A Death Doula's Intro to Purpose

What Drew Me

Ego pontem - “I am a bridge” - would seem to be the most accurate way of expressing who I am, although my best friend would argue that I am a lighthouse (ego sum praeberi fari). I have always been someone to try to bring encouragement to others, to cheer them on as they make their way in life, art, relationships or health crisis’. I bring joy and use heart-led conversations to illuminate their paths, while they find “their way” in peace.

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I am not exactly certain how this came to be, but it is truly my path.  As I have come to rest in this truth, it has caused me to feel a great purpose and confidence. At 13 yrs of age, I assisted my sister in giving birth to her second son on the kitchen floor. The sacredness of that moment created an awareness of SPIRIT in me which was profound and life altering. I felt as though I had become a conduit that life could pass through to “its destination.” I have trusted that awareness throughout the last 42 years. This spirit and awareness is available to us all and for that, I am forever grateful.

Through many similar experiences, I have come to understand that humanity can be described as a great ocean of consciousness, each one of us a wave cresting at different times, yet still remaining part of the whole. Our interconnectedness - the web of nature - may seem to be held by thin threads, but those thin threads are made up of a divine material - indestructible and able to repel every power and force of nature seemingly set against it. Connecting and working together makes humanity incredibly strong. This belief has been seeping into my life for decades and works in ways I have still to discover.

The Path to Becoming an End of Life Doula

At the age of 18, I started volunteering on the NICU floor of Regina General Hospital (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada). I came to discover that some patients were fighting for their lives for a most horrific reason: a community of parents were poisoning their babies with Drano, thus allowing these parents the time to go to the casino knowing that their babies would be taken care of. I instantly knew that this is where I needed to focus my time and care. I cuddled these babies, touched their fingertips, sang to them, and brought my full presence. It became my priority to offer the most basic auditory and sensory stimulation to these little ones who had been abandoned by their families. This same compassion and purpose compelled me when I worked on palliative and extended care wards in the decades that followed.

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My training in Validation Therapy, as well as other clinical techniques/philosophies, offered me insights when affirming, caring for and enriching the environments of those in my service. Although I was initially trained in Early Childhood, Fine Arts, and as a Rehabilitation Practitioner for individuals with special needs, the skills were transferable across all walks of life I worked with. I then incorporated my art, singing, knowledge of scriptures, history, travel and current events to offer safe and loving experiences for those in my care. Integral to my work is Enrichment of Time, whether at home as a mama of two or in the workplace. Trusting my intuition and wisdom has allowed me to grow in confidence while caring for those who are going through health challenges, obstacles with disabilities, and end of life transitions.

This is All Sacred Work

I have been honoured to sing for many of those with whom I have worked and as well as at their services in memory of their passing.  I feel honoured to have created dozens of memorial pencil portraits of those who have passed. This all is sacred work. So when I heard of the Conscious Dying Institute, my heart skipped a beat. I grabbed my computer and instantly sent off notices to the website requesting to be contacted. There was not a moment’s hesitation for me.

I have sat with dozens of souls as they have moved from one existence to another; I have felt the holiness of those moments and hours. I have experienced how critical it is to give space, permission, and grace for those facing the end of “this” life. To me, it is as holy as the moment I helped with the birth of my nephew.  From formlessness to form and form to formlessness. It is mysterious, yet not something to be feared. I had my own NDE (Near Death Experience) in 2003, and it left me unafraid of death. I felt a commitment come alive within me to living life more fully.  So for now, the more I can learn to enrich my understanding and sharpen my skills in caring for souls in transition, the greater capacity I hold for the universe to use me as a bridge - or perhaps a lighthouse - in service of this web of life.

Paula Marie Cornell

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Paula Marie has worked in the fields of elder care, palliative care, care for babies in NICU as a volunteer, office manager, rehabilitation practitioner, art therapist, child care supervisor, even in radio and on we go.  She is “the arts” in that she has sung, played piano, is a visual artist and motivational speaker and has taught her art techniques extensively to students from 3-93 yrs. Her heart is happy to follow where she is called and that is precisely what she is doing with this opportunity to study and practice the calling of a Sacred Passage Doula, allowing her to bring all of her gifts and skills together, to converge and allow spirit to bring authentic power and compassion into the lives she serves.

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