforward decision process (a sentence I offer up as the Understatement of the Year). But it was worth it; I cried with joy when the panes were installed. The light streams in, and our view into the woods makes the room feel doubled in size and somewhat porchlike.

The next step was determining the furniture. Despite being my final stop on the mortality train, I am living pretty fully right now. So Celestina needs to accommodate my family’s current needs as an office and a social gathering space; readily adaptable to my residing here 24/7 as I near death; and tending to my body after death. Afterwards, it reprises its role as a den or office space.

So far, so good. I have a lovely deep-orange couch that can pull out as a double bed, but it’s long enough that I just lie down on it. I have all of my yoga blocks, mats, strap and bolster piled up on the back of the couch to practice movement and meditation in here. My beloved Ryan Cronin pillows and Cousin Jean’s handmade blanket accessorize the sofa with love and style. Our computers and the printer are tucked in here, along with our desks, the exercise bike and my energy table. Gorgeous art created by friends displays on the walls. Mike made a “Celestina” sign for me that hangs over the doorframe.

Every piece of this project has been empowering: If I can survive choosing windows, I can get through anything. Just designating a room for my end-time means looking death in the face. The ultimate purpose of the room is to die in it. Dying doesn’t scare me, but needle-sticks in my arms do. Also, Stewart’s running out of mint chocolate chip ice cream – which actually happened today and I survived, so there’s that. During this time of unrest in every aspect of my life, Celestina is sacred space: Comfort. Security. Stability. A tangible expression of a proud “I Did That” to reframe my defiant “I Can’t Do That.” A steady anchor during intense waves of unpredictable physical health, eldercare concerns and parenting needs. Thank you, Cancer, for my Celestina.

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”
– Neil deGrasse Tyson

Thank you for your questions! Keep them coming at kidsalmanac@ulsterpublishing.com.

Head On and Heart Strong!

Love, Erica

Kids’ Almanac columnist Erica Chase-Salerno was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in the Summer of 2015. To read more about her experience, visit https://hudsonvalleyone.com/tag/ericas-cancer-journey.

There are 2 comments

  1. Elizabeth Johnson

    Dear Erica,
    I love reading about you (which was how I first became acquainted with you and your journey… and that was though posts from a local photographer on Facebook) , and how very much you are loved and celebrated by those around you.
    I read this post in Almanac Weekly about Celestina and I keep hearing this song in my head for you and want to share it with you. The song is, “So Will I” it is beautiful.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuYOnYL6G0Y
    I just want you to know that I am praying for you.
    Thank you for sharing your journey.
    <3 ~ Beth

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