This is a reflection I wrote for my Tuesday healing prayer service at Westminster Canterbury. This is how I use my life experiences to encourage others. Thanks again for the wonderful time with awesome women!! Blessings. Fontaine
This past Sunday I attended a meeting with eight women who were strangers to me. The meeting was called a Death Cafe and I was excited about going. You might wonder why I would look forward to a meeting with such a title: Death Cafe. Another name for the meeting was Peaceful Passings Cafe: Open Forum to Talk About All Things Death.
Death Cafes were started in England a few years ago. They are gatherings at cafes, in which people meet to have coffee, tea and cake and discuss the ways we die. Interested individuals are concerned with how death has become such a clinical experience, often in hospitals, hooked up to machines, in a sterile environment. Often when people are asked how they imagine their dying, they say they would like to be at home, surrounded by loved ones in a calm, quiet, peaceful setting.
The women I met on Sunday are primarily nurses who have worked for years in ICUs of hospitals and/or in hospices. They have experience in seeing people who are very ill and how they are treated by doctors, hospital staff and family members as they are dying. These women want to look at different approaches to death and dying: they want to involve the patient, the family and friends more fully in the process by education, support and good communication.
There is an African phrase that has been used to describe a woman who helps and supports another woman as she is giving birth: a birth doula.
Using this concept for the dying, the helping person would be a death doula.
When I was younger and having my children, I was asked by a couple of my friends to be with them when they were giving birth. I was a birth doula.
I have often sat vigil with friends who were dying and I did so with both of my parents. I am quite interested in being with and supporting those who are being born and those who are dying. A death doula.
Another thing I am very interested in is the concept that we come from God, we live our lives in God and we one day return to God. How do we travel this journey of life that is given to us so graciously? How do we grow in love, in grace, in joy? How do we return to God as consciously as possible, allowing our dying to be as important a part of the journey as our living?
I would like to invite each of you to think about your dying. This might be a new thought for you or something you have pondered before. It might seem alien and strange or there might be a little twinge of interest and wondering. It can be very helpful to family and friends to let them know how you feel about end of life issues and challenges. Talking about dying can actually be liberating…if we can just start a conversation. Think about it, talk to God about it, pray about it.
I felt very comfortable by the end of the meeting with my new found friends. We talked about our experiences, we laughed and shed tears together. We shared common ground in our thoughts and feelings about how to support others in the process of dying, in how to offer the possibility of a more peaceful passing and of how to live more consciously and fully even as we are dying.
God made us, God loves us, God will gather us to himself in due time. When God calls us home, the terrain will be new and unknown, but the path will be paved with love. May we continue to grow and learn on this journey while also waiting eagerly to fall into the arms of infinite love. Amen.