This is another area of life crying out for the return of the sacred and the chance to die with dignity and restored peace. There are people in every community who inherently know how to assist others to die, who carry the compassion and presence required for this important moment in life. But no one speaks about this, it’s not a subject that often gets raised – until now.
I am of Irish descent. And I remember the Irish wakes. I am also of English descent. And I remember just how different my English family died. One was full of spirit and song and crying and singing. The other was quiet, small and quick.
I believe we really need to know how to die, and we need a companion through the death process. Like a birth doula or midwife, we need the same level of assistance for death. A friend, who is not afraid of death, but can help their dying friend prepare inwardly for the great transition.
We must be willing to ask our dying friend important questions in a gentle and loving manner. We need to set the field, to create an environment around them that supports peace, ease and grace. To guide their minds inward, not with jarring questions, but as a series of reflective, ease-full contemplations.
Taking their hand in full presence we encourage them to be aware of their breathing. To slowly turn inwards, gently whispering, “I am with you”, “I am here”, “It’s going to be okay”…
- Are you at peace?
- Is there anyone I can contact for you?
- Is there anything left undone?
- Are you comfortable?
- Is there anything you wish to say to me?
- Is there anything you need to let go of?
- Do you have any regrets?
- Can you find peace with this now?
- Do you feel ready to let go?
Sometimes we are unable to ask our dying friend these questions, but there is still plenty we can bring to the moment. We can sit peacefully beside them, tuning into the ambience of the room. Holding space, being their inner witness. Gentle singing and of course sincere and appropriate prayer. Tune into their values and path, and respect their chosen form of expression.
Remind your dying friend how their family are all okay, that all matters are taken care of, how their friends are praying for them, and how help will come to assist them when it is time. Ease their fear, with reassurance. Ease their holding on, by being relaxed. Ease their confusion, with faith.
I feel our communities have become so separated from death and dying, so by the time it comes to us, we are often so unprepared and afraid. I for one, feel drawn to remember the sacred ways of dying. To inwardly prepare, and create an inner garden of beauty, peace and gratitude to walk through before I leave. And to support others through the same process. I know this tender compassion is calling of the Great Mother. She urges us to do this work on her behalf. She calls for her death doulas to remember who they are, and step forward and compassionately help us to die.
One day we will go so deep inside our body, that we cannot hear or remember much about our days of living. We move around searching for something, but not knowing what. Our being-ness is fragile as the pulse of life diminishes. We stumble upon a doorway in the deepest heart of matter. Joy, sadness, love and trepidation wash over us as we recognise the door and realise now what is happening. This is the same doorway we entered all those years ago. The Gateway to Life now becomes the Doorway to Death.
The last breath is coming as we stand at the threshold between here and there. Swathes of Light appear and beckon, everything is changing and swirling in all ways. We inhale knowingly as we take that tentative step into what the living call the Great Unknown, and what we, the dying call Home.
Beloved Friends, to consciously die, means we, the living, need to be of assistance to our brothers and sisters, mums and dads, and all our loved ones and ask those uncomfortable questions. Let’s not leave it to the authorities to take over, as we miss our opportunity to nurture our friend in a time of unknowing.
I suspect we shall all be called to duty at least once in our lives. Let’s show up, and do the right thing. And if we can – remember the spirit of the Irish. Cradle them in song, sound and spirit as they depart.