Saturday, May 17, 2014

Celebrating Life

Good morning all. It's been an eventful week with a bittersweet ending. Yesterday we said goodbye to a client--a very sweet woman. The family called us in a couple of weeks ago because their loved one was in hospice at a SNF and she wanted to be in her own home.  Evie (pseudonym) had stage four cancer and not much time left. Her only regret was that she didn't have more time as there were some bucket list items left incomplete. One of her dreams had been to go to Alaska.

When we first met we talked about what she wanted to experience with us and how we could support her wishes for her last days. She didn't have the energy to entertain friends for more than a few minutes at a time and she wanted to limit who came over as she didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings if she couldn't talk.

I tried to limit the amount I spoke with her because talking and breathing was too hard--she just didn't have the breath. She also expressed to me that she didn't want people coming in--either friend or caregiver--and pitying her. She viewed what was going on as a phase of life. Evie had lived a good life and shared it with a loving husband and two wonderful brothers. The brothers were with her when I first came in to meet her and I was impressed by the caring within this family.

All of this is preamble to one of the discussions I had with Evie--that of creating honoring and celebration of a person's life in their last days. We talked about the tendency of our culture to mourn a person as they transition out of this life rather than celebrate their life. The transition of death is inevitable. The key is whether you are sharing your thoughts, memories, laughter, and gratitude with your loved one and family during the time of transition.

The reason I use the word transition is because it evokes many things for me.  It speaks to the approach of our last days, the leaving of the physical body, and the movement to the next phase vibrational existence, as well as the transition that the family experiences when their loved one is no longer with them.  Mourning is a natural part of passing but I think we best honor someone when we remember who they were, what they shared with us, what they taught us, and what they meant to us.

When my step father passed we decided to have a celebration of life rather than a funeral service.  We told the gathering of our remembrances, stories about Harry, and what he meant to us.  Nothing was off limits and we laughed and cried through the telling.  One of the comments Harry was famous for was about the use of hair conditioner. He couldn't understand why someone would wash their hair and then make it dirty again with conditioner.  This and many other stories were shared. Family and friends who couldn't attend sent letters to be read.

At the end of the celebration one of the guests came up to me and said she had never been to a service like that but that she liked it.

When I go I plan to have a big party. Like my grandmother, I'm leaving instructions for my service. Scatter my ashes in the canyon where I love to hike and then party. A New Orleans style jazz band will work well and lots of chocolate-laden foods (dark chocolate please). I'll be watching from somewhere and partying right along with the rest of you.

And to Evie, I wish you beautiful sailing and joy in this new phase of your existence. I know you are with your beloved husband once more and are a guardian angel to your loved ones left behind.  My blessings to a beautiful soul.

And to all of you, many blessings in this amazing journey we have on planet Earth.  It's a wild ride.  Have fun, laugh, and share your love.

Laura Barish

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