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‘Waltzing the Reaper’ comes to Rochester

Who: Performed by Judith Gantly

Date: Friday, Nov. 2

Time: 7 p.m.

Where: Presentation Hall, Mayo Civic Center, 30 Civic Center Dr. S.E.

Cost: Free

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By Jeff Hansel

jhansel@postbulletin.com

The Mayo Clinic Hospice Program has scheduled a free performance of the one-woman play titled "Waltzing the Reaper."

The performance comes to Rochester because of one hospice worker’s reaction to the play.

"I just found it to be very moving, sometimes funny. There’s a lot of humor in it," said Patti Rankin, volunteer coordinator for Mayo Hospice.

Rankin watched the play at a professional conference she attended and realized it would benefit Rochester-area residents.

The play’s title itself gives an indication of its novel approach: Waltzing the Reaper.

"In the midst of dying, there’s all sorts of aspects of life, and comedy is one of them," Rankin said.

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According to a playbill, the performance is "the powerful, often funny story of one woman’s experience of being resuscitated and hooked up to ‘six gurgling, buzzing, flashing technical wonders’ when she specifically told her children that when her time came she wanted to be allowed to die peacefully and with dignity at home."

Registered nurse Ann Bartlett, manager of the Mayo Hospice Program, said it’s time for people in Rochester and communities in the surrounding area to consider what they would do if their sister, child or parent were in a situation similar to that of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman over whom family members fought court battles trying to determine whether her feeding tube should be removed or left in place.

More people should talk about what they’d like done at the end of life, Bartlett said.

The subject of death, Rankin said, "is undoubtedly a difficult topic. This is definitely a community appeal, and we’re doing a lot to educate our physicians and our nurses."

Bartlett said the play will be a good opportunity for families to open discussions about death and dying.

"If you don’t have them earlier than when you need them," she said, "you’re going to find yourself in situations where you’re wondering if you’re doing what Mom and Dad wanted."

The play, Rankin said, would be good for families with kids in the high school years and older.

The goal, said Bartlett, is that audience members will feel empowered after the play to complete an advance directive. Advance directives will be available after the performance. Hospice workers and the actress will answer questions after the play.

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"It’s emotional. I know in the end I shed a tear. It’s emotional. The light moments come at just the right time," Rankin said.

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