“Death smiles on all of us. All we can do is smile back.” ~Marcus Aurelius
Recently, on a beautiful blue sky Saturday, I attended my first “Wake Wake”.
A dear friend of mine welcomes the love and care of hospice and she and her family wanted to host a celebration.
The meaning of ‘awakened’ signifies an awareness of social behavior focused on racism and prejudice in our culture. She also wanted to “wake up” to her awakening experience. Above all, her party was an honest expression that she was about to die. Her acceptance was courageous.
We share births very openly. And yes, there is great sadness in death. Silence only makes the journey more difficult.
Wearing rose-rimmed glasses, she moved around the party with grace and stood her ground with pride. Her heart is full, but she has become so weak.
There was a plate of brie adorning beets, a fall fruit bowl adorned with persimmons and pomegranates, a plate of pumpkin brownies and bread, chips finding dip, laughter finding tears.
She preferred us not to clink cups or share stories. Instead, it was a celebration of both “bon voyage” and “welcome home.” It’s universal for everyone. Homes extend the arms of a loving community and, as Ram Dass wrote, “We’re all just walking to each other’s homes.”
On the morning my father passed away at the age of 95, I spoke with him on the phone as he lay in his hospital bed. The last thing he said in a persistently strong but hoarse voice before hanging up was, “Well, I have to go to Honey.”
We all “have to go,” but the privilege of planning how to get there is a gift. Many people are unable to afford such luxuries due to economic, social, and possible cultural differences.
But for many people, there is a specific plan they can create when making a will, specifying medical powers of attorney, financial executors, DNRs, and life support decisions. We can designate who inherits our merchandise and heirlooms. You can decide on the details of traditional burial, cremation, or even composting (the process of turning a corpse into soil and back into it).
It seems easier to sort things out in concrete ways than to discuss your own death or the death of a friend, family member, or aging parent.
Melanie Klein, a well-known British psychologist, believes that the fear of death is at the core of anxiety. Whether you believe this premise or not is not so important. But the truth is that our feelings about death often remain deep in our hearts. can do.
I am in an intimate group with six other women discussing aging, life and death. Sometimes we discuss the books we are reading, but more often than not we share our hopes, dreams and fears about the future. Our skin softens as we age, making “thin skin” more susceptible to death-related issues.
Often there is a concern of dependence and a desire not to burden those who care for us. And who will care for us? Are we financially okay? How will our bodies and minds hold up for years to come? Also discuss your concerns about the person you leave behind. How do children cope?
These are difficult topics. But voicing our feelings and being in community while asking these questions keeps us from feeling alone. And I hope that when our time comes, we will all be better prepared to answer some questions.
People who died before us often become our teachers. As we attend memorial services and wakes, we are faced with continuing to say goodbye to our loved ones, and inevitably to ourselves. It often tells us how we want our journey to end, both in similar and different ways. But this requires conversation and is too often sidestepped.
A friend of mine has taught me many things, but especially about her dedication and integrity to her grown children. I want my children to know that they will do well in the world, regardless of life’s twists and turns.
It is said that accepting the inevitability of death helps us all accept that we are only visiting for a short time. reminds me of
I said goodbye to my friend and thanked him for hosting a lovely celebration. It was a good visit at the prize table. Maybe that’s what we can all look forward to when the party is over and the lights go out.
About Priscilla Dunn-Courtney
Priscilla Dann-Courtney is a writer and clinical psychologist in Boulder, Colorado, where she and her husband have raised three children. She has worked for 30 years as a private practitioner treating both adults and adolescents. Her areas of expertise include eating disorders, mood disorders, life transitions, and relationship issues. Her column has been published nationally and her book Room to Growth, a story of life and family (Norlights Press, 2009) was her way of navigating life’s light, darkness and wonder. priscilladanncourtney.com