Let The Dying Live!

Painting by Iain Vellacott at www.inoils.com

Painting by Iain Vellacott at www.inoils.wordpress.com

“You’ve got this life and while you’ve got it, you’d better kiss like you only have one moment, try to hold someone’s hand like you will never get another chance to, look into people’s eyes like they’re the last you’ll ever see, watch someone sleeping like there’s no time left, jump if you feel like jumping, run if you feel like running, play music in your head when there is none, and eat cake like it’s the only one left in the world!”
~ C. JoyBell C.

 

This post is the next in my Wednesday series on death and dying…

Many years ago, my friend Pixie was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. It was caught late because she was breast-feeding, and doctors kept telling her she had mastitis. It was only her continued urging that led to her ultimate diagnosis. Despite using both aggressive traditional and alternative medicine the cancer continued to progress.

With her initial diagnosis and surgery came much attention from friends. But then Pixie’s illness dragged on.

And on.

Friends stopped calling. Family came much less frequently. The immediate crisis had been averted, and other folk went back to their regular lives. Some also stopped visiting or calling because they didn’t know what to say, or what to do. Chronic and terminal illness can be very lonely.

I was also seriously ill. So it was logical that Pixie and I should keep each other company. She would go to my house, or I to hers. We talked a lot about life. We talked a lot about death. Both of us had been given a poor prognosis. Both of us had experienced physicians tell us that we were dying.

Eventually I found a new doctor, and a new regime that seemed to promise better outcomes. My outlook improved. But Pixie continued to decline. Soon she needed a cane to walk. She was frail, and tired easily. She could no longer drive. Her life became an endless round of medical appointments and resting at home.

One morning she rang me. She’d had more bad news. There were no treatment options left for her. Her doctors could only suggest pain management and palliative care. Could I come over for a visit? Yes, I could. (this was back in the days when I was still driving!) Dress up in something pretty, she said. Wear a nice perfume. We are going out!

I drove to her house, and Pixie shuffled to the door to greet me. Instead of her usual dressing gown and slippers she was wearing a pink dress, pearls and flats. She had a scarf tied over her head where only patchy hair had ever regrown. Closing the house door firmly behind her she took my arm. Come on, she said. I’m taking you for coffee!

Are you drinking coffee, I asked, surprised.

I am now, she laughed. And so are you. Today we are ordering like we are living, not dying!

We ventured a short distance to a large local plant nursery that had a gift shop and a cafe attached. Taking my arm, Pixie and I walked slowly through the gardens and rows of plants for sale, and then took a seat in the little cafe. It was still so early that the staff were busy watering the plants and sweeping the paths, ready for the day ahead.

A waiter came and took our order and very quickly two excellent coffees arrived.

Pixie picked up her coffee, inhaled and smiled rapturously. I sipped mine tentatively. It was delicious. Neither of us had drunk coffee for the longest time. It wasn’t on our cure-everything-diets.

We were quiet for a moment, perusing the menus. None of it was the food we’d usually eat. The lemon tart looks amazing, Pixie said. So does the eggs benedict, I added. We got both, with extra side plates so that we could share. Pixie made sure that her lemon tart came with cream and ice-cream.

What’s the occasion, I asked, once the waiter had left with our orders.

I’m sick of dying, Pixie said. I’m still alive. I’ve been alive for ages and I’m going to be alive for a bit longer yet. Hopefully. So I’ve decided to live while I’m alive. Dying is overrated, and it isn’t any fun!

We were both quiet for a moment, sitting with the truth of that.

It is so easy for dying to sneak in and rob the colour and the pleasure from life while you’re still alive.

For the eight months before Pixie became completely bedridden and shifted into that final stage of life we continued to have little outings, or on days when Pixie wasn’t up to a car trip I’d bring the world to her via treats, flowers, conversation and news.

One of our most precious days was when I wheeled her bed out onto their patio so she would feel the dappled sunlight and smell the fresh air of the changing seasons. She could look up through the pergola and see green leaves and flowers. She could see trees. She said it made her feel connected to life in a way that she couldn’t experience from between the white walls of her room.

My dear friend taught me something very important about dying.

Even when you are dying you are still living. That time is precious. There can be so much pleasure and value in it if it is lived and savoured.

So, if you, or someone you know has a chronic or terminal illness, think about how to have more shared experiences of living. This goes for people who are aging too!

Take Pixie’s hard-earned wisdom and let it shape your life. Celebrate and live life. For yourself and for your loved ones. Let the dying live. Help them to live while they are still alive. It will enrich life for both of you.

Sending so much love your way, Nicole <3 xx

 

Conversations About Dying – We Need To Have Them!

“When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is die!”
~ Jim Elliot

“Everybody will die, but very few people want to be reminded of that fact.”
~ Lemony Snicket

 

This post is the next in my Wednesday series on Death and Dying…

 

Last year a good friend of mine died.

She died from breast cancer – a cancer she decided to treat naturally. A cancer that completely ravaged her body in less than two years while using those natural treatments. (And no, we are not going to discuss cancer and cancer treatments today.)

My friend avoided seeing me for months and months after she first detected the small lump in her breast. Why? She was frightened of what I might see psychically, and what I might tell her. She knew I would tell her to see a doctor, and to get additional information and ideas about possible treatment plans. So instead we kept never being able to make our calendars meet, even though we lived so close to each other.

But I knew there was something wrong. Very wrong.

Finally her husband rang one day and asked if we could come over.

I was so shocked when I walked through the front door. Here was my friend, suddenly an emaciated old woman. She smelt of death. I could see cancer throughout her body. I packed my shock away. My friend shuffled towards me for a hug and I saw it, a massive fungating tumor where her breast had been – so large that it was preventing her arm from moving naturally. Her arms and legs were swollen from lymphedema.

I hugged her gently, and she burst into tears.

Can you help me? my friend asked. I need some help.

As her husband made us a cup of tea I followed her to the lounge, where they had set up a bed for her.

You’ve defied the odds, my friend said. You’re still here and you should be dead. What else do I have to do to get better?

She then gave me the long list of everything they were doing. The infusions and diets and injections and colonics and green juices and superfoods and anti-cancer foods and no sugar and oxygen therapy and bicarb and turmeric and every other thing. Such a long list of things. Such a stressful thing, this list, with its military precision timing and increased severity as my friend’s condition worsened. They were having trouble coping with administering the regime. And now my friend couldn’t breathe if she lay down. What else could they do? There must be something else they could do? She couldn’t control her thoughts. She couldn’t stay positive. Could I help her meditate? Maybe that would sort her mind out?

I held my friend’s hand and our husbands brought tea for us and then disappeared out into the garden.

I found some lavender essential oil in my handbag and gently applied some to her swollen feet and hands, and showed her how to breathe it in. Then I talked her through a meditation as she sat in her chair, propped on soft pillows. Mercifully, somewhere in the middle of all of that my friend fell asleep.

I took my tea out into the garden, and told my friend’s husband that his wife was sleeping. He burst into tears.

Will she be okay? he asked me.

You already know the answer to that, I said. She’s dying. She needs medical care.

Can you tell her? he asked me.

Yes, I said. I’ll be back tomorrow.

Artwork by Daryl Zang

Artwork by Daryl Zang

The next day I sat on my friend’s bed and we talked about dying.

These are conversations I have had to have with my own husband many times during my illness. We’ve come to realise that they are conversations we all need to have, whether we are ill or not.

My friend and I talked about the possibility that she might die.

We talked about how to manage her care and her pain.

These were long, hard conversations with many tears.

We talked about wills. Did she have one? What did she want to happen if she could no longer make medical or other decisions for herself?

Our husbands joined us and we talked some more. We talked about all the things which were suddenly hard to talk about because they had become so real and so close.

We talked about her wishes, and the need for a plan.

Just a few days later my friend was admitted to a palliative care unit. She remained there until her death six weeks later. Until a few days before her death she had truly thought that she would get better enough to be able to go home and keep fighting.

In that whole time not one medical practitioner told my friend that she was dying. They told her only that she had stage four metastatic breast cancer.

I spent much of those last weeks with her, for short visits. For some of that time I was in hospital too and we would text madly, and talk when we could. We laughed a lot. We cried a lot.

The thing that broke me heart was an incident two weeks before she died.

I came to see her just after morning tea and she burst into tears. She felt so guilty, she said. The morning tea trolley had come around and she’d had the most delicious pumpkin scone with jam and cream. All that sugar. All that dairy. All that wheat. All the things she had been depriving herself of as she continued her green juices and superfoods that her husband brought up to the ward each day. She’d eaten cancer foods.

Darling, you’re dying, I said as I hugged her and wiped away her tears. One scone won’t make any difference. What matters was that it was delicious! Take pleasure from that. Then I went down to the canteen and fetched us both an excellent coffee and a chocolate brownie that was so good and we devoured them and laughed and for a moment we were two old friends who could have been anywhere.

Image from North End Coffee Roasters at Foursquare

Image from North End Coffee Roasters at Foursquare

Am I really dying, my friend asked me when our coffees were done.

Yes.

She burst into tears and sobbed into my arms all of the regrets she had. That she would never get to travel. That she wouldn’t go home. That she never tried the new Thai restaurant, and we never had our beach picnic with the dogs. So many regrets. So many thing she would have done differently if she’d realised that her time was so limited. If only someone had been honest with her. She thought there was still time.

And she confessed that she’d known the natural treatments weren’t working a year ago, but her husband had been so committed to them, and she was a naturopath and dietician so she felt it was her duty to keep going. Now she knew she’d made the wrong choice. She hadn’t honoured her intuition. And that choice had shortened her life and put her on a terrible path of suffering.

The little chemo she had been given palliatively had shrunk her masses and given her a better level of comfort. But it was too late.

I could barely talk that night for the pain of it all.

When my friend died she went downhill suddenly. She and her husband hadn’t talked with doctors about what might happen. There was no plan. Things were managed quite badly for her.

My husband and I got back to the hospital in time and I helped her to have a peaceful transition. Her death became a beautiful one.

But she died without a will. Without instructions. And it took her husband painful months to sort it all out after she was gone.

We don’t know when we will die. We don’t know if we will die unexpectedly and quickly, or if we will have time to prepare.

The only thing we know for sure is that one day we will.

Please talk with your friends and family. Do you want to be an organ donor? Are there situations where you would prefer that medical staff did not fight to save your life? What other instructions would you have if someone else was suddenly making the decisions for you?

Is there a point in trying where you might want to stop treatments?

Would you go into care? What would need to change if you ended up with a disability or chronic illness? Or a terminal one?

Funeral? Do you want one? Buried or cremated? Donated to science? Scattered at sea or the family plot?

Do you have a will in place, or at least have your wishes known to your family and friends? Is there a plan for your home, your children, your car, your possessions, your pets, your finances?

What matters to you in life? Are you living that life right now or are you putting all of these important things off to some mythical time in the future that may never come?

Death is a part of life. Let’s start having those conversations. One day you might be very glad that you did.

 

What Happens When We Die?

“There once was a girl who found herself dead.
She peered over the ledge of heaven
and saw that back on earth
her sister missed her too much,
was way too sad,
so she crossed some paths
that would not have crossed,
took some moments in her hand
shook them up
and spilled them like dice
over the living world.
It worked.
The boy with the guitar collided
with her sister.
“There you go, Len,” she whispered. “The rest is up to you.”
~ Jandy Nelson, The Sky Is Everywhere

 

Welcome to the third post in my Wednesday series on death and dying.

Last week I talked about the end stage of life, and what you might expect as a loved one or carer. Today, I’d like to discuss the moments after death, and what happens for the person who died.

Let’s start with Antoinette, a friend of mine who lost her life to breast cancer at age forty-two, leaving behind a loving husband and two little girls. Antoinette had battled cancer for a number of years. She was the first friend who ever contacted me after she died. Let me share her story…

 

Antoinette

When Antoinette’s time came, it came quickly and she went downhill very fast.  She did not want to die in a hospital, so her family brought Antoinette home, arranged for medical care, and went about their lives with her firmly in the midst of it all.

My friend had been ravaged by cancer. She was bald, skeletal, and frail as a bird, with a hugely bloated stomach and a deep pallor. As I sat holding her hand in the days before her death, my friend would whisper to me about what she was experiencing as she faded in and out of consciousness.  It was very beautiful, she said, and her Dad had come to help her (he had died some years before)  but she was very afraid.  There was a beautiful garden and people dancing, and she really wanted to join them there.  She was tired and couldn’t keep fighting, but she felt so guilty to be leaving her family when her job with them wasn’t finished. 

As her body began to shut down Antoinette’s words became slurred and incomprehensible to others, but I could still hear her voice as loud and clear as a bell. Her mum and husband would come into the room, and her physical aura would immediately strengthen as she tried to be strong and stay with them.  When they left the room her physical aura became instantly weaker and her etheric aura (her soul energy) grew bright again.

The day of her death a strong pink and gold light descended upon Antoinette, and the whole room was filled with a Divine presence.  I don’t often work with Angels or people who have passed over but my friend’s room became filled with Angels that I could physically see.  As soon as they arrived she began the journey of letting go, and became more and more peaceful.

We all gave Antoinette constant attention and love, and told her that it was okay for her to go to the Light.  My friend was leaving a young family behind, and she resisted death with every breath while the living were in the room with her.  Finally a beautiful moment allowed her to begin the process of finally letting go.

I saw the spirit of a charming man, perhaps in his forties, just as if he was really in the room with us.  I couldn’t hear him, but Antoinette could.  “Dad’s here”, my friend whispered, but she was also distressed – she knew her life was coming to an end.  I had never met Antoinette’s father, and did not know what he looked like.  When I described the man I saw later to her mother without saying who I thought he was, she said – “oh yes, that’s my husband’’.  He’d been much older when he died, but he appeared to Pinkie at an age when he was strong and handsome.

 

Then the spirit of an older woman turned up – my Guides explained that she was a relative from Antoinette’s husband’s family – who had died before Antoinette or her husband were even born.  Her presence soothed family members, even though they could not see or hear her, and did not know she was there.  I watched this older woman standing unseen to all but me in the energy field of Antoinette’s husband, strengthening and supporting him, and witnessed the most moving scene as he then began to recall how he and Antoinette had met, and some of the special moments in their lives together.

Hours before Antoinette’s death, the spirit of a physically stunning blonde young woman turned up by her left side.  Antoinette’s eyes widened in amazement and delight.  “My friend’s here, my beautiful friend.  I don’t believe it.  She’s here!” cried my dying friend.  I watched this beautiful girl lean over Antoinette’s broken body and stroke her cheek, whispering to her, and as she did this Antoinette’s physical aura became paler and paler and her breathing laboured.  Then her etheric aura completely disengaged and floated to the top of the room, held by the most slender and delicate silvery cord.  I left then and went home, so that my friend could share her final moments in privacy with her family.

Even though I knew Antoinette was meant to be leaving us, and would be well guided and looked after, I was very upset at losing my friend, and found it hard to sleep that night.  Just after I finally dozed off I was woken by a bright light in my bedroom, which was filled with the fragrance of sweet flowers. My beloved friend was standing at the end of my bed in a pink dress, and with raven hair down to her waist held by a jewelled head band.  She looked years younger and radiantly beautiful.

“Thank you, Nicole,” said my friend, smiling widely.  “I’m okay, and I understand everything.”  She then gave me some short messages for her Mum, husband and family.

I heard from the family the next morning that Antoinette had passed away ten minutes before I saw her.

A girlfriend rang later that day to see how Antoinette was.  I told her of our friend’s passing, and the things I had experienced with her before her death.  This girlfriend had gone to school with Antoinette and knew her very well.  From my description she immediately identified the girl who had come to Antoinette’s bedside as a childhood friend who had died tragically in the company of Antoinette when they were just eighteen.

My girlfriend asked if I would be prepared to share what I had seen with the family of the girl who had died so many years ago.  I was able to share my experiences with that girl’s family, who took great comfort from the fact that I had seen their long-lost daughter and sister, and that the girls were together again, looking after each other. A photo they showed me matched the girl that I had seen exactly.

I’ll share with you with the final thing Antoinette said to me on the night of her death as she stood at the foot of my bed.  “Don’t worry Nicole.  God is everywhere.  It all makes sense when you get here.  It’s really okay, and so am I.  I love you.  Tell them all it’s okay.  It’s all just love.”

 

And here’s another reassuring story, although this one is very different.

Angela

When my friend Angela died, in the early hours of the morning, her spirit stayed in the hospital room for a long time afterwards. At first it was hard for her to believe that she was truly dead. There was quite a period of adjustment for her until she could finally feel a deep love for herself, and for her body. In life she had never felt beautiful, or good enough. In death she looked down upon herself and her loved ones and felt only love.

As dawn approached she slipped out of the room, and understood that with her thoughts she could travel freely. She gave me a running commentary as she travelled from the confines of the palliative care ward in Lismore. Angela spoke with joy about what it was to feel free. The world was so beautiful. She flew back over her home, and visited her dogs and her garden. She flew down to the coast to watch the sun come up over the lighthouse in Byron Bay. She could see dolphins! She could see so far, and the dawning morning was one of the most precious gifts she ever received. She was euphoric.

Angela’s spirit came backwards and forwards to our realm until her funeral a few days later. She was calm, joyful and completely at peace in a way she had never been in life.

Image by micahkiter

Image by micahkiter (The link takes you to great drone footage of the Byron Bay Lighthouse)

 

And this final story is of a stranger.

The Motorbike Man

I witnessed a terrible road accident a few years ago, involving a motorbike. It had just happened when we came upon it. There had been two people on the bike, but I only saw an empty helmet, and a rider who still wore his helmet, but who was horribly injured. As I sat in the car in the middle of the traffic jam, waiting for the emergency responders, a man in motorbike leathers came to the open window of our car. He asked me to help his friend. I poured all my love into the injured man, and prayed for him. I called upon his Guides and Angels and Ancestors. I prayed for the paramedics who were working on him, and I asked for the outcome for the Highest Good for all.

It was only much later that I found out the young man I’d been speaking to had actually died in that accident, and he’d stayed because he wanted to make sure that his friend would live. By an uncanny twist of fate I later met this friend again, at a cafe in Brisbane. You can read more about that here.

 

In every instance that I have sat with the dying, and with their body afterwards, their soul has left their physical body and stayed for at least a short while with their loved ones here, or taken a final tour of important places.

Wherever our soul travels to after this life, I know that we reunite with loved ones who have already passed, and that we feel nothing but radiant joy, love and calm. We return to love and we are never alone.

Whenever I have communicated with souls after their passing they have been at peace. Anger goes. Shame goes. Fear goes. Pain goes. All that is left is love.

Image from tatamom78 at www.photobucket.com

Image from tatamom78 at www.photobucket.com

I also know that love gives us ability to reconnect with and visit our loved ones in small ways, once we are no longer in a body.

Haven’t you ever felt the presence and love of someone dear to you who has died? We might not talk about it often, but it is a common occurrence.

I certainly don’t have all the answers to the mysteries of life and death, but I have seen so much that goes beyond what was ever taught to me or held as true around death and dying that I cannot but believe that we go on, that love goes on, and that love is all there is.

 

 

Thanks for reading. Next week I’ll be talking about suicide and also about grief. If you have any questions you’d like me to cover in this series, please contact me here on the blog or at cauldronsandcupcakes@gmail.com

Wherever you are, go in peace today, and know that you are in my thoughts, prayers and meditations. I’m wishing you well. I’m sending you love,

Nicole❤ xoxo

A Short Blog Series on Death and Dying

“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, The Sandman

 

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.

raven, crow, dying, death

The Common Raven, by George Hodan. Image from www.almanac.com

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.

death and dying, forest light

Forest Light – Image by Rayma Devins.  Image from www.desktopnexus.com

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.

angels in clouds

Image from www.nastej.ru

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 cauldronsandcupcakes@gmail.com

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