We have teachers all around us if we are paying attention. Some of my greatest teachers have been the hospice patients and their families in the last decade that I have had the privilege to serve as a Certified Music Practitioner.
I have several friends involved in birthing as doulas and one studying to be a midwife. I look at hospice and palliative care work as midwifery into the life of Spirit. Unlike traumatic accidents where someone is here very much in the flesh one day and gone the next, this is a different experience altogether and one that continues to shape me and ground me in deep gratitude and reverence for life.
Babies make their way to us as such vulnerable creatures. The dying leave this way also. Everything shifts in this process of re emerging into the Ground of Being. Source. God. There is a deep sense of peace in the presence of the dying that is beyond any accomplishment or accolades they may have or not received in their life.
Often the first thing to change in the time of sickness but not yet the time of dying is the persons independence. This is so challenging as we largely define ourselves in our world by what we do, not who we are. The world becomes smaller and smaller. My dear friend Herb, years before I began this work, allowed me to walk with him and he was the first person I witnessed leaving this world to the next. He was an artist, musician and nomad, always on the road. I am still processing and learning deep lessons and teachings from him. He most certainly had fears and challenges and knew his outcome would be terminal. He worked so hard with his beloved wife to do what he could to remain on the planet as long as possible. He also loved life in equal measure when his world became smaller as he did when he was doing his life’s work creating and connecting. How to love life as it unfolds….how to truly live life in each and every moment we are given. I have learned this and am still learning this from Herb and many other patients.
I have had several people with the desire to consciously die and for me to walk with them in this process. Sharing real fears and mourning the loss of future dreams, but also sharing how thin the veil can appear between this world and the next. One patient, another friend who in another part of my life was my therapist. It was such a full circle experience for the two of us! She was like me, a lover of Jesus and also a square peg in the round hole kind of Christian with an esoteric spirituality, a contemplative practice and progressive theology. She shared more and more through this process of dying how she experienced the Sacred Feminine, the Divine Mother whose love and fierceness surrounded her and appeared all around her through looking out all her windows and seeing Nature unfold day by day. This beautiful soul had a commitment and a vocation to work with children in her life journey. She had an amazing way of drawing in with comfort the awkward child and reigning in with gentleness, the unruly child. She shared her experiences of journeying between worlds, often when I would play with the harp, the veil would thin. Some of her last words to me, a few days before she died, when I was playing the harp, her eyes suddenly opened, her face glowed and she smiled. I asked her what she was seeing and she replied. “The children! They are everywhere and they are so happy,”
Another personal blessing was supporting my beloved grandmother on her journey. Having difficult conversations with her before this as she was troubled about dying, about being a good person, about what she did or didn’t do right in life. This is not uncommon for any of us to think about these things. We have the chance now to do the work. I was with my grandmother as she passed and was able to hold and support her life force energy with Reiki as she passed which shifted her from struggling to peacefully surrendering and letting go. It was the most intimate experience, getting in there with her and literally birthing her into Spirit. I could feel the angelic realm as they received her.
Many of us who work in this field have hundreds of stories like this. It is amazing. I spent time yesterday with my harp at the bedside of about 5 patients, 2 actively dying. Both exuded such peace and serenity. After I am done playing, just to sit quietly in that space and be so close to God, surrounded by multitudes of angels.
Growing up in the United Methodist Church with the large influence of the Evangelical United Brethern, I often heard the phrase, “She’s gone to Glory.” What beautiful words.
I am so blessed to have these teachers in the people I serve, their beloved family members and all those who walk and birth people into the life of the Spirit.
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“But this: that one can contain death, the whole of death, Even before life has begun. Can hold it to one’s heart gently and not refuse to go on living, is inexpressible.” Rilke