There are only two absolutely important and unavoidable events in human life: Birth and death. While we prepare for months and in much detail for the birth of a child, we hardly prepare anything for an upcoming death, of loved ones or, even less, for our own death. How is that?
Many spiritual traditions and philosophies state that death is the most important teacher for humans. Who fears death and tries to negate and avoide it is, on the same scale, fearing and avoiding life. The permanent fear of death shuts us down, we don’t confront our lives with curiosity and courage, but try to stay “safe” at all costs. It is the deep fear of death which leads people today into agreeing that their liberty and constitutional rights get suspended, it is the fear of death which leads people into believing everything they are told by those who have an invested interest in keeping people subdued.
What if we could embrace death as the great teacher? What if we could live our life fully, taking risks for which we take over our personal responsibility and feeling alive and fulfilled by what we are doing? What a huge difference to being shut down in isolation, deadening the natural human impuls of connection and touch. By following the present restrictive rules, many of us diminish themselves, fall dead before they die.
And yes, some of us will be able to grow out of this experience – but couldn’t we learn at least as much if we integrated death in our lives instead of being chased around by means of fear? How can we do that? There are many ways, for sure, and the first step is acknowledging that death will come and realizing that it is better to get prepared.
One way of preparing is very rational and practical: What do I want happening when I die? Do I want to be treated traditionally by modern medicine in my last days and hours? Or do I want to be just cared for by gentle people and have effective pain medicine if needed? Who should care for my pets, my house, all my belongings? What would you like to give to whom? Is there a way to distribute your things yourself, now? Do I really want to have others sort out all my stuff and burden them with a lot of work which I could have done myself but didnÄt for some reason? “Before I go solutions”, the book of Jane Duncan Rogers whom I had invited several times in the past for conversations around death, is a very practical and useful guide to all the questions to consider any time before death is near.
Another way to explore death before dying oneself is the possibility to accompany a dying person. Do never underestimate the depth of experience which you can get out of being present for another human being in the time of their transition. It is very touching. Sacred moments arise and the meaning of life and death becomes more transparent. It is emotionally demanding, but an unforgettable experience when you hold the hand of a dying person, when you are available to what is happening with an open heart and an open mind: a secure path to your own growth and development.
My guests in the conversation: Grace Kym Thorne is a student of Jane Duncan Rogers and a trained end-of-life-doula in Great Britain. Martina Vollbrecht works in a hospice for many years in Germany. Together we explore the topic “Conscious Dying” in preparation for the “Growing Up Conference” to which we have been invited for speaking about death as a teacher for growing up.
This conversation is published under the series “Conversations That Matter” and will be inserted into the “Conscious Ageing, Conscious Dying” series next October/November: Martina Vollbrecht – Grace Kym Thorne – Conscious dying for the Growing up conference