Apparently I am being given a new role in my journey- to become a death and dying companion.  Companion for both the one whose life is ending, and for the ones who still remain living and grieving.  
One close friend wants to help me train to be a death and dying doula.  She herself worked for Hospice for many years, and was so sad to discover that people are almost always shocked and surprised to be told they were dying (aren’t we all dying??)  Here they are, at the end of their lives, and have never given it a thought, no plan or ideas about this sacred rite of passage.  Ultimately, strangers are usually brought in to assist, in a clinical and medicinal manner of course; for what should be a tender, intimate, soft, gentle time.  
My friend doesn’t want strangers brought in for her.  She wants a friend, soul mate, confidante, someone who has spent years earning her trust, learning her ways, her preferences, quirks and idiosyncrasies; how she likes her hair brushed, her laundry folded, how warm she likes her bath water, which lotion she likes rubbed on her feet, the words to songs we can sing together, who knows when to giggle with her inside jokes and when to hold her and reassure her.  That’s the kind of friend I wish to be.  And I am honored that she believes in me and trusts me.
I have barely wrapped my head around this idea.  Honestly, I said no at first.  Several times even.  I don’t want to care for the dying body (I would certainly be a terrible nurse!!)   Now that I am listening and hearing what she really wishes for, I understand she wants care for her spirit, her soul.  I love this idea!  I have not begun “training” yet (you know, officially).  In the mean time, another friend has just been hired as a Hospice Social Worker.  She started reading a book and ordered me a copy so we could talk about it together.  It’s called “Companioning the Bereaved”.  I am only halfway through it so far and am moved to tears.  This is the kind of compassion I want to share!
The book points out that “if we don’t acknowledge the significance of death, we don’t acknowledge the significance of life.”  It talks about creating a sacred, safe place for people in grief to…. well… grieve.  And how to be their companion, a patient listener, hand holder.  To help journey with them, help them find their way into and through the wilderness of grief. “The mysterious, spiritual dimension of grief that allows us to go on living, until we, too, die.”  Not cure them, not rush them through the “unpleasant” process and back to work.  But be present with them.  Wow.
Full circle- I started learning about sacred ceremony and rites of passage while studying to become ordained 20 years ago.  My first ceremony, and the reason I became ordained, was for a funeral being planned down the road.  Someday.  For somebody I loved and admired greatly.
She wanted a ceremony that reflected and celebrated her life; who she was as a human being, what she was passionate about, how she lived.  Turns out that you have no rights when you are dead.  Including the words that will be shared at your funeral service.  Unless you have a signed contract and someone you trust.  Like me…  Now after 20 years of ceremonies- weddings, funerals, child blessings, house blessings… it’s coming full circle back to sacred rites of passage and the end of life.  I’m not ready.  Of course.  Literally and metaphorically.  

Another dear friend’s husband has just requested hospice two days ago.  He may not live through the week.  We have a reiki session planned in 5 days for him to bring him comfort, and he likely won’t be there in person for it.  She wants me to help him “breathe into the universe, be at peace”.  She is worried that he is too attached to this experience and existence…  Tears stream down her face as she confides in me.  She is not ready for him to be done here.  And she wishes him peace to transition.  That is real love.  Deep love.  I am at a loss for words.  I haven’t even finished the first book, much less started courses yet to learn this work.  So I just listen and love her.  And wish I could do more.