As women we are often told that childbirth is the worst pain we will ever feel. We talk about how difficult and long our labors were and discuss how we dealt with the pain. Did we have it naturally? Did we use meds? Did we have a c-section? Our husbands often discuss how helpless they felt trying to comfort us and ease our pain. Untold hours are spent over juice, coffee, tea and sodas (caffeine free of course) discussing each minute detail as if it were a badge of honor. This discussion typically revolves around the happiness and joy a new life brings into the world. Suddenly, the conversation changes. How do we deal with colic and crying? How do we deal with teething, and poop? What is the secret to potty training? As our children grow and change so do our discussions. They become discussions of school, of boyfriends or girlfriends, going to college and marriage. We talk about all the wonderful and glorious things that have happened to us and our children. Occasionally, on very rare occasions we talk about the night they came home after curfew or the wreck they had because they were driving too fast or the time they came home as drunk as a skunk when they were underaged but mostly we discuss only the good things in our lives.
There is one topic that is very rarely discussed. It surfaces occasionally however, if this particular topic indeed surfaces it usually has to do with either disciplining our children or our frustration or their anger . . . . “Over my dead body!”, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it, too!” or “I wish you were dead!” We place discussions of death and dying under the rugs of our lives (or in the closets or drawers) and conclude “if it is out of sight, it is out of mind”. We ignore it and hope it will go away. It becomes the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about now or ever. The truth is, like birth, death happens. It is a normal part of our lives. It happens when we least expect it. Sometimes it happens when it is expected and it is long and quite painful. A wise woman once told me “it is difficult to come into this world and it is just as difficult to leave it.”
Life circumstances have caused me to think about those words quite a bit lately, those words and also the adage “it takes a village . . . . “. The village helps you and comforts you in your time of grief. The village brings you food, sends cards, gives you hugs, offers to run errands, comes to see you, etc. It is that village which helps you to cope, to help lessen your pain, to survive. Without that village we cannot thrive. If this is the case, why don’t we talk about death with our village? Why do we and our village seem to typically consider this to be hush-hush as if it were some dirty little secret? Why are we afraid to talk about the end of life and what happens to a person as they reach the end? Why can’t we just talk about death?
These questions and others have been burning in my mind for the past several weeks. This blog is about helping me answer those questions for myself and hopefully, along the way it will help others to answer them, too. Pages from the diary written while sharing the journey with my sister as she went through changes that ultimately led to her death will be shared. Some of them are joyful and some of them are sad. They bring up emotions that to me were sometimes scary. They bring up memories from the past. My journal writing began a week into my journey but since returning home I have written my memories of the first week and will be sharing those along the way as well. This won’t be an easy journey, but of course, neither is dying.