Yesterday I graduated from a ten week Deathschool (program) with my Deathwives. We learned all about what it looks like to be a Death doula and a home funeral guide. This included body care before and after Death, logistical paperwork, funeral planning, ritual, ancestral and grief work. None of it was easy, and at the same time, the whole experience changed me. We concluded with a 3 hour class/graduation in which we all shared our own made-up funerals with each other. I didn’t realize how affected I would be by these. Imagine stepping into the very intimate and vulnerable space of 10 different Deaths coming from 10 different perspectives, all from the deepest loving places in our hearts~ whew what a beautiful ride.
I witnessed someone read their own eulogy. I watched beautiful presentations honoring people’s parents and grandparents who have passed and who might have not had a proper funeral/send off. I was moved by an extremely impactful video someone made about their experience at St. Vincent’s hospital in NYC as a nurse working with AIDS patients/friends. The video was followed by another beautiful tribute to a student's dear friend who was born with AIDS who recently died. Each had a story to tell and in the story-telling, the shared intimacy and trust created a safe space for us to grieve together. What a gift.
I struggled with what I was going to do. Who was I going to create a funeral for? Everything felt too difficult, so I procrastinated and procrastinated until the night before (we had 3 weeks to work on this eek). I had a dream a couple nights before about myself as a younger me…I was seeing snippets of my life with old childhood friends, playing sports, goofing off, laughing, etc. I woke up and knew what I had to do. I sat down and spent an hour writing nonstop about my own Death.
It’s a strange and wondrous journey to put yourself in the space of imagining your own Death. At this time in my life I decided the ideal situation would be to be diagnosed terminal when I’m 90+ so that I can plan my own going away party. So I did it…I even have the details down to what kind of chocolate and cheese will be served. I imagined what I’d want certain people to do and to present and how a fire ceremony will be held. I wrote down what I want to be dressed in, and how I want my body cared for afterwards. I love the idea of having a home funeral, something I only recently about (please ask me if you have questions about this).
I share all of this with you because from the weeks of resistance and struggle to the moment when I decided to open my heart to what was calling and to take a step forward and put the words down, something profound happened. I now feel comfortable in the space of creating and imagining what my Death can look like for my loved ones, AND for myself. I ultimately want to guide others in this process. I want to inspire you to plan your own funeral, even to simply start thinking about it. There are countless ways to do this, and it can actually be a fun exercise to bring your creativity into. Think about how much less of a burden it will be on your loved ones when your time comes, if you already have these important things figured out and written down.
Also I’d ultimately love to be there to support you if you have a loved one who is dying, and you don’t even know where to begin. This is such a tender time, and why go through it alone? Let’s gently work together to make the thought of Death a little less scary. It is inevitable, and rather than avoiding it, let’s learn to dance with it. Are you with me?