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….
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.
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