As I was personally unraveling after 16 years of hospice work, this was my first chapter in my attempt to capture what I had learned. I titled it, As a Child.
“Children and the dying have a lot in common. They both have a capacity to know their story and play with endings creatively. Sometimes this quality is squelched by those on whom they are dependent or in unsafe circumstances...but the clarity is there. Words or action cut through the unnecessary. Spirit is predominant and curiosity can emerge ... again if it is safe.”
In considering this I am reminded of the purity and potential of the beginning of life and the end of life. Both can be filled with fear or hope…. resistance or readiness. They are both sacred times. I remember in my hospice work those many individuals and families who created what they wanted with their approaching death – whether it was about goodbyes and family connection, stillness and withdrawal, or fury and opposition. It was always bigger than me or my personal judgement. My job was to “walk with”, to honor, to “hold safe space.” Being intentional became possible when pain was not a ravaging force.
I believe children offer us a clear view to our potential, to healing, and in preparation for our own death. When I was at my lowest and totally out of touch with the notion of resilience I turned to that which had brought me joy as a child – animals, art, the ocean, and play. It was sort of a “fake it ‘til you make it” desperate direction as I could tap very little joy and even less energy. The rhythm of the waves, the laughter of my grandchildren, the steady breath of my horse, the unwavering devotion of my dog, a glimpse of beauty in art or nature…..all were restorative at almost a cellular level. It was resonance.
These early sensations of resilience have become the foundation of my new “kairos” commitment in living. Kairos, or moments of eternity, or full mindfulness brings me an unending source of peace. I know, in my heart and my experience of death in hospice work, that it is the path to safe passage when form shifts. Children know and live this intuitively. Some folks in their dying can arrive again at this trust of birthing and experience it as one and the same. Such is grace.