Companioning those who are dying is being in liminal space.
In between two worlds, leaving life in this world, and not quite knowing where they are going. I was fascinated as I learned about living and dying, while on the journey with those who are dying. My answer was “No” to the frequently asked question, “ Isn’t that depressing work?”. I experienced heightened energy, alertness, and lots of activity in the room as one was leaving and had not quite arrived. The veil is thinning between those who are embarking on the journey and those who had already left before them, and coming back to accompany them. Visions and conversations were taking place that those of us who were aware of being left were not a part of. We can only ask questions about who and where, with curiosity. Always with curiosity, and not fear.
Fear of being left can be a hindrance to being fully present to this liminal space. Fear of the leaving and being left. Fear that may still be frozen in the body from horrific experiences that the body has never integrated through trauma recovery will hinder the activity in liminal space.
As we enter the time of year of Halloween, Day of the Dead, All Souls Day and All Saints Day, we enter liminal space, where the veil thins between the living and the dead. Invite our loved ones to dinner. Set a place at the table, prepare their favorite meal, dessert, drink, and light a candle. Honor and feel into their presence. November is also National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.
Being a hospice nurse, I learned about such things as All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
The Day of the Dead always seemed a morbid day to celebrate until my work in hospice. For 24 years I have been recognized for my expertise and experience in hospice and palliative care by signing my name with the initials CHPN, having completed certification in hospice and palliative care, reflecting my commitment to excellence, to having advanced clinical knowledge in hospice and palliative care, and to sharing that knowledge and expertise with the medical community as well as my family and friends and my family’s friends, because hospice and palliative care is so little understood and so little utilized in a society that defies death, and goes to such great means to keep people alive even though they are dying. Maybe this is why I was uncomfortable with Day of the Dead and knew nothing about All Souls Day until my work in hospice. Is this fear?
I am dropping these initials at this threshold. I will not be renewing my certification. Along with no longer being certified, I will not be renewing my Registered Nurse license in 2023. What will I be, if not a registered nurse who is certified in hospice and palliative care? I am at the threshold, in between what was and what is to become.
I do know I fully embrace being a healer.
I am a healer, and a transformational coach shepherding individuals and communities through trauma recovery. I help people bring that unconscious fear into consciousness, so that at the end of life, their dying will be a beautiful time in liminal space, at the threshold.
Moving through All Hallows’ Eve, into November, let us invite our ancestors to dinner, or a saunter, or a meditation and prayer, and feel into the thinning of the veil, in this liminal space, at the threshold.
And maybe take in Leonard Cohen’s beautiful translation of The Tibetan Book of The Dead.