The Power of Story

author/source: Laurie O'Neil (Terri Luanna's Auntie L)

Each day we are faced with a new “story.” Yesterday’s story is done. Tomorrow’s is an open book. But yesterday’s story holds meaning for the story that unfolds in our today.

Some days our stories are rich with love, adventure, reconnection, and beauty. Others arrive with a crushing, gut-wrenching fist to the gut—heart-shattering and life-changing all at once. And on those days when our stories pierce our hearts and shroud our souls in darkness, we often ask ourselves, “Why? Why this story?”

These “why” questions swirl, shift and tumble within our consciousness. As we try to piece together an answer, other stories emerge. Stories of those whose lives have intersected with our own. Stories from yesterday and stories from long ago. And it is within these shared stories that we discover and awaken to the answers we ask ourselves in our todays.

Graceful-Woman-WarriorGraceful Woman Warrior: A Story Of Mindfully Living In The Face Of Dying is one such story. A gutsy thought-provoking and heartrending memoir about mindfully living and dying with cancer, this story offers answers to the profound and eternal questions humankind has been asking since the beginning of time.

Forced to take an honest look at her own mortality after a Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis, my niece, Terri Luanna da Silva, started a blog about her journey. Reeling from the recent death of her mother to cancer, visionary Canadian artist, Jeanne Robinson, Terri wrote the following email to her closest family and friends:

Hi all,

So I finally got my blog set up and wrote my first entry based on the crazy news I received from my oncologist today. I’ve done this because it’s all part of my master plan to use my diagnosis as a platform to further my social work training and help people in a more public way.

The name of the site is in honor of my mom and the name she gave me, Luanna Mountainborn Robinson. Luanna means Graceful Woman Warrior. And it just happens to apply so perfectly to my breast cancer battle. My goal is to share all the love I receive with the rest of the world through my actions and through my words. If my blog puts a smile on someone’s face or gives somebody something new to think about or offers a reminder about the lessons we all so easily forget in the daily madness, then I feel I’m working towards my goal.

Big hugs to everyone. And thanks for your continued support. Keep praying for me. I need all the positive healing energy I can get!

xoxo – Terri Luanna

Auntie-Lorie-And-Miss-MCompelled to use her diagnosis as an opportunity to grow, learn and discover who she truly was, Terri asked the big questions in her quest to understand the lessons contained in life’s suffering. Questions like, Why in God’s name, or Buddha’s or the Universe did cancer strike me down at 37? How do I decide what treatment path to pursue? Who gets to choose? How do I parent my two-year-old through cancer? How do I find the strength to live my truth, go against the grain and chart my own holistic, spiritual path? How and when do I decide it’s time? Time to die…

Faced with that final question in November 2014, Terri whispered one last request to meI think I’m dying. I want you to tell people.

So I too picked up my pen.

Continuing the blog through Terri’s death and beyond became my lifeline to her. Chronicling my grief journey, alongside her sweet, precious daughter, Miss M’s, offered me a sacred space to heal my aching heart. Intent on fulfilling my promise to publish her blog, on December 5, 2018, four years to the day Terri’s story ended in the physical world, Terri’s legacy of open-hearted love, resilience and transformative grace lessons rose anew with the release of Graceful Woman Warrior. Co-authored by myself and Terri’s now ten-year-old daughter, her deeply affecting story offers a bold blueprint for navigating the sacred cycles of life, death and living beyond.

Terri-Luanna-Mountainborn RobinsonFrom the moment Terri Luanna graced this earth, she was destined to teach us all what passion looks, sounds and feels like. To leave a touchstone, an imprint on each of our hearts—one of compassion and vulnerability, resilience and grace, and of living life fully with integrity, gusto, and love—inspiring readers to awaken to their own lives and conjure and create the life they envision. Terri intones:

We all have our battles to face. Our Demons. Our tragedies and difficult situations with which to contend. Whether it’s cancer, homelessness, bankruptcy, divorce, unemployment, infertility… At some point, we all reach a crossroads in our life. These challenges shake us to our core. Humble us. Jolt us awake. Then we have the choice to either keep trying to return to what was, or to embrace the change and redefine ourselves and our realities. Why not seek to live a better life? What have you got to lose?

I cannot convey to Terri the depth of gratitude I feel for setting me on this sacred publishing journey. It has allowed me to not only enfold her deeply inspirational story into my own, but it has also led me to each and every one of your stories, which continue to shape, inform and heal mine.

As with all stories, Terri Luanna’s story holds meaning in today—in my today, in Miss M’s today, and I truly believe it will hold meaning in yours. So I invite you to become part of our shared story by visiting our website, To bear witness to this bold, evocative and powerful exploration of the journey between, through and beyond life and death. But please know, by opening your hearts to Terri’s haunting yet ultimately transcendent story, you are opening your hearts to the possibility of reshaping, redefining or perhaps even rewriting the meaning of your own.