Recently, I completed a course to be a Death Doula. What that means is that I can sit with dying people in hospice, or at home. I can work with families, while they are preparing for the death of a loved one, in whatever capacity we agree upon. You might wonder why someone would want to be in contact with death as a job, or as a volunteer? Or why someone would want to put themselves next to people who are dying? Or inside homes with families mourning and saddened with grief? I am not entirely sure why, really. My father was 60 when I was born so, I basically lived everyday thinking he might die. Most phone calls after ten took me a couple of seconds to prepare for 'that' call. I actually never got 'that' call. The hospital called me in time to allow me to get there to sit with him for about three hours before he died. It was during that experience I decided I would like to be able to sit with dying people because nobody should die alone.
I have a funny relationship with death. I know it's coming. Now that I am 50 I have moved beyond the belief it will avoid me and I believing I will be that person who will defy death by the way arthritis, and aches in places that shouldn't ache have taken control of my body. It was my body. Now It feels more like a rented suit. But with the acceptance the my life will end comes a liberation of feeling fear more acutely, feeling aww and inspiration more deeply, feeling the experience of life more honestly than from the distance my youth provided. I am not sad. I have been blessed to live a pretty interesting life. I have loved and lost and loved again...and done that a few more times and, at 50 seem to have settled into a relationship for the long haul.
Honestly, I cannot say I was afraid, or abused, or blame anything on my inability to settled down other than I just needed to keep moving. Perhaps, if I felt life went on indefinitely I would have continued moving through relationships, I don't know. But understanding my mortality has changed me. I have two adult children who I absolutely adore. I ache when they ache. I laugh when they laugh. I shine when they shine. However, I understood from very early on that they were never mine. I gave them their start, as best I could and then they would have to move into the world just like I had done. They did and they are. But with every person we love underneath that adoration and joyful celebration of their existence is the fear of losing them.
To imagine a life without those we love is perhaps the darkest hell, for me. It was somewhere that I understood that to avoid that all consuming devastation of losing those I loved I needed to love them everyday they were alive. I needed to find a place of tolerance for the things that drove me mad, like chewing loudly, or taking things from my room and not returning them, or eating the last cookie, or not putting the toilet paper roll on properly. I needed to find a peaceful approach to living with people that allowed me to stay unruffled with their idiosyncrasies because I wanted to live in love.
So rather than avoid the topic of death and the fear that it will take my children away or shock me by stealing away people I love I attempt to negotiate with the fear and live with the idea that I choose to ignore many things that we usually don't ignore. Since I have taken the course and I meet and tell people about it, for the most part, I am met with a strange look and an uncomfortable silence that speaks volumes. We don't talk about death enough. We don't prepare for death. We hide and give it control and that makes it more horrendous to think about. But sadly, if we don’t think about it we can’t live with love and release some of the devastation that will come from knowing we could have loved more had we faced it.