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.