Collectively we are now in what we might call a nearing death experience. The way things were only a few weeks ago are in dissolution and some have completely dissolved. Events planned will not happen in the way they would have, even if postponed for a future date. I can feel this in my own life and work in the postponement of funerals and memorials, weddings and even a retreat previously scheduled for April. The way we have done our work in the recent past may seem like an impossible way to return to …. and it is.
This liminal place is neither here nor there, betwixt and between, the space one can be in, in the transition between life and death.
In working with the dying, one of the surprising and beautiful experiences I have had, is to be present as someone turns from the time of illness towards the time of facing their dying directly and even imagining what might be beyond.
In this time many of the dying wish to imagine themselves on the other side of death. When my Soul Mom, Devine began to turn her attention towards what might be on the other side, she imagined herself on the Welcoming/Social Committee. Another man was sure his individual consciousness would go on as he left the body behind and was excited for this new adventure, and another was sure her beloved cat would be there and others, whom she began to imagine being together with in new ways.
And once, when a man was actively dying, as I entered his room he suddenly opened his eyes with wonder and awe, looked at me and whispered in a clear voice to the caregiver at his bedside – look! Can you see her, it’s the Queen of the Fairies! In this moment I re-imagined myself, in his gaze I embodied something I’d never felt before …. and yet, walks with me still.
As part of a Living Well – Dying Well program I facilitate, on one occasion a colleague of mine and I, after creating safety and intimacy in a group, offered a collage experience for a group of seniors we were working with. We invited them to imagine – in mostly image and some words … what the experience of being on the other side of the veil of death might be.
I was surprised at how engaged the group was in a very short time, tearing and cutting images, pasting them, pausing ……. sitting quietly …. returning to choose another magazine clipping. The sound of breath was palpable in the room, and attention to detail, as the images landed together on the previously blank page. We invited them to place any words poetically on the page only near the end of the process, being discerning about bringing less words and more feeling sense to the collage.
At the end of the class we stood around the circle of collages – each one like a petal extending out of the center where a candle burned. We walked in a circle seeing others images with curiosity and wonder.
The closing circle was full of animated sharing, appreciation for the process, a palpable sense of liberation and deepened feelings of well being for where we all were right now and ……. that it was okay to include in our imagination what might be after this life too.
In this liminal time and space, may we break free of some of the habitual patterns of the past, see them as – actually giving us up in this fluid and liquidy place (I know liquidy is not a word in the dictionary – but new words can be found in this new place too!).
May we include in our imagination a new future that includes every bug, bee, tree, sea, flower, cloud, feathered, legged, finned, scaled, human and germ as an integral part in the web of life. This may be the first time we have collectively as humans been able to imagine a life beyond the one we have known, and surely a worthy practice in these liminal days to embody the change we wish to be in this world.
Enlightenment for a wave is the moment the wave realizes that it is water. At that moment, all fear of death disappears. Thich Nhat Hanh