One day, a young woman (I’ll call Jill), looking haggard and just plain sick, came to an improv class I taught. Her very vivacious older sister (I’ll call Annie) escorted Jill. Jill, we learned, was battling cancer. Annie had no interest in doing improv, but felt that the class might help lift her younger sister out of her depression and maybe have some healing effect. Though sick, Jill gave it her all. Annie sat and watched until finally, Annie was coaxed into getting up on stage. She turned out to have excellent improv instincts and natural stage presence. Jill and Annie became regular members of the class, until, one day, Annie came to tell us that Jill had taken a turn for the worse. The students embraced Annie, and told her to please keep coming. She did, regularly giving not very encouraging reports on Jill’s situation, but always bringing great humor and charm to her improvs. Then Annie stopped coming. She was back east, helping her sister to die.

Finally Annie returned. She was in mourning, but in class. The class members, who by this time had celebrated New Year’s Eve, birthdays and “wrap parties” together, now celebrated Jill’s life. They told Annie how much they admired her for being a solid source of love and support to her sister.

“Jill gave me a lot,” Annie said. “I first brought her here because I thought that improv might help her heal. It turns out, she was the one who was bringing me here to this class. This has been such a tough and painful year, and you guys are helping me to heal.” There were hugs, tears, and then later, with everyone on the stage, there was laughter.