Another Sacred Passage
This story was passed along to us by a Conscious Dying Institute Graduate who has given us permission to share her story. Names have been omitted for anonymity.
I’ve had the beautiful honor of being with my friend/coworker and her mom who had been in my care while residing in the facility in which I worked. My friend was having a very difficult time accepting the reality that her mom was nearing the end of her earthly journey. By this point, her mom was unable to speak very much after surviving and overcoming a debilitating stroke several years ago. When I visited with them, I engaged with the lovely elder by asking those big, bold questions. By the end of our conversations and prayers, her daughter KNEW that what she wished was not reality, in fact was: her sweet momma was preparing to make her sacred passage home!
A Death Doula’s Words During an End of Life Transition
The next day, my friend called full of joy and tears to say, ”Shirley, it was the hardest thing I’d ever done-but I helped my mom plan her funeral.” She described how her mom was so gloriously peaceful and radiant after this conversation, that care staff, friends, and neighbors took notice! My friend asked me if I had anything I might add to her eulogy. In the following, you’ll find the words I sent to her:
When I think of your mom, love, tenacity, beauty, compassion, joy, and laughter are the words that flood my heart effortlessly! It makes me smile! I’m so happy for my opportunity to get to know her during the time she was in my care.
I’d say she was strong and seldom showed her frustrations or anger over her debilitating situation.
She rose up out of the despair of losing not just her independence, but also the love of her life.
She rose up out of the frustrations of becoming slowly dependent on the compassion and care of those around her (which couldn’t have been an easy feat). Being a giving and nurturing woman by nature and by GOD’s design, she rose to each and every given obstacle with tenacity, dignity and with absolute grace! What a glorious example, what a beautiful inspiration!
When I first met your mom, I was introduced to a tiny wisp of a woman in a wheelchair. Beautifully dressed in vivid colors, each outfit was perfectly coordinated (and lovingly put together by her daughter) right down to the silky scarves and little bits of bling! Her hair was always beautifully styled. But the thing that will linger with me as long as my precious memories is the way she smelled - as lovely as she looked! It wasn’t the common aroma of a beautifully coiffed Elder. No, it was the aroma of sweet floras and fresh fruits, seemingly straight from Eden’s own garden.
I had the honor and privilege of working with, caring for, singing with (even when she’d roll her eyes laughing at my joyful noise), laughing with, sometimes crying with, and (my personal favorite) praying with your mom. I discovered her gift of prayer when I noticed she would sit outside of the room of one of her pod neighbors; it was always the room of someone going through a difficulty or challenge or the room of someone passing away. We became prayer partners. She would look for me, she would wait for me, and together we would pray for others, for herself or for me. Her face would light up as we’d hold hands.
She’d often place her good hand on a friend in need. Her difficulty with articulation was no concern at all; she was a prayer warrior, gifted and glorious at praying in the spirit! It was always clearly evident, even in silence, when your mom’s prayers were done. Her furrowed brow of concern would soften, a beautiful smile of peace would light up her entire countenance, and away she would go (obviously confident that her prayers had been heard). My most treasured times with her, though, were the times I got to sit with her in those days that led graciously to her grand entrance into our Heavenly Father’s arms. She had not been doing well. According to the medical system, she was declining. However, as we sat, prayed, talked, and listened to her, you and I came to see clearly what she wanted us to understand: she was not at all declining on a medical road to recovery BUT, she was absolutely PROGRESSING on her earthly life’s final journey. And she was not simply ok with that, she was absolutely at peace. When I asked, her response was a heartfelt “ WONDERFUL!!” WONDERFUL was her expression of how she felt about her journey home to heaven, and WONDERFUL was the last word I had the honor of hearing her speak to me. It was just a day or two before she passed. I said to her, “This is quite the journey you’re on.” She smiled and said ”Yes it is!” She waited a moment and said “It’s WONDERFUL!”
A Death Doula’s Connection to Those Who Pass
On her last day, I had stopped in to visit. You shared with me that she had been asleep for much longer than usual. She opened her eyes when I laid my hand on her shoulder in the way we often would when we prayed. I sang, “I come to the garden alone, softly tenderly JESUS is calling, go now in peace”. I made my usual joyful noise, secretly wishing she would sing along or at least roll her eyes. Your mom didn’t do either. She lay quietly, eyes wide open and looking right at me, simply smiling. When I said goodbye and turned her music on, she slowly closed her eyes…smiling.
During those last days and moments, her care aides and staff would frequently comment about how BEAUTIFUL she was, how PEACEFUL! Our beautifully peaceful WONDERFUL inspiration!