Imagine a 50 year old woman watching her 26 year old daughter waste away in front of her from a brutal form of cancer. From the moment the daughter receives the diagnosis to her last breath, 100 days pass. From day one the woman sinks into panic mode, her body abuzz as if plugged into an electrical socket. Is it due to the grueling effort required to nurse her daughter? Or maybe the emotional journey of being by the side of her firstborn as she slips deeper into the clutches of the disease? By day 100, this woman feels like she is no longer in her body, detached, shaking, no longer eating. In fact, imagine this woman as her daughter breathes her last on day 100. Is she even here?
I do not have to imagine that woman. That woman is me.
My daughter lived those 100 days with grace and beauty, extending love to all who were fortunate enough to witness her struggle. Me, not so much.
As I fought to dig myself out of the deep hole I found myself in, weighed down by the pain, grief, and depression that ensued, I began to ask myself a few questions:
How does a person prepare for a situation like this?
Why was I not more prepared?
Who could have helped me prepare?
How can we as a people intentionally begin to process death and dying before it’s staring us in the face?
At first these questions haunted me. Then they began to challenge me. I answered them in two ways, the only ways I knew how. First, I buckled down and began an arduous journey of research, reading dozens of books and scouring the internet. Secondly, I entered into deep contemplation and soul searching. This journey led me from near-death experience books to authors who had come out of extremely difficult situations and on into joyful living. I even read books by those who had lost children and sought out others who had lost loved ones. I needed to know how they had survived.
I found myself revisiting again and again the thought that the dying journey is one that we all make. EVERYONE does it; why can’t we talk about it?
How can we make dying a subject that not only does not scare people away, but that interests us, that leads to a desire to explore? Why not immerse ourselves into the wonder and mystery that encapsulates our final act on earth? Why not prepare ourselves for the ultimate experience that we will go through with those we love, our parents, friends, and yes, sometimes even our children? Why not examine how we can do all in our power to ease the fear and anxiety that usually accompany the dying event, and replace them with as beauty, wonder, love, and tenderness?
So now I find myself with an opportunity to use my journey through pain to help others. And maybe that includes YOU. I’m delighted to be one of the organizers for The Art of Dying Well – Training Retreat being held in my home town of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Click here to read the details –https://newearth.university/courses/the-art-of-dying-well-training-retreat-costa-rica/
Yes, many of the attendees will be palliative care workers but I speak from experience when I say that learning the material we will be presenting has the potential to benefit everyone. Learning how to help others die can help you live better.
Now imagine that same 50 year old woman. Broken-hearted but confident, emotional but steady, battered but grounded as she helps her daughter come to the end of her earthly life. Imagine how different her experience could be.
Meg Williams is a Health and Wellness Special Events Coordinator for NEU. She believes that at the end of her life maybe the greatest contribution she will have made will have been birthing and raising her four children. In 2013 after having a successful business career, she and her husband of 30 years left the United States in search of a simpler, gentler, more sustainable way to live with the earth and it’s inhabitants. She now calls Puerto Viejo, a sleepy fishing village on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, her home. In 2015 her life was changed forever when she lost her oldest child Hannah to cancer. This painful loss has been the catalyst for deep soul searching and growth. Meg has most recently begun Sacred Getaways, a business that offers opportunities for people to take long and short term sabbaticals to get away from the hustle and bustle of the intense western lifestyle and reconnect with their hearts and souls.
If you would like to receive more information about events such as this please sign up here – https://newearth.university/courses/the-art-of-dying-well-training-retreat-costa-rica/the-art-of-dying-well-contact/