“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”
~ Neil Gaiman,
As a society I don’t think we do death very well. It’s not talked about. We try to pretend that it doesn’t happen, and often, sadly, we try to keep it all behind closed doors – either for ourselves or for a loved one.
I’m no stranger to dying, and I’ve come to know death from a number of perspectives. I’ve had my own prognoses of numbered days several times in the past twenty years. From heart issues to life-threatening infections and multi-organ failure, death and I have looked each other in the eye. I have held the knowledge and the feeling of dying within me as I have struggled to keep living.
I’m still here. But that dark bird still sits on my shoulder, and I have learned to travel with that extra weight and the gifts of perspective that this brings. Among my friends are others who have dark birds of their own. We share a special language without words, because we know – we live with this extra awareness, and we have watched others go before us and leave this world. Once the dark bird has visited you, everything changes.
I’ve come to know dying from having been at the deathbed of over thirty people now, as they’ve made their transition from this life. I’ve talked about death with them as their days diminished from endless to numbered. As they’ve grappled with the news of their impending demise and the knowledge that time has almost run out. I’ve cried with them. And laughed. I’ve talked of living, even as they are dying, and helped them to make plans about the things that mattered most.
As their final hours have arrived I’ve held their hand and stroked their hair and anointed them with oils. I’ve whispered in their ear, and cradled them in my arms and helped them to no longer be afraid. I’ve created a safe space for them and for their loved ones who were with them for this last past of the journey. I’ve witnessed as their last breath left their lungs, as their heart stopped beating, as they moved from life to death, and then beyond.
I’ve helped to plan or even officiate over funerals and memorials. I’ve celebrated the passing of many a loved one, with all of those who were left behind.
The final perspective I have on death is as a psychic. I have watched what happens to a person’s soul and to their energies as they begin the journey of transition. I have witnessed death and spoken to souls in the moments, minutes and hours after their physical end. I have communicated with souls who have long passed from our world. I have connected with the dying via dreams. One precious soul even showed me his passing by sharing those last hours of life and those first moments of death and beyond with me as I supported him via meditation. I have learned so much about the enduring nature of our souls after death, and the power of love to transcend dimensions and boundaries of time and place.
Right now I have a number of friends and clients who are facing the imminent passing of an elderly parent, or a terminally ill child or life partner. There are a couple of friends and clients who have been given their own recent diagnosis of a life-ending condition.
This is the territory of my daily life – providing support in these situations. It’s endless, because it is part of the cycle of life. People who know me well understand that I am always walking with death, and in service to that transitioning, although I may not mention it to those still firmly in the flow of life.
So, in response to a number of recent questions about death and dying, I’ve decided to write a short series of blog posts to help these friends and clients, and any of you who are (or will one day be) in this situation so that you can provide support to your own loved ones, and feel comforted in understanding that the end of life can become a beautiful space, after which the soul simply moves to a different state of existence – and yes, continues to exist. If you are one of those friends with a dark bird on your shoulder we can talk about how to live even as you are dying, and what things you may want to consider, of both a practical and a spiritual nature.
I’ll begin next Wednesday. But before that, if you have any questions that you’d like me to answer in this series, please contact me by leaving a comment below, or emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org
I would be honoured to help in any way possible.
As always, I am holding you in my thoughts, prayers and meditations, Nicole <3 xx