Since I lost my dad when I was ten years old I have been fascinated, and a little scared of death. Death has always been something that I thought about, either with fear or wonder. I was afraid to lose the person I loved, but I always wondered what happened after. What is it like for them on their next journey? Who will they see? What will it feel like?
The fear of my life being different without them is what stopped me from fully being at peace with death. Change in how life as I know it caused me to worry about losing people I love. Never being able to hear their voice or feel their skin filled my being with panic. Never being able to have a two-sided conversation again or feel the squeeze of the hand took the breath right out of me.
As I ran from the fear of death, there was always something pushing me toward my fear. As the fear swam around in my head, the questions I had bobbed to the surface. Each time I attempted to push death under and out of my thoughts, it came straight to the surface. My mind was full of either thoughts about dying and death, or thoughts of trying not to think about it all.
Fear of losing my Gram consumed my early thoughts, and followed me straight to her death, and held on tight for seven years after. The pain and longing to see her, to hear her, to touch her was all I could concentrate on. Every waking thought included my desire to have her back in my life again. The longing to have her back stole parts of me, and weighed me down so much so that there were days I did not think I would survive the pain.
Misery overshadowed me. The one constant through this period, was my continued interactions with death. The one career path I vowed to never take was the one that won my heart. Something inside me was stronger than I knew and pushed me to the path I was meant to travel.
No other population called to me like this one. The aging and disabled were who I knew how to help. With aging and disabilities, also came death. Outside my comfort zone, I slowly lost more and more clients. The first few years, the pain was almost too much. I felt like I was failing them; how was I helping them when they were dying? How did my time with them make a difference?
As family members grieved, I did not know what to do, or what to say. I could not hold the tears in. The feelings of gratitude and love seeped out my eyes. This could not be where I was meant to be. Could it? I felt their pain, and could not offer their loved one back to them. I could not give them anything. Or could I?
When I stopped feeling like I was letting them down, I looked at what I was doing. I was holding their hand and talking about the hard things no one else wanted to talk about. I sat at their bedside as they talked about how the life they had lived had went wrong and how it went right. I listened to their regrets and their joys. I developed a relationship with them as they packed up their things and headed to the door.
Death was not stealing people from me, it was sending people to me. Together, we were learning from each other. I was receiving so much when I pushed through the fear. I saw people in their most vulnerable state. Their strength transferred to me. Their love and ability to give in to what is filled my heart. The empty spaces that death had created for me was being filled in. With each interaction the pull towards death tugged me closer. This. This was what I was meant to do.
These lessons helped teach me that time is precious. The time that we do have should be spent living. My fear and sorrow changed. Something inside me shifted, and the weight lifted. The transformation from fear to healing made me realize I had to peruse this gift that was given to me. Death is not going away, and I can help those who need it. I can share the gifts that I had been given.
Having the majority of the people in my life on the other side now, I know there is more than here. I know that just because the body is gone, the person is not. I believe with everything I have that there is more. More time to love and learn. With these beliefs, as I am with a person that is dying I am overcome with peace. I know that what comes next for them is something of beauty. Death is not something to fear. Death is not the end.
I feel connected to the dead because I know they cannot hurt me. I know that all of the evilness of their worldly body is gone, and the spirit remains. They are free to be who they are, without the toxins of their surroundings. Death no longer brings fear, but comfort.
Last week I completed an eight-week certification program to become a death doula. I am now certified to help people find comfort in their death. Life experience led me to this path. Something that most people run from is now what I am running to.
I want to offer peace and love to those who are afraid. I want to help people leave something behind for the people they love. I want to listen to their fears and their dreams. I want to be a pillar of strength when they feel like crumbling. This is my reason for existing. This is why I was given so much pain; to get ready to help others through theirs. I have lost so much in my lifetime, now I am ready to give back.
Sometimes pain can bring joy. I know my suffering was for something.
To my next journey.