To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go. ~Mary Oliver
My dad died a few years ago. As I sat by his bedside during the dying process, I found myself amazed at the raw sacredness of accompanying a beloved on his death journey. We sang Amazing Grace, played music he loved, sat quiet vigil, and anointed him with sacred oils and herbs. I listened to his visions of people greeting him from the other side. I discovered a still pond within myself to be a calm, loving presence and companion, holding space for his journey. I was honored and humbled to be part of that time for him.
We will all someday be on this journey of dying and accompanying loved ones as they transition. It is one sure thing! As I contemplated this, I decided I wanted to learn more to be of service to my friends, family and community as an End of Life Doula (EOLD). In May of 2020, I earned my EOLD certificate from the University of Vermont School of Medicine. This study has immersed me in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of the death and dying process.
I begin with unconditional positive regard supporting your wishes for this sacred journey. Our first step together is for me to listen to your wishes and suggest what I am able to offer, meeting you wherever you are on this journey with the dying process. I have listed below some things I can offer, but in our initial consultation we will discover what you most desire which may have nothing to do with what’s listed below. And that is wonderful.
All of the offerings are currently available via zoom or with social distancing during the pandemic.
- Wise Death & Dying Planning, includes a conversation about values and wishes for the living and dying process. You don’t need to be near the end of life to create this plan. In fact, I think it’s hugely important to decide ahead of time the wishes for your dying journey so that you can fully live your most vibrant life, focusing on health, healing (whatever that means in your current life journey), joy, love and the things most important to you.
- Soul Cafe–a monthly online gathering where we talk about living and dying soulfully. For more information on this offering please scroll down. To join in, please email me.
- Legacy Projects and Dignity Therapy conversations–Offering a simple legacy conversation with you, recorded as a keepsake for you, family and friends. Other legacy projects may include coordinating artwork, memory books, letters or journals for loved ones, ethical will, family recipe cookbook, scrapbook, audio/video for memorial service—depending on your desires.
- Holding Space, Listening, Planning and Sitting in Sacred Vigil–we will work together to create a plan that surrounds your nearing death journey with things that are sacred to you.
- Ceremony, Prayer, Meditation–depending on your beliefs and traditions, we will work together to develop practices that you can make part of your life and all its transitions.
- Sound/Music–we can create a playlist of the music that brings you joy and comfort, Qigong Five Organ Sounds for deep emotional healing, Inner Smile meditation, and/or elements meditation in Aramaic. Recordings of any of the above for you included upon request.
- Comprehensive Local Resources/Directory for all aspects of the death and dying process including local specialists, complementary healing practitioners, and the lesser known green burial and home funeral information.
Contact me for more information.
Resources Specific to Dementia
Advance Directive and Dementia Thought provoking discussion, an excerpt from “The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life,” by Katy Butler.
Dartmouth Dementia Directive (as a supplement to the regular advance directive)
Article: Dementia is a Place Where My Mother Lives, It Is Not Who She Is 5/8/22
Conscious Dying Resources
Advance Directive for Conscious Dying Next step for those wishing to embrace dying as a spiritual passage for themselves and for their loved ones. It is not meant to be a legal or medical document.
Threshold Choir–Singing for those at the thresholds of life in over 200 communities around the world.
Preparing for a Graceful Death, BJ Miller MD (Ted Talk)
Online Palliative Care Consultation
Mettle Health–Support and Guidance for Serious Illness, founded by BJ Miller, MD. This website allows people from anywhere in the world to access a team of doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains who have also been patients and caregivers and who…understand the strengths and the limitations of the healthcare system. We can’t change a diagnosis, but we can change the way you navigate it.
Conversations and Legacy Work
The Letter Project (Stanford University)–The Letter Project is intended to help people from various backgrounds write a simple letter to their doctor and their loved ones about their values and life goals, what matters most and who matters most. This site also includes templates for advanced directives, life review, and bucket list explorations.
The Conversation Project. 92% of people say that talking to their loved ones about end of life care is important. 32% have actually done so. These online templates will get you started.
Death Over Dinner. An interactive adventure that transforms a difficult subject into one of insight and empowerment.
After Death and Grieving Resources
How to Help A Loved One Through a Sudden Loss New York Times
The Lessons of Death, Sam Harris Podcast with Frank Ostaseski (a Buddhist teacher, international lecturer and a leading voice in end-of-life care. In 1987, he co-founded of the Zen Hospice Project, the first Buddhist hospice in America.)
Interfaith Ceremonies for Death at a Distance, especially developed for these pandemic times by online seminarians in the Iliff School of Theology’s Journey Program.
Dying is not as bad as you think—beautiful, comforting, 4 minute talk by a Palliative care MD re the dying process
Books: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Atul Gawande
Knocking on Heaven’s Door, The Path to A Better Way of Death. Katy Butler
Podcast: The Art of Dying Well
Once we acknowledge, even just partially, that we have a first breath (oh joy!) and a last breath (wha?), we can begin to come into conversation about what we want for all those moments in between, even to that final breath. That’s what Soul Cafe is about. It’s a community of fellow human beings ready to practice, converse, and do real-time planning for conscious and soulful living and dying.
It’s not for everyone. But it may be for you.
We will meet one Monday per month from 6:30 – 7:45 PM Pacific Time. Our time will include coming into sacred space, sharing a few moments of tea (wine, water), and then we’ll partake in guided meditations, journaling and discussion on our values in life and wishes for a sacred dying process. We will journal as a legacy work to gift to our beloved ones. We will take time to develop our own scrapbook, journal, or whatever inspires you to manifest your values, wishes, ethics, stories, poems, etc.
Is this for you? If so, join me by emailing email@example.com
This community is offered free or by donation. For individual or family consultations, contact me for pricing and availability in person or via zoom.
My Resources and Training
I will be drawing resources, meditations, journaling ideas, and topics from the variety of traditions I continue to study including:
- Wisdom Healing/Zhineng Qigong (Certified Level 2 Teacher)
- Q’ero Medicine/Shamanism (Andes of Peru), Mesa Carrier in this tradition
- End of Life Doula, Certificate from the University of Vermont Medical School
- Certified Capacitar provider (simple emergency energy practices)
- Being With Dying (Upaya Workshop & Course, Roshi Joan Halifax et al)
- Living/Dying Workshop and Pod, Awakin
- Studies/Readings with Neil Douglas Klotz, Aramaic/Middle Eastern Scholar
- Mettle Health, Dr. BJ Miller, Palliative Care
And from each of you!
OUR DEPARTED LOVED ONES
The dead are not distant or absent. They are alongside us. When we lose someone to death, we lose their physical image and presence, they slip out of visible form into invisible presence. This alteration of form is the reason we cannot see the dead. But because we cannot see them does not mean that they are not there. Transfigured into eternal form, the dead cannot reverse the journey and even for one second re-enter their old form to linger with us a while. Though they cannot reappear, they continue to be near us and part of the healing of grief is the refinement of our hearts whereby we come to sense their loving nearness. When we ourselves enter the eternal world and come to see our lives on earth in full view, we may be surprised at the immense assistance and support with which our departed loved ones have accompanied every moment of our lives. In their new, transfigured presence their compassion, understanding and love take on a divine depth, enabling them to become secret angels guiding and sheltering the unfolding of our destiny.
John O’Donohue Excerpt from BEAUTY