A Day in the Life of a Death Midwife

I spent my day listening to stories by an old Appalachian mountain storyteller, her riveting tales keeping me on the edge of my seat.

I conducted storycorps pre-interviews for a Legacy Project.

I collected colorful maple leaves🍁 with a newly widowed woman with Alzheimer’s, watching her face light up with childlike wonder upon each and every newly found leaf.
She then happily handed them out to others, small tokens of love and affection.

I sat with a dying woman and her family, being fully present as she peacefully drifted deeper into sleep, her time drawing closer, experiencing bits and pieces of both worlds.

Lastly, I tried my best to comfort and console a woman who is terrified and alone, with no living relatives. I was not too successful I’m afraid, I will try again to reach her during my next visit.

Each and every human being handles death and the dying process in their own unique way, the dying process just as unpredictable as each and every birthing process.

People generally die in the same way they have lived.

Midwife to the Dying [On loss]

I lost a patient this morning who I shared a very beautiful connection with. This was a tough loss for me.

I received the call yesterday, my patient was actively dying.

In order to receive Hospice care, a physician must determine the patient has 6 months or less to live.

This particular patient was in the final stages of his disease, and vitals among other tell tale signs indicated imminent death.

My person suffered from a very debilitating illness that affected his cognitive function.

As we sat together over lunch about 3 weeks ago, his head down, he suddenly looked up at me and said

“I’m ready to go home”.

He asked me if I would pray with him, and I did. I told him it was ok to let go if he was ready… “Are you ready, I asked”? “I believe so” he responded.

I sat there holding his hand in silence for a few moments as he drifted back into his former state of disorientation.

An old WW2 Navy veteran, I spent many a day with him nestled up to me as I read old war stories to him, he loved history in general, and responded favorably to these old stories of victory, triumph, and yes…. even defeat.

Like a helpless child seeking comfort, i’d stroke his forehead as i read aloud, reminding him regularly that it was safe to let go, that i was there and there was nothing to be afraid of.

Many times he drifted off in my arms, like a small boy, safe with mother.

I woke Saturday morning with a sense of panic, restlessness and anxiety.

These are not typical emotions for me. I sat with these feelings as they intensified over the course of 3 days.

Then Tuesday, I received the call. My patient was actively dying. I was able to say my goodbyes, and offer one last, tender stroke upon his forehead, one final word of comfort in his ear.

I woke this morning to the news…He had passed.

This is such deep work, and I realize it is not for everyone. It is the greatest honor to be a part of the dying process, helping a soul cross over into the unknown. I feel what they feel; fear, panic, terror, peace, anticipation, sorrow, regret. I feel it all. And that is the impetus that creates the drive needed to keep going in the midst of such intensity.

And while I feel a level of sadness for the families of my people, I know that my peaople continue on free of all these earthly constaints, and that I celebrate.

I have now been assigned to the wife he has left behind as she draws closer to her own transition.

What you Seek is Seeking You

I was thinking on one of my favorite Rumi quotes this morning,

“What you seek is seeking you.”

This short quote is so powerful! My interpretation is as follows.

The lens through which we view the world, is how things show up in our world. If we see the world as a harsh place, full of injustice and hatred, we will become keenly more aware of such things, our thoughts and energy become fixated on such things and that is what shows up in our world.

Whatever we focus on continually, presents itself in the world around us.

I have tested this with small things first. I set the intention that I will see a pink car for example, and focus on that, and bam! Suddenly I am seeing pink cars.

It isn’t magic, or something outside of myself creating that. It is where my thoughts and attention were, and suddenly it showed up.

Likewise if we see ourselves as victims of life’s circumstances, victims of our pasts, powerless in the face of life’s challenges, weak, too wounded, broken, etc. and we continually focus on what we lack and what we are not, then we keep ourselves in that place of powerlessness, we remain victims to life’s injustices, and we subconsciously seek evidence in alignment with those beliefs in our outside world, and guess what? The evidence always presents itself.

What we seek is seeking us….

When we can acknowledge our suffering and pain without constantly attaching meaning, it just is….yet consciously choose a different thought that is in alignment with what we desire we become more aware of the good around us, and we tend to draw good, and beautiful things into our world.

The only meaning anything that shows up in our lives has, is the meaning we attach to it based on our often times faulty perceptions.

Both require the same amount of effort, the same amount of mental energy.

Eventually you’ve Got to JUMP

The theme of my life over the past year:

I have been through years of therapy, have done some deep healing work, and healed some major core wounds.
Now it is time for me to reprogram those old beliefs and actually live what i’ve learned. At some point one must take the leap into the new person they have become through all the hard work.
This does not mean I no longer struggle and I am happy and positive 24/7. It means i consciously choose to create a new story, as opposed to slipping back into the old and analyzing each and every thought and emotion to death, qhich only causes me to spiral back down into old programs.
I totally get that self evaluation, introspection a and diving into those painful places is part of the healing process, and i honor those brave enough to go there! It is hard work!

However, I am no longer a victim to my past and it is time for me to focus now on what I desire without those past limiting beliefs holding me down.

The BIGGEST accomplishment for me has been finding emotional balance and stability within. There is nobody outside of myself i can rely on for that. It is an inside job.

It is extremely freeing and empowering being in control of ones thoughts and emotions, as opposed to being led by them!

We must constantly challenge ourselves to a higher state of consciousness if we want to expand, grow and evolve. I am still a very deep feeler and a very emotional woman, I always will be! However, I have learned that allowing myself to be controlled by my emotions is extremely destructive and has caused me more pain and suffering in my life than anything.

Eventually I came to realize I can be both emotional, and logical, open and guarded, impulsice and wise. This is balance, and it has always been my deepest desire to find balance.

I judge no one for where they are on their personal journey, however just because I don’t bare my soul to the world in a highly charged state of emotional intensity any longer does not mean I lack authenticity, or that I am part of the cult of positivity or in denial.

We can spend our entire lives (i did most of mine) running in circles, jumping from one healing modality to the next, while jever actually achieving healing. At some point ya gotta take the leap and live it!

John O’Donohue [Poet du jour]

We live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender. Each morning we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day in the world of time; each night we surrender to the dark to be taken to play in the world of dreams where time is no more. At birth we were awakened and emerged to become visible in the world. At death we will surrender again to the dark to become invisible. Awakening and surrender: they frame each day and each life; between them the journey where anything can happen, the beauty and the frailty.

Diary of a Death Midwife

I was called in today to sit with a patient who was extremely agitated, and unable to communicate what exactly was causing their distress.

It is like I must play the role of ‘mother’ and find the source of discomfort.

It always amazes me how people return to such a vulnerable state at the end of their lives.
How much they rely on others to offer them comfort and care.

My job is to find and meet their emotional needs, whatever they may be. It is an extremely intuitive process. They often speak only through eye contact and/or body language.

My person was afraid, and as a result retless and agitated.

Dying is an entirely new experience that we only (most of us) experience once. So full of unknowns even for people who have strong faith in something beyond this life.

I handed my person their blanket, stroked their forehead and sang to them, much the same way I have with each of my 5 children.

Isn’t this what we all crave at the deepest level?

Presence, connection, comfort, and love.

Each, such primal needs, beyond mere desire.

Such a beautiful, rich experience ❤

The Heroes Journey-Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith

“Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was a world-renowned mythologist who helped modern society understand the true power that storytelling has in our culture and within our personal lives. He studied and identified the universal themes and archetypes that are present in mythical storytelling across history and across the world. His seminal work, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, outlined what Campbell called the Hero’s Journey, a motif of adventure and personal transformation that is used in nearly every culture’s mythical framework. George Lucas was an avid admirer of Campbell’s writings, and used them as a direct reference in his creation of Star Wars. The two didn’t meet face to face until after Lucas had already finished his original trilogy of films…”

Elements of Campbell’s “Heroes journey” are visible in all of George Lucas’s Star Wars films. Perhaps that is the draw for many, an often unconscious desire to connect deeply with our own inner hero, the depth of our very own human conflict as well as potential.

Each archetype represented in the Star Wars saga are aspects of ourselves, each and every character relatable through various stages and circumstances of our lives.

The contrast between light and dark, and ultimately, our innate desire to seek balance between our very own darkness and light.

Such films touch us, often times on an unconscious level, connecting us with the deepest, most hidden aspects of ourselves a silent, ethereal call from deep within longing to be brought to the surface and witnessed fully.

Last nights film was no exception. My five year old son, like his three brothers before him has been introduced to Lucas’s films. A rite of passage of sorts in our household.

Our film of choice, “Star Wars episode 3, Return of the Sith”. Most evident in this particular film is Anakin Skywalker’s journey from young padawan (apprentice) to Jedi, a coming of age.

Anakin is faced with many choices, and struggles to find the inner balance necessary to live out his chosen path, his destiny as a Jedi Master.

One of the final scenes in the film, Padme goes to see Anakin and pleads with him to resist the pull of the darkside and to chose love, to choose her and remain true to the mutual cause they both once shared. Carrying his child (ren) she begs and pleads. In realizing she has lost him to darkness through tears she tells him “Anakin, you are breaking my heart.” Anakins anger returns full force when Obi-wan kenobi emerges from the ship to try and get through to Anakin. Feeling betrayed by his love Padme he begins strangling her, the very own mother of his children.

In the end, Anakins anger and lust for power destroy him. He lay scorched and dismembered among the flames, only the very essence of who he was remains.

He is rescued and re built as Darth Vader. Anakin no longer exists. although consumed and turned to ash, he rose, not as the rise of the mythical pheonix, there was no exchange here of beauty for ashes, but a destruction that led to a death of his very soul.

Anakin represents that part of us that can easily become consumed with the most destructive, unbridled thoughts and emotions within us. Anger takes on a life of it’s own when left unchecked. We can easily justify our anger, especially when we have been victimized or instances where our anger would seem justified. But where to we draw the line between righteous indignation and unbridled anger? Self protection and self destruction? Again, the common theme, balance. Life seems to be a journey towards balance in our own lives and that balance then becoming a part of the collective unconscious, contributing to the greater whole of existence.

As within, so without

As above, so below

It begins in each of us first and foremost.

These films were a huge part of my childhood, and young adulthood. Such valuable lessons interwoven throughout each episode. I am elated that my son has taken a liking to these films, and that each film acts as a gateway to further discussion into various aspects of ourselves, and deeper insight into our own “Heroes Journey.”