Transitioning With Death

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What it’s like to know you’re dying: the long transitions of life limiting diagnosis

Some of you might remember my Death Journey which started a few years ago either from meeting me in person in Sacred Passage Doula Training Vancouver or by way of the Conscious Dying Institute’s blog. My memory tells me that at that time I was intensely slogging away at somehow trying to “finish up” so I could die at peace. My search for this “die at peace” included completing my own Best 3 Months, becoming my own Sacred Passage Doula, my own Death Educator, etc. At each step of inquiry, exploration, completion and graduation, I turned around inside and saw I had gone nowhere. I remained as fractured, disturbed, tearful, anxious, fearful, and yes hopeless as before. I had high hopes in the beginning, and used all the tools I have learned throughout my long life to work with the fact of my dying- and failed. 

More of the same…..

My thoughts to myself and Tarron became: OK, I’ve done all the stuff to help myself find peace and die with a sense of completion, etc. Yes, I did become my own death doula coaching myself on how to complete my life. So why was there still this starkly honest sense of failure … and fear? Failure because I was as disturbed as on the first day I was told I was going to die. Did I fail the course? Have I not “tried” hard enough? Still more “to do”? How come I was still filled with anxiety after having explored in minute detail the emotional, physical, spiritual, psychological, and practical areas of my life?

Visualize with me for a moment:

That I put all my life in a box. Upon learning of my coming death, I run frantically to my box and open it to see what I’ve done/got. Seeing what I’ve done, I now try to for example make amends, or get my trust in order, or make after life arrangements. Basically, I try to tie up all my life’s loose ends so I can lay hands folded composed like on my deathbed and then die without regret but rather satisfied that “all is in order and last.” If I can’t do that, well, I’ve failed at not getting it all together (forgot to call my Mother! ...for example)

Everything in my box including my “spiritual” domain was what I knew without a doubt was who I was/am. That box contained “me”. So I coached myself as I would coach others approaching death (with reflectively listening of course), to get in there, rummage around, clean it up, and then “You’re ready”, “Yea!”

My shock came two years into my BoxWorks realizing that no, I didn’t fail - I did call my Mother! And I did diligently open my life box and deal with it’s contents. Yes, sometimes it took immense courage to do it. Like, oh, how embarrassing and shameful it was to reveal “that” lie to her! Nonetheless, I did it.

So why? Why this immense intense discontent, dissatisfaction? What had I left lurking in the shadows, untouched and unexplored? Was my death mask going to reflect: “Whattt??” 

Out of this sense of utter failure came a memory. Some forty years ago a Catholic nun I was living with in India gave me a question she herself had used in her life, one that she said would tear me apart - if I allowed it to. She said: “Ask yourself, inquire inside: Who Am I?”

Hmm...peeking into my Box; “Who are you?” I asked. “Oh, you’re asking that question again, eh? “ - came the answer.

Then one evening reading The Reality of Being by Jeanne de Salzman, something emerged - a flash of understanding, clear, untouched: Who I am appeared. A reality appeared completely separate from anything inside or outside my box. In fact, I was the box and all its contents as well as all the contents and non-contents of everything. 

Slowly understanding appeared now and again, then more now. 


This blog post was a gracious contribution made by Stephen Clark, Sacred Passage End-of-Life Doula.

Is this what happens when I die when anyone dies - but in a condensed way? I’m suspecting that when I die, my “life” as defined by that which is inside my Box will be just chucked out as useless stuff - good while it was needed to live my life - but now as I die, useful? Satisfying? Who I am? 

As a Death Doula, my responsibility is to provide compassionate Presence that allows myself and my fellow human beings the space to explore, inquire, to Be. Perhaps Death helps strip away that which I am not naturally so that as I die, I die in gasping wonder instead of the anguish of: “Whatt?”. 

If this is true, hey what about today, the day I won’t be dying? How would like to be live today without me to drag around all so set on what’s right and wrong? Is there really a possibility of spoken by Rumi:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there. 

When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.

Spike /Stephen Clark

Spike /Stephen Clark

Looking again... 

This blog post was a gracious contribution from Spike / Stephen, a Sacred Passage End of Life Doula Graduate - Vancouver.

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