This book is a tapestry of experience. Each person I have worked with is a knot, each experience that has exposed me to new ways of seeing is another color, and every family is a new thread. Being a student of life allows me to learn every time I wake up in a new day. However large this tapestry is and however artistic, it cannot cover all experience. It is a representation of a bigger picture. My tapestry is not life, it represents life. When you translate experience down into an art form it can never fully impart every nuance of life, but as we say, you get the picture. Every atom, every molecule, every galaxy, every person, every experience has formed perfectly around me to teach me the most amazing things. Like a trail with sign posts, I travel down the path with awareness, paying attention to every flower, to all that is growing and dying around me in every moment. I see the signs and continue to watch out for them. My goal is refining the art of being in this amazing natural world and with humans, who are not separate from it, but wrapped in it, floating through it like dandelion seeds.
I share this because after sharing with so many families, people, nurses, and doctors, they express their gratitude for taking the time to share. Most report decreased anxiety, fear and frustration. In other words, less suffering.
This book is dedicated to all those who live their life to its fullest creative potential and die with grace, dignity and respect.
Life is a complete and astonishing miracle. We are but sparks of creative light in the expansive universe. Caught up in life, we often forget that the all flames burn out and that nothing stays forever.
Dying is an astonishing miracle simply because it is a part of this life. I seek to dispel myths and create understanding about dying. If you are reading this someone understands what you are experiencing and wishes you to know more about what to expect.
We suffer when we lose someone or when we are losing ourselves because we are attached to the meaning that life and love gives us. Love and connection creates the human race, we need it to survive from day one. Our nervous systems are designed to give love and receive love from day one. Emotional pain arises from a lack of love and support. So when we loose the source of this love it can be devastating but it can also be enlightening. Discovering that word death is somehow incomplete is something that occurs later and often times subconsciously. Sometimes rational words can not describe what happens when someone leaves or where they go afterwards. The truth is that we still experience the ones who have gone before us whether you believe its in your heart, mind, soul, or you feel their actual presence in the room. Most everyone I know and have worked with have an internal knowing about their loved ones after they are gone. We internalize the person and the imprint of their love. It stays with us as a copilot or an inspiration. So “gone” does not quite describe what happens nor does “death”. In actuality, most understand death as birth all over again or liberation from the suffering that is a part of every life. The one who is “gone” lives on in various non-physical ways. Again, just like the tapestry, words can only grasp at truth, never fully encompass it.
Our vision of life and our perceptions often are the source of our suffering. How we interpret reality colors how we will respond to events in our life. “Is it the end or the beginning? Is it meaningful or meaningless? Will I go to heaven or hell? Is this the worst experience or is it the greatest lesson of my life?” The dualistic nature of thoughts, ideas and language (bad/good, one/many, live/die) and the fact that we are the meaning makers, makes it easy for us to see that our beliefs and experiences determine our reactions and ways of being in this world. Through reflection and thoughtfulness we can see every event can be made in to a story of tragedy or a story of joy. Life is both.
So here we are all caterpillars who will soon make cocoons so that we may become butterflies. We do this every day, every night, and every morning. So we can chose to redefine ourselves every moment. Change and evolution are always waiting in the wings for us to take a leap. We may do it internally with ideas or physically with our bodies but everyday is a chance to learn and grow. Lets move from our hearts today, everything from the deepest love in our hearts.
The dying process is very much like a caterpillar struggling to prepare his transformational home so that s/he may be liberated from the earth and take flight. When someone is preparing to die it is rarely a conscious, thought out process. It can be, but in mainstream culture and life, it is often unwelcome and fought against. In reality, dying is no different then a flower blooming, or a cloud forming. It is all apart of this flow of energy we call life. Everything around us is dying and living. Every step we take on the earth with our feet we are extinguishing life, spreading new pollen, and planting new seeds. Change is the only thing we can count on, it’s the only garuntee. Nothing remains, nothing/no one stays the same. So why fight against something that is so fundamental to life? Love. Love is why we resist. One of the supreme acts of love is to let someone be a peace during their dying process. This is why hospice exists. Hospice is not a place, it’s a form of care that goes where you are, at home, nursing home, assisted living, retirement home, or board and care. The care comes to you. It’s a team of medical, psychological, and spiritual experts gathered to bring as much comfort, healing and peace as possible.
When someone enters hospice they generally have some level of acceptance of what is going on with their body. Acceptance is an ongoing process. Often when I see a patient or family for the first time it is like seeing a tired boxer who has been ground up and spit out by our medical system. The anxiety and frustration levels are high. Treatments have taken a toll on the body. I take time to explain the dying process, end of life choices, advance directives, the emotional side of this experience, hydration and nutrition, medications, and how to take care of someone who is leaving soon, etc…this seems to help a great deal. So here we go…