go gently

Emotional Warrior, poster paint on brown paper

Treading gently as one reflects on mortality, one needs time, breath and space to let it all sink in.

Reminding myself of my intention for the year: Be kind to myself and be kind to others. As in lovingkindness. Isn’t that a beautiful word?

When I took the wise and gentle Henry Fersko Wiess’ workshop on End of Life Doula training at the Open Center in Manhattan, I learned that he had been applying the birth doula model as a support for the terminally ill in his work as a hospice social worker. In the workshop we learned about the physical signs of active dying, some of the emotional phases a terminally ill individual may pass through, and what it might mean to have a good death. Just in the way I made a birth plan with my midwife when I was expecting my babies, in our groups we crafted what an ideal death ritual might be for each of us. This involved a lot of listening to one another. Where would you like to be if you were dying, what would your surroundings be like? Who would be there? What smells, sounds, tastes and kinds of touch do you imagine might please you near the end? We even wrote guided visualizations for one another based on interviewing each other in this manner. Though the subject seemed morbid, the process was surprisingly uplifting.

If you would like to read about Henry’s work here is a link to an excellent article from the NY Times.



About reneetamara

Writing about death, mental illness, spirituality, art and perfume. Because beauty feeds the soul, and love is beyond what we think.

2 responses to “go gently”

  1. Garce says :

    That’s an interesting question – how would I like to die? I might try tthat on Oh Get a Grip sometime. I would like to live out my time and die quickly. Most people when they die break down a little at a time. A stroke. A wheelchair. A nursing home. I would like to live a vigorous life until the end and die rapidly without making a mess. I don’t fear death, I’m curious about it and not much atttached to my life which has been largely disappointing. But the act of dying scares me, because of the possibility of suffering. Garce

    • reneetamara says :

      Hi Garce,

      Early last June, I had a dream where Dad and I were scuba diving. We held hands and dived deep down into the ocean and I started to get scared and wanted to say NO this is as far as I can go! Birth and death are like that I think. This train entering or leaving the station and no stopping it, ready or not.

      As my panic rose and I wished myself anyplace but there, we were suddenly surrounded by a vast school of fish. Their coloring was breathtakingly brilliant and their fins passing by were like a million butterflies fluttering softly against our skin and the beauty chased the fear aside and it was replaced with awe and wonder, good feelings and a sense of total well being. I was too interested in what was happening to be at all afraid. Having given birth, which is a superficially painful experience, I wonder if fear might be worse than pain, actually.

      Maybe that’s what dying is like.

      It’s all happening so fast and so slow at the same time.

      We are all living one day at a time.

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