“Entering, in moments, the realm of pure being, the gate-less gate swings open…beyond life and death, our original face shines back to us.” — Healing into Life and Death, by Steven Levine.
[gap size=”100px”]We will all experience the death of a loved one and we will know our own dying one day. We can choose to face death with fear or we can choose to establish an unafraid, heartfelt understanding and communication with others, especially it is so very important to do this with those who are dying.
My Near Death Experience
When I was four years old, I had a near death experience where it felt like I was gone for a long time. When I surfaced again, I could not remember the English language or how to talk and I had to start all over again learning how to fit in, trying to know what my life was really for.
My Grandmother played a very significant and profound role in my healing back to awareness. She must have known on that mystic night so long ago that something extraordinary yet frightening was about to take place in that tiny attic room where I lay with a high fever.
Just as it felt like I was being pulled through a brightly illuminated tunnel, my Grandmother quietly crept up the stairs to check in on me. I can still see her standing in the doorway holding a coal oil lantern, clad in her long flowing white night gown, with her white Grandma hair, that beautiful transparent look in her eyes, why, she almost looked and appeared like an angel hovering there in the doorway and I knew it was okay to let go and journey through the tunnel. That was my Grandma, therefore I knew I would be safe to leave.
At My Grandmother’s Funeral
The next deep and intimate encounter that I can remember having with my Grandmother was at her funeral. I was eight years old then, and not fully numb yet to the magical world of third eye sight and as I stood there peering into Grandma’s coffin at her serene and luminescent face, I heard her draw a breath and then another one and what? I saw her move.
It was as though she was coming alive again right out of her coffin and she looked much younger. Well, I gasped out loud as prayers were being recited, exclaiming to my Mom, who was standing next to me, “she’s alive,” “Grandma lives.”
You can imagine what this sounded like back in the fifties and I was hushed silent immediately and made to feel shame at calling out during prayers. I pulled in my wings and never spoke of it again but my Grandmother never went away.
She remained somewhere in the unseen, always ready to come quickly when called upon in times of trouble and grief and oh, joy too. I’m sure it was my Grandma’s loving influence in my life and the experiences that we shared so deeply that led me into the work of hospice and palliative care.
Reflecting on my childhood experiences with death it seems that only recently have we begun to understand our dying, yet still at times preferring not to think about it. We often try to shelter our children from the fear and dread of a painful ending.
Yet, it is children who can help us the most with our stress and anxiety, bringing us back to our innocent selves when we knew as children that we were connected to God and the Divine Mother, thus connected to our living and our dying. We knew as young ones that at birth we walk through a doorway and in death we walk through the doorway again with no separation in any part of the journey.
Finding the Healing Meaning
It is so important in these transformational times that we turn to our human family to offer our love and compassion to those who are dying and who are in pain and fear of the end. Helping to find a “healing meaning” in one’s dying is our opportunity.
Offering a deep nurturing, and a non-judgmental loving listening which means, being in a space that is heart to heart with another. Consoling, attending to, helping to take care of the heart, the heart break, bringing in some loving kindness and having mercy for ourselves and our regrets.
These attitudes are so vital to a dying person’s well being, to be able to sit deeply in the heart with another, often in the silence of the spirit…where a very beautiful energetic pathway opens and the loved one is able to just simply let go, moving with the passage that is called death.
Attending to, with individuals who are living with a terminal illness, supporting and consoling their families, is truly a privileged and a blessing for all who are involved in the gentle care of the living/dying experience. As many more individuals choose to die at home in the comfort of their own familiar surroundings, we as family, friends and care-givers have a special opportunity to share intimate moments with our loved one, opening our hearts to our sacred journey.
It is a powerful experience to witness a dying person drop all the surface “stuff” and get to the heart of each moment. Meeting ourselves and another, deep in our hearts is the most powerful journey we can take together. We are called to give our gifts, letting the healing in, letting this be our human quest.