Dialoguing with Alison Eckels

The first thing you notice about Alison Eckels is her mega-watt smile.  To call her energetic is a massive understatement.

Alison has been involved with Cancer Lifeline for many years, first in 2006 by attending Collage classes and Healthy Steps. She learned about the Writing for the Moment class in 2012 and sat patiently on the waiting list until a spot finally opened up.

“Our teacher Peggy Sturdivant brings in two poems every week. She turns us loose to write anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes, then we read aloud,” says Alison.  “It’s the most extraordinary experience because you know you’ve really been heard. The listening is very deep. It’s not a critique class, but rather it is as it is titled: we write for the moment. As a result, we know each other well and we create a safe space.

“Writing is a way of discovering what you think and feel, getting it all out on the page. Once that happens, you have a choice – you can dwell or let it go,” continues Alison.  “This class has been key to my own discoveries.”

Alison first learned about The Grief Dialogues project by picking up a flyer left on the table outside of the kitchen at the Dorothy S. O’Brien center where the Writing for the Moment class meets every Thursday. She met Elizabeth Coplan, the editor of The Grief Dialogues at the opening of a University of Washington School of Social Work art + writing show that addressed grief and loss where they both had contributed writing.

Over the course of one year, Elizabeth lost four of her close friends. She was so full of grief she just couldn’t speak. This led her to write a play about death and grief and loss. After her play was performed, everyone came up to her, wanting to tell their story to someone who could listen and hear.

One of the 61 pieces featured in the recently published book, The Grief Dialogues, is by Alison and it is about her father.

“My father was born in 1899 and died in 1981. He was a general practitioner who made house calls. During the time he practiced, death was very much a part of life, all part of the continuum that he experienced every day.”

The Grief Dialogues is a collection of stories on love and loss by 61 authors. Founded on the belief that death and grief are great equalizers transcending race, creed, ethnicity, gender, age, and economics, The Grief Dialogues brings people together to combat grief and begin healing conversations.

Alison, along with four other contributors to the book, will be reading at a free book signing and reception on Thursday, September 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Dorothy S. O’Brien Center, 6522 Fremont Avenue N.

The evening starts with a live performance of a short play by author Elizabeth Coplan entitled Hospice: A Love Story performed by actors Kiki Abba and Gretchen Douma. Then there will be selected readings from the book by five contributors: Donna James, Paul Boardman, Erin Harrop, Jennifer Coates, and Alison Eckels.

For more information, visit:  https://cancerlifeline.org/current-classes/grief-dialogues/