It won't kill you to talk about death... By Deborah Darby Views and insights from someone who has volunteered with those facing end-of-life issues for many years; a strong leaning toward the acceptance of the reality of death including the value of becoming involved with hospice early on, not waiting until the last few days. Some guidance on talking about/planning for death.
Monday, May 27, 2013
On Call for Death
When there is death people call me. A few days ago, a distraught call from an acquaintance who had a particularly horrible death in her circle. Unexpected. A very young man. No explanation, even after the autopsy. I listened. It is very sad and an awful thing for the mother of the young man to experience (she found his body).
Today a friend had to have her dog put down. She called on her way to the Vet to see if she could come by afterward. I offered to meet her there, but she said she just wanted to know there is a safe place to go after he's gone. She came. We had tea and cried and hugged.
Death is a sad but natural thing. Those of us with animals go through it many times in a lifetime. But parents should never have to go through it with a child; that comes close to qualifying as "unnatural death". The structure of life in the physical sense, abhors such an aberration. Metaphysically, broken hearts never, ever heal when a child is lost.
But sometimes the other realms call strongly to us. And sometimes the young can hear the call more clearly than we. With fewer barriers between a young person and the creative spirit from whence we came, they may find it easier to take the step through the door. Those of us left behind are devastated. All death is devastating; the death of a child unbearable.
Yet somehow we do bear it. We manage to live through the loss. Our worlds may crumble when we lose someone we love, whether a child, a parent, a friend or sibling or, yes, even a pet. The length of time it takes to recover varies, but for a while, we are bereft and broken.
And really, there is no recovery...just a new normal. Life was like "that" and now it's like "this". We hate it and curse the Universe! We threaten to leave our spiritual roots, for surely there is no god! We distance ourselves from our families, our friends, friends of the deceased. And we cry. For hours. Days. Weeks. Not every minute of every day, but enough minutes that the pain seems ceaseless.
Those who call me find a willing listener; a person who, though sharing the pain, does not share the fear. Not that I'm stronger than others, I simply have a broad perspective on the end of life. I can still see the big picture when others are stuck in the horror, the denial, the unimaginable grief. I can imagine it. I've experienced it. I'm here if anyone wants to talk.
I think it helps. I hope it does. I know it helps people who are dying. The listening ear of someone who's not afraid, offered freely. Someone who will listen to the most dreadful fears without judgment. Someone who will allow the dying to say whatever needs saying.
On occasion the person who is dying will say to me: "I want to die". We discuss it, what it might be like to die. What might - or might not - be next. How they want to face death. How they want to be remembered. Sometimes we cry together. More often than you might suppose, we laugh. Death is absurd when seen from the physical sense. Our vibrancy is gone. Our strong and wonderful bodies...bags of bones.
Humankind has a natural fear of death and our society has stretched that into an industry (or two) with the specific purpose of challenging death. Sometimes we "win" for the short-term, but Death always wins in the long term.
So I am honored when people call me to discuss death: before, during, after or something in the far away future. It is what I am here to do. Listen. Smile when nobody else is smiling. Hug away a tear or offer a shoulder while tears fall in waterfalls of pain.
I'm grateful to have this gift of fearlessness. Oh, I still have fears. A spider can cause me to leap up on a coffee table and scream, yes, like a little girl. But my anchors, my connection to this earth and other realms, allow me to face the end of life without anxiety. I hope it helps.