Cathy writes: We’re thrilled to welcome someone new to the End in Mind community. Mary Madill’s work speaks to me and I think it will to you too. Mary describes herself as a “seeker, a teacher, and an artist on a journey of self-discovery. I love questions, conversations, and exploring life’s magic. I want to know why I am here and how to create a life that is full of joy, meaning, delight, originality, connection, and deep soul satisfaction. I want to know other people’s stories as well, because sharing our journeys is the only way to learn more about this human experience we are all having!” Mary and her friend Barb have a terrific website called “Wonder and Possibility” Mary has graciously allowed us to republish her October 29, 2019 post on our site.
Life and death have always seemed to me the ultimate mysteries, offering questions to ponder and possibilities to explore. Finding those questions so compelling, I was not surprised that I felt called to serve as a hospice volunteer. In doing so, I have the great honor and joy of helping others navigate the transition from this life into the mystery of what lies beyond. When I tell people about this work, their responses fall in the realm of “Oh, I could never do that. It must be so depressing!” Of course, the experience is nothing of the sort, and these conversations offer me an opportunity to share a different perspective.
I view dying as life continuing, really… not life ending, not death at all. Just a shift in experience that each of us will someday encounter. Attending another human being as they move from this life to the next is humbling and awe-inspiring. Being so close to the mystery of the unknowable, creates an immediate sense of wonder, awe, and appreciation for the gift of life we so often take for granted.
Today I sat with a 78-year-old gentleman as he moved through the dying process. I didn’t know him. I didn’t know his story. But I knew his life meant something, and I wanted him to know that I knew. I wanted to say “Hurrah! You did it! You lived a life on Earth!” I wanted to ask him, “What was the best part? What will you miss most? What do you know now that you couldn’t know before?” but of course, no answers would come. Instead, I spoke softly and assured him of the love that surrounded him and thanked him for the life he lived, knowing without a doubt our world had received the gift of his presence.
After the gentleman passed, the magnitude of the mystery remained. Inevitable questions lingered as they always do: Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What constitutes a life well lived? These very questions inspire me every time I encounter death. I am reminded that each of us has been given an equal gift… one life to live… one story to write… each of us exploring human life in our own unique way. Mary Oliver says it best in the final line of her poem The Summer Day:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
We’re all going to die. It seems strange to me that we usually don’t want to think or talk about it. In my opinion, we owe it to ourselves to start pondering it more often. Not in a ‘bucket list’ sort of way, but simply to start loving each day, each human experience a little bit more.
Look at life. We have bodies and minds and emotions. We think and dream and imagine. We get to experience an infinite array of feelings. We get to see sunrises and oceans and really cute shoes. We hear music and voices and rain on the roof. We get to work with our hands to create things, to hold our loved ones, to move and laugh and dance! And if that weren’t enough, we get to do all of this in the company of one another, the proverbial icing on the cake. Human life…. Wow, just WOW!!!
If death reminds us of one thing, I think it would be simply: “This… this moment, this day, this choice of activity, this is it! This is our life! It’s brief. It’s finite. Let’s not waste any of it on things that don’t matter!”
I wish everyone had the opportunity to participate with death, not with fear or aversion, but instead with wonder and awe. This up close and personal look at what we are (spiritual beings having a human experience) and the miraculous gift of life each of us has been given… invites us to delight in the details, large and small, and let the true living begin!
In Wonder and Possibility,