She called last night. Her voice was fragile. She hadn’t called me in years, but the bond has always lived in our hearts.
She was calling to tell me she was in palliative care with cancer and would soon be crossing the threshold.
Shock. Sadness. My heart stopped for a moment, so I could surrender to the reality and the inevitability. Death comes to all relationships bringing waves of grief and gratitude.
After her news had settled in, love came pouring out.
During the whole conversation, maybe 15 minutes, I had the questions whispering in my soul:
What should I say? What do I want to say? What can she hear? What does she want to hear? How do we say our earthly goodbyes? And so many others.
Death knocking makes me feel cosmically awkward and feeble. Death knocking brings such a grand and precious opportunity to just love free of drama.
Last year I offered The Equanimity Workshop. We had 15 sessions covering so many aspects of life and how to find our way to equanimity, but we did not explore equanimity in relationship to dying and death. The workshop developed an awareness of equanimity and Holy Calm and as I reflect on last night’s conversation with my dear dying friend, I realize that the questions, awkwardness, sadness and inner complexity did not lead me to make my reactions my reality. Equanimity provided a higher reality and allowed me to calmly stay in the truth, beauty, and goodness of our friendship.
Our conversation was a blessing. The first thing she said was how she had to call me because I had played a key role in the great joy of her life.
We first met over 25 years ago. Soon after our friendship began, at a social gathering in my home, I introduced her to another dear friend of mine and watched them fall in love over the evening. Both of them called me immediately, wanting to know if what they felt was real and mutual and I had the privilege of saying “YES! Go for it.” It makes me smile deeply and starts tears flowing to remember that evening and to have witnessed the warmth, creativity, and power of their long marriage.
With equanimity, I will hold her in my heart, always celebrating her life, always grateful for her presence in my life.
Death Bed – Your Soul’s Imagination
Her call was the first time someone has called me to say goodbye from their deathbed.
I have never thought about “deathbed” as place before. In the years I was an interior designer I thought about the role of rooms, beds, sofas, lighting, art, floors, cabinets and shelves, etc in our lives, the places and surroundings of our living, but I never focused on the role of our deathbeds, the place and surroundings of our dying.
We think of death as a time of dying, of life leaving for the endless sleep. We think of graves and urns as the place of death. If you continue reading, I am going to ask you to imagine your place of dying, your place where you let life go, the whereness of the ending of your lifetime.
Think of, not just your deathbed, but your death window, your death books, your death mirror, your death art, your death clothes, your death blanket. These are the surrounding earthly elements of your passing. Think of the pillow under your head as you release your last exhale. The chairs where those you love will sit and hold your hands.
Most of us feel helpless with our unavoidable dying. This imagination of the place of death is an exercise in designing our death surroundings… Beauty, comfort, cleanliness, sounds. It is soul-empowering.
Imagining all this you might write a poem or a journal entry about your death surroundings, or do this inner work in a sacred conversation with a friend while on a morning walk. Death bed imaginations enliven our consciousness of dying and death. It is an exercise of inner development. It will enrich your experience of being human. It will make you more conscious of your Self. It is an imagining that will bring more aliveness to your dying.
I can imagine at some point in the future, shopping for a set of sheets for my death bed, the way I shopped for the sheets for my son’s home birth. Maybe I’ll buy a pillow that I won’t use until it is my death time. What an opportunity to make death my friend, my home, my own.
Yes, I might not die in the physical place of my imagining. It might be in an ICU, a crumpled car, or the floor of my kitchen, but the imagination will be the true death bed for my soul where I will lay me down and go to sleep.