Because not a lot of people want to. I am not one of those people. I’m not what would classically be called morbid, but I have an affinity for death. I’m not afraid of it. I feel like I’ve lost an inordinate amount of people in my life. It’s something you expect when you’re older, but honestly, I’m not THAT old. It may be that when death touches my life, it leaves a fingerprint that is never erased, that I am always aware of, even if it fades a bit. I’ve never met another person with whom I have this in common.
The suitcase of death is more like a ship-size steamer trunk — or maybe like trying to move an entire house one pickup truckload at a time. There’s a lot to pack and unpack, so this will no doubt be the first of many such chats. I’m not even sure where to start. I think I’ll start with today.
I’m losing a friend. She’s dying. She has been dying slowly for years, not in the way that we all are, but from an illness that has gradually robbed her of her zest, her boundless enthusiasm, her sharp wit, and her tremendous artistic skills. She fought her illness for years, and she fought hard, but there was no way to stop its progression. She is tired of it. She’s ready to go now. I think that readiness to go is often what ends up allowing death to come. It is a different experience from sudden death by accident or violence, or from suicide. It is not quite making peace with dying, but just being ready to stop living. Those two things are not the same.
She was awake and “with it” the other night, and so I had a chance to say goodbye. Even though this is what she wants, and she knows what’s happening, her family told me that we’re not actually “saying goodbye”. Just visiting her and telling her we love her. Which is what I did. But it felt so awkward. Somehow incomplete. Death has walked by my side for so long that, in situations where it’s right at the door, telling it to stay outside just seems wrong. However, I will always honor a family’s wishes. I listened to her sons tell stories of growing up. And I told her I’d see her again. Which I will, somewhere, someday.
Driving home, I shed a few tears. I wasn’t exactly crying — I was leaking, as I did for days before my Mother died. I was thinking about how my ability to vocalize death’s thoughts and comforts had been silenced, and how, in that situation, I was at rather a loss as to what to say. I questioned whether my plan for my next career as a Death Doula is the right choice for me, given the awkwardness I had just felt. (I still think it’s the right choice.) Every death is different. It’s a different experience for every person, whether they are the one who’s dying or one who’s left behind. This death is a different experience for me — which, when you think about it, makes it absolutely normal. It’s just another step along my path. Along all of our paths.
My pumpkin bread
Coffee (even if it has to be decaf)
That my blood donation was sent to a hospital to help someone needing a transfusion