Thursday, May 27, 2010
Lessons I'm Learning on Death, Dying and Grief - Part Two - Birth and Death
At the moment of birth there is much rejoicing. I remember 30 years ago when my sister was laboring with my niece, there was a period of long and agonizing labor. There were pains and strivings, and even in spite of such unpleasantness, the moment my niece entered this world there was great rejoicing! A celebration! We were shouting in the halls announcing that "it's a girl!" What excitement was generated simply by our excitement, even among those who had nothing to do with the family. I remember my own journeys of laboring with my children. It was the same thing. Pain, yes. Rejoicing? Oh yes!
At the time of death, there also is much rejoicing, like the moment of birth. That may sound strange because of course death is also a time to mourn. We grieve the loss of our loved one. We miss their presence in our lives, so it is difficult to think of death as a time of rejoicing or celebration, but I believe it is. In the case of my father those of us on this side of the journey are celebrating a life well-lived. For those who are awaiting him on the other side of the journey, it is a celebration of seeing their loved one again.
It is work. There is laboring, like birth. It is a process. It is like working so hard for one moment, such as training for a marathon. You work so hard, first in training and then in the race. You work so hard for one moment, the time you cross the finish line. It is a brief second. When that moment finally arrives, you can't help but feel elated. Win or lose, you are thrilled when that moment is finished.
It is like watching a hard fought contest, cheering your contender on to the bitter end, and when the final point is scored and your team is the victor, you have great joy and great relief all at the same time. You literally shout for joy! You celebrate. While death is a sobering moment, one in which we contemplate life and the purpose of our existence, it is still at time of great celebration.
There are other similarities of birth and death. Death, like birth, is messy. There is a mid-wife concept of death, we call it hospice. I don't know if you have thought of death as the reversal of birth, but I'm sure there are many other similarities.
There will be more lessons I am learning on death, dying and grief in the days to come.