Caring for the Dying

 

Can you be with me in the cold morning of dying?
When the fire in me is out and nothing warms my blood
Can you watch with the eye of a mother?
When the candle is burnt and the friends have gone?
Can you just be, not wishing one more breath in me?
And when my eyes are closed shut,
Glad of the long quiet rest
Will you then travel still with me?
As I close this door behind
And open into the open heart of death
Sweet love call that brought me birth,
Now call me safely back in earth.

 

Gaelic Poem from “A Celtic Book of Dying
by Phyllida Anam-Aire
 

I believe it is the essential right of every human being to die with love, dignity and grace and to be reassured that they are cared for at the moment of their greatest vulnerability with support and guidance available to them. Despite the need for care of body, mind and spirit as death nears, we rarely address more than the physical needs and there is a lack of other forms of help when they are required - in the days, weeks and months leading up to passing and as the moment draws near. We have a right to be treated with care and respect, enabling the transition to be a loving and sacred experience.

As in the poem above, Phyllida Anam-Aire says to ”watch with the eye of a mother” and sing the ”sweet love call” as the departing soul journeys back home, and to ”travel still” with the soul into the afterlife is so deeply nurturing to those who are now being called ”safely back in earth”. Our ancestors understood the regenerative aspects of life through death and it was natural to apply the same mothering love in serving as a midwife to the dying as well as to those giving birth. Dying is like being born, it is a miracle in its own right.

The struggle that most people experience when they are dying is all about being frightened of letting go of the world around them, leaving loved ones behind, missing them and being fearful of the mystery that lies beyond. Death remains a taboo which people find difficult to open up to, yet closing our eyes to death simply creates fear. As we make friends with death we see that when the body dies it is left behind, usually with no regret, with awareness that we are spiritual beings having had a human experience. Acknowledging the very inevitability of death gives us all a deeper respect for life encouraging us to live and die soulfully and to look on death in a more wholesome and holistic way.

Each person's passing is a very individual experience and as a multi-faith midwife I honour where they are in their lives, their religious beliefs (if any) and their spiritual needs. This process encourages a more liberated outlook on dying and helps put into perspective the experience for those people that are left behind. Most importantly, in today's fast-paced world, I give the time and space, silence and stillness, human contact and care that the dying deserve.

My aim and intent is to midwife these souls with love and compassion, encouraging a peaceful passage into the next realm. In so doing they can, when the time comes, transform and lovingly release their earthly body knowing that they will be welcomed home, embraced and healed with Divine Love. There is no greater gift to share, as a crowning moment of a life, than to care and walk with a person as they face their final journey in dignity and grace.