Have you ever thought about interviewing or saying hallo to death?
I would like to introduce you to a friend, coach and writer who has written this article for us. Her name is Jane Duncan Rogers.
After the death of her husband Phillip, she wrote a book called “Gifted by Grief” so without any further ado, here is Jane’s article.
Also here is a link to the latest news from Jane and her workshops.
Please also see more information about Jane at the end of the blog.
Hallo Death, How Are You?
This might seem an odd question to ask. Who really wants to know how Death is? Most of us, most of the time, want to pretend it doesn’t exist. That is, until it barges into our life, sneaks stealthily in through the window, or surprises us by jumping out from behind a bush.
When that happens, we get a shock. The shock of an accident; of a life-threatening diagnosis, a suicide, or death through drugs. There are numerous forms in which Death visits.
However, we can lessen the impact of the visit by becoming friendlier with Death before it visits of its own accord. It’s not that we won’t be shocked, that may still be there. It’s just that if we have familiarized ourselves with it at least conceptually, then its visit can be accepted as less of an imposition, and more of part of being a fully alive person.
Okay, okay, I know this is all fine in theory. But when you are alive and kicking, then the theory is all we have! And to get to know Death you have to start from where you are in relation to it. That will be informed by your upbringing, your experience of it so far in your life, and the other myriad ways your friends and family relate to it too.
So here’s some questions to ponder on:
- What’s your first reaction to the word ‘death’?
I’ve always been interested in this as a concept, have read a lot about death and dying, and have felt intrigued by it, rather than frightened. How do you feel?
- How do you feel when you hear someone you know well has died? Is it different if you were very close to them, as opposed to someone you just knew slightly? How?
Answering this question (even in the abstract) will help you come to terms with the meaning that death has in general, but also specifically when it enters your own life in a bigger way.
- How do you feel about dying yourself? For me, its’ back to curiosity. Now I can’t say that for sure, as I’ve never been diagnosed with a life threatening illness, or come close to dying. But from the standpoint of an alive body, curious is the right world for me. What about you?
- If you were going to have a conversation with Death, what would you say? What do you think you would hear? (I recommend actually doing this in your journal. Use a different coloured pen for Death and your own words. If you find it difficult to do, you can make it easier by designating a chair as being one that Death is going to sit in. Then go and sit in it, and behave as if you were Death, having a conversation with you. Then you can embody Death (so to speak!) and tune in to what it may have to say. When I did this exercise for myself, I heard/felt the words: “Thank you for asking. I am impersonal. I am benign. It is not your time yet”. In my body I felt unexpectedly relaxed and at ease.
These were some of the questions that my husband and I faced when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Re number 4, we attended a Family Constellations workshop during what turned out to be Philip’s last year, and he had a dialogue with Death. We both learnt a lot.
However, these questions are not easy ones at the best of times, and definitely not easy when someone so close has their life threatened by death. Philip, after the initial shock, was very clear he did not want to enter into a battle with cancer, as is so often spoken about. However, he did want to treat it as a (somewhat unwelcome) guest that had a message for him and could then leave.
In the end, the cancer did not leave, and he died, but not before he and I had been able to have several conversations about death. This was helpful, and particularly helpful for me after he died.
We also were able to answer questions from what became known between us as The List – a series of questions sent to us in an email from a good friend who was pretty insistent that we answered them before Philip died.
I wrote about this in my book, Gifted By Grief: A True Story of Cancer, Loss and Rebirth, here’s the excerpt:
“Come on, we’re going to do The List properly now.” Philip was still reluctant, but, lying in bed, with me and the laptop next to him, he didn’t have a chance. “It’s going to make a huge difference to me in the future, darling, and besides, Barbara will just nag us if we don’t.”
“Yeah, all right then.”
Poor Philip – for a man afraid of dying, this was an amazing act of courage, another step in the acceptance of what was happening. We began at the beginning, and continued on until the end, referring to it later as our final project together. In those two hours, I asked him the questions, and he gave me his answers.
There were all kinds of questions, from the most basic such as “What kind of coffin do you want?” to which he replied, “Any old box will do,” to more sensitive ones, such as “Are there any of your personal items you would like to leave to anyone in particular?”. This one we discussed in much more detail. It was tough; these are difficult questions to ask of somebody who knows he is going to be dying sooner than later. Feeling a great sense of achievement afterwards, we were very close, connected and loving for the rest of that weekend. Who would have thought that? It ended up being a couple of hours of slightly macabre enjoyment.
I’ve put together these questions now into a document The List: Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Die and you can get your free copy here http://www.giftedbygrief.com/list
And do visit my website and get the first 2 chapters of my book for free!
Please note that the document The List: Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Die is FREE for only a limited time.
Please feel free to comment, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org. or join us in the Facebook group, Ageing with Vitality.