I didn’t set out to become a Midwife for Death. I can tell you that I ignored the signs a long time. And yet, it was work I did from my 20s. For some reason, I knew to be present, and wasn’t really frightened.
And there really isn’t a MfD 101 course anywhere. And guidance came in only the most sporadic ways. Someone offered a guided meditation, and talked about her early fears that she was jinx to her patients, only to understand later that her nursing supervisors sent her to work with those who were slipping away.
When I did take a course in Clinical Pastoral Education, I realized that oddly most of the clients I “caught” in the ER were dying and I sat with their families if they weren’t allowed to be there and talked with them afterwards. They trained me with their questions and their need to be heard.
And then there was AIDS and beautiful men dying gaunt and alone. Beautiful men learning how to care for one another. Oh, I learned a lot there.
What I learned is that it is as precious a moment to be there at the going out as it is at the coming in. That the labor to leave life is as extreme as the labor to come into it. That the ceremonies of “goodbye” can be as joyous and freeing as the ceremonies of “hello” or “I do.” That the invitation to be present to those passages is a privilege and not a weight. Your acceptance is an entering into prayer. This is hard work, but an unbelievable blessing.
The weight comes when there is so much death, one after another. Particularly now when I’m grieving my own loss. And yet, still the privilege of stepping up when people must be held. And perhaps there is healing in the notion that we all lose those we love. It is the payment on these astonishing lives we lead.
There is so much more I need to know. Perhaps there is a lot more for me to write since it seems so few are encouraged into walking this boundary with their loved ones, despite the fact that every loved one will cross sooner or later. More to learn about helping those who cross. More to learn about helping those who remain. I can read a lot and yet “book larnin'” isn’t necessarily the best teacher…
This is a deeply personal reflection for me, this struggle to catch the souls who are grieving and to release those who are leaving… I’m certain that many of you have parts of your life and your talents that you’re exploring… things about yourself you didn’t suspect… I wish us all Peace as we learn our trades.