Susan MacGregor and I have been continuing our email correspondence and she has been updating me on her process of “deathing life” as she lives with her brain cancer and copes with the changes that brings.
Susan has encouraged me to share her thoughts and words and paintings with others as she continues to grow and change in this “deathing life” process.
These are some of our conversations from February and March and I will include some of Susan’s recent artwork.
Hi Susan, thank you for such beautiful, heart-felt writing. I will draw upon it as I put together these 11 hours of talks to patients, family members and staff around end-of-life decisions and hospice. What can we call it instead of “end-of-life?” I like your term “deathing life.” I have a working title of “Holistic Decision-making Across the Lifespan,” but I am writing about holistic decision-making and death or deathing life. I don’t like the phrase “end of life” so much, as it doesn’t sound active enough.
Can you open a PowerPoint on your computer? I will send you a drafts of the lectures if you are interested….
I am interested in developing something around “death stewardship,” or the dying process as a form of initiation in which the role of family and staff is to support the active, transformative initiation of person in the deathing life phase.
What you have written is so beautiful and full of wisdom. If you would like a public speaking space, I think your words would be an honor to my blog, Being Fully Human, if you would care to have me post them. I don’t want to exploit your deathing life, but I wouldn’t mind mining your wisdom and sharing with others what you would like to share.
Thank you for the gift of yourself!
Thank you again for your appreciation & support.
I am not sure about power point as am using a tablet. Computer is at home but don’t go home much.
I would feel honoured for you to use any of what I send in whatever way you think appropriate. Perhaps if you will bear with me I will write more….
I feel the term “deathing” life conveys a more active involvement in the tasks & processes of leaving this world than other more commonly used terms. And it is also meant to convey that I am still very much living.
I have found the love & support of others key to my being able to move onto the life inventory work mentioned previously, i.e. the non critical, non judgemental acceptance of my life as a whole. I haven’t experienced all of the classical stages of dying as described by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, whether that’s due to my spiritual beliefs or other factors I’m not sure. There has been no anger, no “why me”, no bargaining…so I think it would be false to believe everyone follows that path exactly. There has been sadness, letting go, cherishing, & communing, in a very rich meaningful way. I am approaching my death willing to accept it as a transitional stage of life, & as a part of my life that I can still be actively involved in. The ability to self reflect has been a great bonus, & I believe would be a useful skill for anyone to have. Mindfulness has been a useful tool & having alone time has been essential. I’ve found I have no interest in establishing new bonds, although this still happens naturally. Rather, existing bonds have been my focus & there has been a “turning inward” away from the world. Sometimes this has been hard for Rest Home staff to accept, as their focus is more on maintaining an active, engaged life as people age. Their desire has been to fill my hours up with activities, which I have resisted. Other helpful tasks have involved completing an Advanced Directive, detailing how I would like to be cared for & where I wish to die, plus meeting with a Funeral Director to discuss my wishes (plus inform Mahmoud of what to expect, as there is no embalming of the body etc. in his culture). I have engaged Hospice Services into a “shared care” relationship with the Rest Home Facility as they are the experts in care of the dying. I have chosen my last piece of furniture, i.e. my coffin, where I wish to be buried, & Mahmoud & I have chosen a headstone/a double one. All these things done I am now enjoying the time I have seeing friends, family, having outings & doing short trips in NZ. So that is my life until I am “returned to sender”.
All the very best to you & family.
I have been reading through the attachments you sent when energy allows. I am finding your writing enjoyable, cohesive & easy to read. I am still reading through Joseph’s writings.
So good to hear mention of Joseph Campbell, one of my “heroes” in developing my thinking about spiritual matters. And Martin Buber still rings clearly in my mind from Psychotherapist training. Some of what you speak of reminds me of the concept of the Adam Kadmon within the Kabbalah & gnostic or Pauline Christianity. I certainly relate to the perspective that all is vibration. In fact this reality made it possible for me to be healed via a Buddhist sound technique taught to me at a healing retreat by Chris .This technique enabled me to move beyond 6yrs of constant pain, which I was experiencing due to a ruptured c5 disc. On day 2 of this week long retreat all pain dissappeared, & though subsequent x rays show the old injury still exists with narrowing between the discs, I have never returned to that daily, debilitating pain. Also as a result of the work we did on this retreat I entered such a heightened sensitivity that I experienced the “oneness” you talk about, including hearing the sound that “everything” makes. This retreat spoke directly to my heart, enabling me to release the feelings of longing & sadness I had internalised, engendered by my belief that I was “separated” from God.
Breath travels through matter, creating movement which creates sound. Sound alters vibration & structural patterning. Years ago I experimented with the music of Geoff Clarkson, a Kiwi musician who composes music to aid meditation, relaxation etc. I was Matron of a Rest Home at the time, & found my residents were often fractious, having petty squabbles & altercations. Playing Geoff’s original soundtrack of “Butterfly” via the paged music system had such a profound effect on staff & residents that I later incorporated his CDs & live music sessions with him into my work in Psychosocial & Inpatient rehabilitation.
In looking at memory & PTSD I am reminded of my training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which was a 1yr elective at Psychotherapy school. I found a combination of CBT & NLP more effective than CBT alone in getting results with anxiety sufferers.
It gives me joy to read how you are incorporating a peaceful approach towards talking about war & the development of war consciousness. Through Kriya Yoga I was benefited by learning that the way to protest for change is by creating more balance of peaceful, proactive, or positive energy. This is to counterbalance the energy of anger, hate, violence, already in the world. Some of the early “circle dancing” I did, missed this point, with facilitators propagating, “express you anger into the dance”, with no modifying expression to follow.
With discussion of the four directions I am reminded of four Archangels; Michael, Raphael, Uriel, & Gabriel. These vibratory emanations speak to the Mastery of the colour/sound/movement components you mention. I am currently wondering how I can use knowledge about suffering for myself, regarding my physical disability. Though the cancer hasn’t thrown me, the disability has. I am certainly not at peace with that. The only thing I can be grateful to it for, is that it is making it easier to let go of this existence.
As you can see, your writings have moved me to recall these moments within my own life, & some of the rich teachings I have been privileged to discover. Thank you for that.
All the very best, may your work be blessed to produce the results you want.
Kind regards, Susan MacGregor