If talking about death makes you uncomfortable, read no further. If you’re curious, please continue.
So here’s the literal part of the dying conversation –
So my almost 99 year mom, affectionately known as Vivacious Vi, started down the pathway towards ______. You can fill in the blank – her next adventure, the After – Life, the Great Mystery.
Being the pip she has always been, she’s gotten right up to the door several times, ready to make the leap, only to change her mind and regroup again, and then again. This is a woman who has always adamantly refused to have a conversation about dying, or for that matter about age. In fact, she would become absolutely livid when I would try to brag about how vital she was even into her mid 90’s.
A funny story – a couple of weeks ago, I sat down next to her during one of the phases when we thought she was on the verge, sleeping 23 ½ hours a day, not eating, and I said “Mom, it’s really okay to let go. Go to the other side, go be with your parents, and friends and other loved ones…we are all good here, you can go”. She slowly turned her head towards me, opened her eyes, and said “What the hell are you talking about?” I totally cracked up and said to myself, “Well all right then. She is definitely doing this her way!” Having death as an imminently approaching event has of course, led to thoughts about mortality.
In helping myself and my sisters accompany my mom graciously on this journey, I just re-read a very short, beautiful book by Denys Cope, Dying: A Natural Passage. She is a hospice nurse with decades experience of helping people transition. The book is an eye and heart opener that advocates ‘taking death out of the closet’ and embracing this most important act with as much consciousness and grace as we can.
I highly recommend anyone who is remotely connected to the possibility of dying to read it. Let’s help take death out of the closet.
And here’s the figurative part of the dying conversation – the importance of learning to die, over and over again. I was talking with one of my Teacher Trainees about how necessary it is not to carry past hurts, grievances, guilt etc. around with us.
In other words, we need to learn to die to the past – over and over again. Dying to the negative images we have of ourselves or others, and learning to die to the doubts & insecurities that prevent us from being spectacular and making bold and creative leaps in our lives! How useful would that be?
So, I do believe that healthy conversations about death can be empowering and useful in reducing fear and creating the atmosphere of curiosity and compassion about all phases of our wild & sometimes crazy human experience.