Where I Find Inspiration

Standard

Today I was asked if I could share links to sites that inspires me and that I love. I spent about 30 minutes searching through bookmarks on my laptop, deleting old sites that no longer exist, refreshing my memory with regards to others I have not looked at for a long time. I googled things like “inspiration, peace, hope…” and came up with a couple of spots, but nothing really felt like it fit the bill. And then I realized where I often turn for inspiration … Facebook.

Yes, Facebook. Full of political controversy, petty complaints, misinformation and downright outrage. But… I bypass all that. Most of my Facebook focuses on spinning, knitting, weaving, fibre arts, aspects regarding the work I do (“the death movement”) and… friends and family.

YOU are the ones who inspire me. People who message every day about something positive. Those of you who are learning a new skill and are frustrated to tears until someone reaches out with encouragement and talks them through it, step by step. Those of you who are coping with raising a family or living on your own, finances bordering on or even below the poverty line and yet you still do the best you can to encourage others and to share tips – coupons, recipes, do it yourself projects, helping each other help ourselves. People living with cancer, going through treatment and still taking time to teach, to work, to share with others. How about people coping with physical, emotional and mental struggles, getting up and doing something positive (washing the dishes? making your bed? taking a shower? going to or creating a support group? taking your dog for a walk?) to make it through the day – you are an inspiration for so many. People tired of reading about politics and fear mongering simply going online to post photos of happy animals, inspirational quotes, or a simple “Good Morning!” with a smile – you help bring positivity to so many people, thank you. Those of you who post inspirational quotes with beautiful pictures help to make a more positive reading environment for others scrolling through the pages. Sharing music videos is wonderful, letting us know what brings you happiness may influence our own taste, or introduce us to something new. Sharing photos of work you have done, items you have created, repaired, gifted.  Gathering up your bravery to post about your new business brings excitement and congratulations.

Those of you physically helping someone get through their day by checking in on them, talking to them about your concerns, listening to them about theirs, helping someone with a job search, comforting someone going through a hard time such as a job loss, ending of a relationship, perhaps death of a loved one. Someone posting online saying “Hey – I am proud of you!!!” or something like “You can do it!!!” or “YOU DID IT!!!” shares good news, uplifts the person to whom you are speaking and also raises the spirits of EVERYONE who reads that post. People who are coping with anxiety issues showing up for work with a smile on the outside, even if they don’t feel it on the inside. Some of us facing challenges, mustering up strength and walking through our fears, teaching ourselves and others that yes, it can be done. Sometimes, even having the courage to write what you mean, even if it goes against the norm or popular opinion, this shows your own strength and may inspire others to do the same.

Every day we are blessed with another 24 hours to spend. We are here to boost people up – not tear each other down. My thanks goes out to all of you who are willing to load Facebook with positive messages, share your light, your love, your struggles and your accomplishments – you are all an inspiration to me and to many others. Blessed be your journey.

Advertisements

I AM A THANADOULA

Standard

A death midwife or death doula is a person who assists in the dying process much like a midwife or doula does with the birthing process. It is “a community centred response that recognizes death as a natural, accepted and honoured part of life. – Wikipedia

 

I am a Thanadoula. Recently I have read articles written about death doulas and their work, and have also read hostile comments from social workers and members of the hospice community complaining about how we charge for services that people can receive at no cost. This is my story.

 

In my life I have played many traditional roles as wife, mother, aunt, friend, etc. In this capacity I have been present as a birthing coach for three different women and have loved this experience, sharing in bringing new life into the world. This being said, I have also been present with a few people at their moment of passing. The sacredness held in each of these moments is palpable, and yet I feel my calling is more towards the end of life.

 

Many people ask me why I do what I do and I tell them that I love being of service to others and I hope to bring a feeling of peace to those experiencing chaos and loss of control at the end of life (theirs or a loved one’s) so that they may live the best life possible to the end, and then to experience the most peaceful death possible.

 

As a Thanadoula my responsibilities are varied. Generally speaking I visit people in their homes or in a hospital/care facility and provide a wide variety of services.

 

Visiting in home I may be asked to do some light housekeeping (preparing meals, washing dishes, tidying living room or bedroom where they may spend most of their time), perhaps drive clients to and from appointments, sometimes pick up a few groceries or necessities. As a Spiritual Counsellor I provide a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board to reflect their thoughts, fears and ideas, most of the time I listen. I am not family, or a friend (though friendships may develop over time) and this allows people to share intimacies with me that perhaps they would not feel comfortable expressing to a spouse or family members. By unburdening themselves, asking question that may seem taboo to others, or by expressing their thoughts and feelings without concern about hurting or frightening close loved ones their mind is cleared, many times fears are put to rest and they often find relief at finally having expressed these thoughts and shared them with another person. It is a well-known fact that spiritual trauma or stress can increase physical pain perception, and by relieving emotional and spiritual burdens can actually result in a lessening of physical pain.

 

Other responsibilities in the home may involve cleaning and changing the client, feeding, gentle massage of hands or feet, physically assisting them in moving from bed to a chair or another room. I am not a nurse and do not claim to be one. However, I am able to remind the patient to take their medication at the appropriate time. I liaise with nurses, PSWs and doctors by leaving notes in a common journal, indicating progress or regression, sleep patterns, feeding patterns, toileting, etc.

 

Many times a fear people speak of surrounding death is not being remembered, or not leaving anything behind for loved ones. My training has allowed me to assist with various aspects of what is called legacy work. This may take the form of a scroll (indicating significant events during their lifetime), written cards to leave to their children on specific occasions, putting together a book, writing their life story, making a video or audio message, putting together photo albums. The list is endless. One woman was at the end of her life living with cancer. She had two young children. We had her lay down on a sheet and used a permanent marker to outline her body. This way after she had died her children could wrap themselves up in this sheet and think of their mother giving them a hug. Legacy work takes on many forms.

 

Music therapy is also a part of my work. I have a significant CD collection with various genres of music, and I also have a choral group (four individuals) upon whom I can call to come to the bedside and sing. Music is a very soothing medium, often evoking memories that can ease transition from life through death for both the individual passing and their family.

 

As a Thanadoula I am not only there to support the individual who is dying, but also their family. Caregiver burnout is a very common occurrence, and my presence in the home or sitting with their loved one while they get away for a few hours is often a blessing. They are able to do some shopping, get their hair done, meet a friend for coffee, lunch or an appointment, and just generally get away from everything for a few hours. I listen while they talk, expressing fears and concerns, and help them navigate through anticipatory grief stages.

 

When I visit a client in a long term care facility or hospital, obviously my duties are very different from those when I am in the home. Here I am more of a companion, relieving family caregivers for a few hours, perhaps doing some legacy work, mainly to sit and talk, listen, perhaps help with feeding. Because my duties are lessoned does not mean the work I do is less important. Spiritual and emotional caregiving and support is a necessary part of maintaining a sense of overall well being.

 

I have also been trained in vigiling and home funeral work. I am there to support the family and individual as they experience the transition from life through death, and do whatever I can to make this transition as peaceful as possible for all involved. After their loved one dies I may sit with the family for a while should they request that, and am also able to guide them in final preparations of the body before it leaves the home/facility should they wish a funeral home wake or a cremation. This involves washing the body and hair and dressing the body. This time is very special for all involved. Some people have never touched a corpse before and it can be a new and frightening experience. Some people do not wish this experience at all, yet others are grateful at having this time to perform one last service for a person they loved very much. Washing a body evokes the understanding of a ‘dimension of purity’ that is universal in religions and seeks to move us away from disgust and fear and to uplift us towards purity and divinity.

 

 

My work as a Thanadoula brings me into homes where Christianity may not be the family’s faith. Perhaps they have other religious beliefs, perhaps they have none. Knowing the family and understanding their cultural mores and religious beliefs is an important part of my work as both a Thanadoula and a Spiritual Counselor, as I do not wish to offend by perhaps saying or doing the wrong thing. Spiritual care requires embracing the ground of all beliefs, and having the knowledge and understanding not to force your own views upon others. Again, this is an ongoing learning experience, especially as Canada is a cultural melting pot.

 

As a home funeral consultant I am able to assist the family in dealing with final preparations – physical preparations of the body and also liaising with the family/executor and funeral home should that be required. Again I attend to the family’s wishes, paying attention to any cultural and/or religious rituals they may have. As a Life Cycle Celebrant I am able to perform memorial services should this be required.

 

As a Certified Thanadoula I charge $25.00 Canadian per hour, which, in effect, is not very much. I understand that the going rate in the United States is in the area of $40-100 per hour. Some people are taking offence to the fact that we charge money, yet you can see from the services I provide this is a lot of work. I have studied for the past couple of years in order to receive my certification. I took a six month course that cost me approximately $2,300.00 plus expenses (travel, incidentals, meals, printing, etc.). I have taken local courses with CCAC, with hospice, and continue to expand my understanding through online courses, my own website (www.brigidsbalm.ca) and an ongoing Facebook page. I attend seminars and workshops, and have brought clients’ family members with me on occasion. My education is ongoing, both through the services I provide and through agencies I seek to learn more from.

 

Hospice care in Canada is not as widely available as it appears to be in the United States or in the UK. Should you live near or in a large city the chances are pretty good you will have hospice services available to you. However, those in rural areas or smaller towns may have a very difficult time finding any hospice facilities. This is where either families suffer severe burnout, there may be patient abuse due to high levels of stress, hospital and doctor visits may be day-long occurrences as travel is very extensive. Many times patients are forced to leave their homes, spending their last months in hospital or a care facility hours away from family and loved ones. I am able to step in and assist with compassionate end of life care, liaise on the phone with nurses or doctors, assist in preparing final paperwork and ease the stress and burden of family caregivers and allow the patient to remain at home for the longest time possible.

 

Yes, I charge for my services as a Thanadoula. However, I also give back to my community by working as a volunteer in a hospice located almost an hour away. There I perform similar services in that I visit clients in their homes, yet I am not allowed to do as much as a hospice worker as I do on my own. I am allowed to listen, yet not give information, that is the role of the hospice chaplain. I am not permitted to drive clients to appointments, or pick up groceries, or receive gifts, this must be done by friends or neighbours. I am not permitted to give or touch any medications, that is a duty of the nurse. I am permitted to do simple moving of people from a bed to a chair/vice versa, and to clean them should they soil themselves. All other work is strictly for the PSW. So as a hospice volunteer I general sit, listen, share time, relieve caregivers for a few hours, perhaps read to the client, share tea and conversation. Should they request it I will assist them with a legacy project. And that’s about it.

 

Work as a Thanadoula can be emotionally and physically taxing. I am well aware of the dangers of caregiver burnout, and must keep myself safe from exhaustion as well. I have personal rituals that I use to take care of myself, such as smudging my truck with sage after a particularly stressful visit or event, relaxing in a hot bath with candles after a hard day, yoga and meditation are very helpful, and I have friends and family I can call on for emotional and physical support as well. Sometimes I need to get away from everything for a day and walk in the woods, or go fishing, or spend time in my back yard with animals and my garden. I knit, spin and weave, and creating something beautiful always takes me away from the stresses of everyday life.

 

On the other hand, I continue my work within the community. I will be holding death cafes (a place where people can gather to talk about any aspects of death – preparation, fears, thoughts, paperwork, etc. – and enjoy cake and coffee), Advanced Care Planning seminars, information booths at local functions, and sometimes information nights on just exactly what I do. I have met with numerous people who are interested in the work I do and are looking for ways they can become involved as well.

 

Being a death doula is a calling, not a job. It is not something I can turn on or off, it is part of how I live my life. I talk about end of life care, about the importance of having an advanced care plan written (I am also an Advanced Care Planning Facilitator), your powers of attorney in order, and a will written. Being prepared is not looking forward to death – it is simply a means of giving yourself a modicum of control over an inevitable fact – we are all going to die. It is time to take the fear away from death and embrace it for the natural part of the life cycle that it is. That is my desire as I assist others in living the end of their life in the best manner possible.

Rituals in Life

Standard

I awoke this morning with thoughts of rituals and the many forms they take in our lives, and so these thoughts led me here to write. Rituals are basically intentional activities that give value and meaning to our lives. As a Thanadoula and one who works with those transitioning at the end of life I witness daily how rituals play such an important part in our lives without us even thinking about it. Daily rituals take place in the little ways we do things; preparing meals, cleaning the house, our fitness routine, our work schedule. I know personally my daily rituals are vastly different in winter than they are in the warmer months.

Winter mornings find me wanting to stay in bed curled up with my cats and dog, relishing the warmth of the blankets, comfort of my pillows and cuddles with my pets. I move more slowly, dressing myself while looking out the window and waiting for the sun. Let the dog out back and turn on the kettle for coffee or tea… and so the day begins. In warmer months I rise with the sun, much earlier than the rests of the household! I dress quickly and head outdoors with the dog for a long walk as the sun rises, letting the cats outside to explore the world as it awakens.

For those at the end of life daily rituals are part of life, keeping somewhat the same but slightly changing. Caregivers arriving on specific days. Awaken at this time, perhaps take medications, watch television, try to eat something, drift in and out of sleep. Listen to music. Visit with family, then sleep again. Experiencing awareness of daily routines while preparing themselves for the end of this life and wondering about what is to come.

And the family is surrounded by ritual – perhaps unknown at the time, but actions repeated daily become such. Watching over their loved one while trying to maintain their own needs, dealing with therapists and workers coming into the home to assist with end of life care can be stressful, but over time a routine is developed. Or perhaps their loved one is now living in hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses, people coming and going in a seemingly never ending cycle. The partner left at home develops new rituals being alone, starting the day in a different way, perhaps holding on to personal routines such as house cleaning chores, visiting friends or having their hair done while maintaining daily visits to the hospital and facing their partner’s demise, knowing life as they have understood it is about to drastically change they are holding on to whatever rituals they can to recognize the familiar in their rapidly changing world.

And other rituals must be addressed – rituals surrounding spirituality or religion, end of life beliefs and wishes. Going to church on Sunday may be important to some people, while others find deep spirituality rising with the sun and meditating or exercising, or perhaps lighting a candle or some incense and praying, or by walking a labyrinth or being in nature. Rituals at end of life vary among different cultures, from very formal and sombre gatherings to celebrations of song and dance.

When thinking of Advanced Care planning we need to take personal rituals into account. How do we live and experience our lives on a day to day basis? If something physical would change drastically, what is our limit as to how far we are willing to accept medical intervention? When do we simply say no – we have had enough? And as for end of life plans, how do we wish to be remembered? What about a legacy project – something we can leave behind to tell our story and share part of ourselves with loved ones? What about end of life care, or perhaps funeral arrangements – or even NO funeral arrangements? All of this is food for thought.

Our lives are filled with rituals of many sorts, some to which we hold fast and others that are more flexible in nature. The way we perceive the world around us is influenced by our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual state of being. Sometimes holding on too tight to a set way of doing things or a firm belief may limit us in the way we experience various aspects of our life – perhaps changing rituals can release limitations and bring more joy to our daily way of living. Today we should take some time to think about how daily rituals affect our lives and whether there is a way to change them to improve our state of being. Maybe play some music while you clean the house, or for more structure create a weekly list of chores that will be easier to adhere to. Let go of a rigorous fitness routine for one day and simply turn up the music and dance for an hour! Take time away from the busyness of life, turn off electronics, light a candle or some incense and sit and meditate for an hour. Rituals are pathways that lead us to experience more balance and calm while we grow in our sacred work of connecting with others and ourselves and experience greater success on all levels. Let’s think about making our rituals work for us as we move forward and enjoy living our lives – blessed be your journey xo

TIME TO LEAVE….

Standard

The wheel of the year is turning, fall recently arrived but it feels winter is not far from the doorstep. Winds have been wild over the past few weeks, and it seems that no sooner had the leaves turned to red and gold but they were viciously blown away, leaving stem, trunk and branch seemingly naked and bereft… bare, lonely, waiting…

Seeing this rapid change in landscape and turn of the seasons made me reflect on my work, my life, and the lives of those with whom I am blessed to care for in one way or another. Fall shows her beautiful colours but all too soon the leaves are shed, leaving the trees standing alone – bare, stripped of their former beauty, and waiting. Seeing those parallels reflected in the journey of life made me pause and think.

Living our lives as we do, most of us make a concentrated effort to be the best person we can, to help others when we are able and to share empathy and compassion with those in need. We share light, we share love, we laugh, cry,  teach and learn. We share the essence of ourselves with those around us for whom we care and love and consider family and friends. And, when our time comes to take leave of this body and this earth, we must do so alone leaving our loved ones behind as we continue on this journey.

We start our lives on a precarious footing, relying on others to nurture us and allow us space to grow. We gain strength, we reach out, we explore and discover who we are as individuals and where we fit in to the bigger picture. We find our space. As we develop into the unique beings that we are, we branch out and start reaching toward new and loftier goals – new jobs, new friends, expanding our families. We share our love, our light, we nurture and protect those we care for, we support others on their journey by sharing our strength and our experience. This is where we are in our glory, bright, shining, living life to its fullest. And then… the wheel turns… we grow older, our bodies are perhaps not as strong as they once were, we become more reliant upon others to help us with tasks we were once able to do for ourselves. The love and compassion and caring we once gave to others is now (if we are fortunate) returned to us by those we raised and taught and love. Our leaves begin to fall.

As end of life approaches oftentimes people are worried about unfinished business; words left unsaid, things left undone, broken relationships and past regrets that need to be rectified in order that they may die peacefully. This is where I encourage talking, sharing, writing, recording. Leaving a legacy to those we love is not always done in a physical manner. Legacy work can be something as simple as putting together favourite family recipes, completing that photo album, writing letters or a biography of your life in one way or another, leaving a video recording for family and friends, or putting together a memory box with items inside to be opened by those you love throughout their lives. In doing work as a Thanadoula, and in my studies, I have discovered that one of the biggest fears people have is that they will be forgotten after they die. Again, I look to the trees.

We see trees as they go through their cycles of life, the same way we do as I have outlined above. When it comes time for them to shed their leaves they stand alone, waiting… as we may do also. We live our lives the best way we can, our body slowly breaks down, and finally becomes still, allowing our spirit to soar free. Look to the leaves. They start as buds, growing green and lush and providing shade and shelter, then become gloriously vibrant and do their dance of descent and land on the ground. Look to the sidewalk. The leaves fall. They rest for a while and then they blow away… leaving behind an imprint on the sidewalk. That happens with each and every one of us. We fall, rest for a while, but our spirit leaves an imprint on the hearts of each and every being we have ever touched with our lives. Whether it is a small act of kindness, a word, a thought, a helping hand, or a heart and life full of love and caring, each of us has something to contribute to this world. Rest assured that when your time comes, you will not be forgotten. Blessed be your journey xo

 

Breathe…

Standard

I enjoy walking my dogs early in the morning before many people are up and about. We often share the sunrise together, though sometimes (as today) it is a little higher in the sky! The peace and stillness, birds just starting to sing, morning awakens. My favourite time of day as everything is fresh and new. Whatever stresses from yesterday are gone and the new day awaits. The world smells like hope.

I was thinking about life, death, beginnings, endings, and all the times in between. How do we cope? We approach with hope, perhaps a little fear of the unknown, the ball gets rolling, stresses may build up, fear creeps in that we won’t be able to accomplish our goal, or perhaps not in time… pressure increases, speed increases…

I was reminded of this while watching my young lab as we were walking. She starts off so excited because it is time for walkies!! Then sniffing everything…. end of the block calms down somewhat as she knows the routine, end of the next block she starts to get wound up because we are crossing the road and moving forward again…. I told her to STOP… SIT. She did, looking at me expectantly. I pet her head and talked to her calmly, telling her to slow down and breathe!!!! (Yes, I am certain she did understand me… for a moment…)

13113369_10154036363140549_1953645562_o

Conscious breathing is something we should all do more often. When pressures build, when we are feeling stress we need to remember to stop for a moment… and breathe. Be aware of taking a breath in…. and out. Inhale positive energy, love, light, calm thoughts, and exhale stress, dark thoughts, fears, worries. Do this consciously for a few minutes and you will be able to return to task much more assured and clear headed.

Sometimes what gives us feeling of stress is external to our being, perhaps it is global. Perhaps it is suffering experienced by others that has hit us with sadness. When we feel compassionate toward others we may again do the breathing exercise – only for them. In Buddhist culture this practice is called Tonglen… a form of meditation where we consciously focus on the breath – breathing in all the suffering and pain of others, and breathing out peace, love and compassionate healing energy. This can be done in any place at any time, provided you feel you are in an environment where it is safe to close your eyes for a few moments.

breathe

 

Perhaps today when you are feeling overwhelmed, or maybe when you are feeling very much at peace, you can stop and think of Tonglen and how it will positively affect you and others with whom we share the planet. An energy shift, no matter how small, can produce a very long-reaching effect. Think of how one person smiling at another can create a chain of positive energy as that smile continues throughout the day. Share your light, share your love, and if things seem to be getting too heavy… remember to breathe.

Blessed be your journey xo

Slowing Down….

Standard

Lately I have been dealing with so much change as I feel this is a real year of transition and moving forward. I am very excited about the new paths my life is taking, and as always have jumped in with both feet first. That’s how I have managed to make it through life thus far – set a goal, seize the opportunity and jump in – many times with great results, sometimes with not-so-great results. Always with lessons learned.

As my hearing has become more of a challenge lately, I have started taking classes in ASL – American Sign Language. Proud to say I have recalled all the spelling of the alphabet from my years in Girl Guides (40 years ago?!!) and have successfully passed ASL 101 and am on to 102 starting tonight! I find I am using it more and more in conjunction with my own speech, and am grateful to those who ask questions and would like to learn more of it as well. Communication in any form is a good thing.

This week marked the first module of my Thanadoula training as well. I worked with a group of amazing people in a wide variety of ages from various walks of life. The instructor was fabulous, very informative and made learning and sharing a great experience. Personal experiences, thoughts, helpful guidance was all expressed and shared. When the topic became too deep it was interspersed with comical situations, and we all shared much laughter as well as tears.

One thing I really love about this group is that we live in different areas, we do different things for a living, we share expertise in different areas. Yet with all these “differences”, each one of us is gathering here for the same purpose, to be of service to others at the end of their lives. The thing about death is there is no room for bullshit. It is very cut and dried, black and white. No time for games, for drama, for crap that we often encounter in our everyday lives. These people are all here for one reason – to help you live the life you have left in the best way possible, and to help you die peacefully. These people are real, honest, and caring about themselves and about others and the contributions we can make in service to others. Such a great energy, and a wonderful learning environment.

With all that being said, I am also starting to feel the weight of all this change and movement in new directions. Reading about planetary alignments and my horoscope today, I see Mars is in retrograde from April 17-June 29. I don’t understand all the astrological factors involved as it is not an area I have expertise in, however, I do like to read and see how I may be affected. This says it is time to slow down, time to turn inward and reflect on our lives. It is a very good time to learn to practice the virtues of compassion and patience. Needless to say, this hit home.

slow down 1

 

So yesterday I was absolutely burnt after an incredibly busy weekend. Rather than pushing and pushing as I normally would on a Monday, I did nothing. Well, I served the kids at breakfast club, mopped my floors, did the dishes, tidied up, that sort of thing. But honestly, most of the day was spent sitting on the porch with friends and neighbours, catching up over the past few winter months, just sharing time and a few cups of coffee. What a blessed day. Sunshine, new green shoots coming out of the ground, laughter, sharing, caring. Time to slow down and gather our thoughts, make plans for the future, share hopes and dreams.

I guess what I am really trying to say is that pushing forward is a wonderful thing. Setting goals is very productive, following through on those goals is a life changer. But we need to remember to slow down, to reflect, to see how we can better ourselves and also be of service in whatever manner to those around us. Remember that life is not just about work and pushing and moving forward – life is meant to be LIVED, to be shared, and in the process to be enjoyed.

Blessed be your journey xo

slow down 2

Interdependence

Standard

Thinking this morning on where I am and what direction I am heading… asking myself why? What motivates me to move in this way, to think in this manner, to want to head out in a new direction at this point in my life? I am entering my crone years, my maiden years far gone, raising my family (an ongoing process with children, no matter what age they are always your babies…) almost at a point where they are all out building lives for themselves. I have lived in an apartment with a man I loved, raised our children in a house in the suburbs, ran a store downtown, moved to a farm in the middle of the bush, now living with my youngest son in a small town. Many experiences, many places, many faces.

I sat this morning thinking, why a thanadoula? What calls me to be a death doula, to serve and share with people at this time of their lives, transitioning through death? Having been a birthing coach and experiencing the birth of my own wonderful family I have enjoyed the excitement of welcoming new life into the world. The struggle, the pain, the fear, the emotional highs and lows of labour and delivery, the final relief when the birth is complete, the opening of hearts as new life is greeted in this world. When you think about it, is death not the same?

There is a struggle as we come to terms with the finality of this phase of life shared with others comes to an end…. many times there is physical pain, but there is also emotional pain at letting go of one we love and care for. And there is fear – fear of the unknown, what to expect, what will happen, how will I die, will there be anyone on the other side waiting for me, will my family be ok without me, is everything in place for when I am gone…. And also the emotional highs and lows. Sharing memories of love, caring and happiness bring smiles and laughter, yet realizing this all will soon end also brings many crashing down with sadness. And relief when the one we love has transitioned, knowing they have shared their lives with loved ones, perhaps surrounded by those they care about. Relief from pain, from fear, from struggle. And those left behind feel a sense of open heartedness as they have reached out at this time, perhaps sharing thoughts never before voiced, finding peace in final conversations.

So what pulls me to this new stage of my life as a Thanadoula? Upon contemplation I believe it is a return to a sense of community. Of sharing and caring. Of outreach. In today’s society I believe many of the old ways have been lost. Today we are raised institutionalized in schools, believing we must compete to be the best – highest marks, awards, and upon leaving school we are marked by status, what is your job? How much money do you make? What kind of car do you drive? What type of home do you live in? The values governing the lives of our ancestors seem to be lost in the wind….

dadf0c428035028214f4f18e7d269401

When we look back through history we see it DID take a community to raise a child. Yes, this is an often-keyed saying, but we see a sense of interdependence in communities. Not just stepping out through your front door and waving hello at a neighbour, but really getting to know them. There was the midwife who cared for you during your pregnancy and who often came to your home to deliver your baby. Family and friends were there to support you in raising your children, they had a real sense of who and what family was as we all relied on each other for survival. Many people in today’s society have family living all over the country, or all around the globe – obviously with travel so available and employment taking us to different locations our families are much more wide spread. Family and friends were much more close knit, we were all interdependent. Reaching out to a friend was not seen as a weakness, it was a necessity. And again at death, family and friends would gather, would share in chores, cooking, caring, cleaning – watching over children if an elder was on their deathbed (the bed usually being in the family home), keeping vigil. Preparing for burial after the loved one had passed on, the wake was held at the home, family washing and dressing the body one last time. Again we were dependent upon each other, it was understood.

I believe that is a large part of what I feel calling me to this life. A return to a sense of family, community, interdependence. A knitting together of lives that may have come unraveled, family arguments dividing members who may want to mend those hurts and reunite as a loved one prepares for transitioning through death. Sitting vigil with one who is alone in the world, perhaps never having had children and their spouse has previously passed on. Listening to stories of hope and fear, dreams realized (or not), heartaches eased (or not), sharing in important memories of one who is about to move on through the unknown. Helping with difficult decisions. Doing what I can to ease pain, fear, and a sense of being alone.

self-sufficiency-quotes-6

Think about where you are in your lives today. How do you feel about family, about friends, about your neighbours? Are you living alone? Is it time for you to practice a bit of outreach, to share yourself with someone else? Your experiences? Your hopes and dreams? Your abilities? When was the last time you spoke with distant family? Old friends? Perhaps today you will create an opportunity to share your light with others close to you, let someone know they are important to you, or that you have missed them. Try reaching out with your heart, you will be grateful you did. Blessed be your journey xo

09e2f1e7414bea0b6ed4111c282d9f45