Category: Awakened Lifestyles Hits: 1273
Maybe it’s because I encountered death early in life that it holds no fear for me.
I was only nine or ten when my school friend died. Jane had a heart condition that meant she was physically weak and fragile, and most days she would have to stay in the classroom at playtimes. I would often choose to sit inside with her, keeping her company. I remember her pale and delicate heart-shaped face that always reminded me of a fawn; those huge eyes that suggested age and wisdom far beyond her years. When she died, I wrote a poem at school about my sadness and loss that also helped me to understand and come to terms with what had happened.
My next clear memory was when the mother of a young neighbour died shockingly during a routine operation, when I was in my early teens I think. I’m so grateful that on both these occasions my Mum told me the truth immediately and gently. I’m convinced that her ability to be real and her decision to be honest with me, as young as I was, helped me to accept dying as an integral aspect of living.
When my Uncle, who I really didn’t know very well, was diagnosed with cancer in my early twenties, something compelled me to write to him expressing my sorrow at the news and sharing with him my personal belief that we don’t ever really die. Thinking back on it now, it seems an incredibly courageous action to me when I truthfully had no idea how he would respond to my words. My Mum had obviously instilled in me the ability to openly acknowledge and talk about what is often a taboo subject, particularly among we English who at times seem to struggle to give voice to any deep or difficult emotion! I did manage to visit my Uncle with my family before he died only six short weeks later, and I remember him looking at me and then turning to my Dad to say, “Your daughter wrote me the most beautiful letter I’ve ever read in my life.”
Even now remembering that moment, I can feel the rush of joy that came with the knowledge that my riskily authentic sharing had perhaps allowed him to see things in a different way, or even brought him some comfort at a painful time. Dying is a process that should bring people together in love and mutual support. It opens up a doorway to profound and transparent relating in a way that no other time does, but it is so often a subject that frightens people into isolation and holding back their true feelings.
My Uncle went on to gift me with my first experience of mediumship at his funeral, as if to reassure me that I’d been right. Just at the point when I was going to cry, I was overwhelmed with a vibrant surge of happiness and at the same time an image of my Uncle, in the bloom of health and zooming around ecstatically on a motorbike, popped into my head. Afterwards, I asked my Mum curiously, “Do you know if Ron ever rode a motorbike when he was young?” “Oh yes, she replied, he loved his bikes,” – something I couldn’t possibly have known.
I was 26 when I first lost someone really close to me, my Nan who had lived with us all my childhood and whose bed had been my night-time refuge when I had nightmares. By then, what I still know to be true was even more deeply felt in my very bones; that while I had lost Nan’s physical presence which I would miss desperately, I would never lose her love, support and energetic companionship. Later in life, this knowing helped me to embrace the experience of losing a newly married best friend at the prime of her life (you can read my post written at the time here).
You can, at times, look back over your life and suddenly see a clear pathway that you hadn’t noticed before, which makes perfect sense of what previously looked like random events. From here and now, I can see so much careful preparation for my current work with hospice patients, begun so soon after the death of my own Dad, and my most recent invitation to officiate at a funeral service. It was the first time I’d led this particular sacred rite, and I was guided to speak something to the mourners that I hadn’t heard expressed in quite that way before. I told them that grief is intensely personal, and that it was important for them to know that whatever they were feeling in that moment was acceptable, natural and an expression of their deep love for their departed friend and family member.
I so want to pass on this sense of ease with death and talking about it to others, to honour grief and encourage the expression of it in all its many stages, to expand the recognition and acceptance of dying as a sacred phase of life; a threshold that is as natural and can be as beautiful as birth.
“Death may be the greatest of all human blessings” – Socrates
ॐ Namasté - Blessings!
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