Saturday, January 21, 2012


I've been exploring various hospice and bereavement organizations, including those under religious organizations. Not being a fan of organized religion, I'm drawn to Zen-Buddhist Hospice, a growing group of people who are providing mindful end-of-life care and bereavement counseling under the auspices and beliefs of Zen Buddhism. There is an established community in Santa Fe, called Upaya, that, among other things, teaches mindful presence with death.

I've been reading their book, Being With Dying, written by founder Joan Halifax, and I'm appreciating their calm, present, mindful take on witnessing for the dying and their families. She tells stories of families she's been with, provides various meditation practices, and recommends ways in which Witnesses, and family members, can be of service to the dying. One very important section caught my attention; allowing the dying to tell their stories at the end, however they can.

I think its so important to hear everyone's stories, not just those who are dying-their situations, of course, have a particular urgency. I have quite often now listened to the tales of people who were dying-it is an honorable part of my work, and once or twice, of my relationship to the dying. But it strikes me that my Father won't be able to tell his stories at the end. Even now he has few words, and soon enough he'll have none. The dementia has stolen that from him, as it has for so many others. When I cared for him, I listened as hard as I could, trying to get him to tell me the few things he remembered or would talk about. He never was much of a talker, so I don't have much, and I never will.

I know there are many who feel the same grief I have, their family members suffering the same fate. This disease steals so much from so many. It saddens me that he won't be able to tell his stories at the end. He will go gentle into that good night- gentle, and quiet.

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