Stepping Out: Transforming Pain into Loving Action

Posted on Posted in Articles, Opinion, Religious Perspectives, Stories, Trisomy 18 (Edward's syndrome)

By Marna Cathleen

Diogenes (detail) by J.W. Waterhouse
I had the honor to be the only person with him for nine hours up until he took his last breath.

Today is the second anniversary of Blue’s EDD (expected due date). Two years ago today me, her father, family and friends gathered to honor her life. This year as I anticipated the day I didn’t know what to expect. To my surprise something unexpected and beautiful happened two days before her day that made March 16th a very beautiful day.

I worked at a homeless clinic as medical social worker for the last year, and left in January for a new job. I believe that my experience with Blue and the deep pain of that loss has widened my bandwidth to hold other people’s pain. While at the homeless clinic I met hundreds of people, heard many life stories and it changed my life in so many ways.

And then I met DV at the clinic, and he was diagnosed with a bad cancer. DV had no family—no one to help him as he approached death. He was afraid and didn’t want to die a lone. There I was with some real-life experience with death to share with him. I now know about death because I learned how to be with death when Blue died. I learned how to plan for a death because I had to plan the death of my unborn child. Now two years later I was sitting with a 69-year-old man who was dying, and we needed to prepare.

DV died last week at 9pm Saturday night, Pi Day of all days: 3/14/15. I had the honor to be the only person with him for nine hours up until he took his last breath. It was beautiful. I played Blue’s transition music for him.

Back in November, DV and I put all of his affairs in order and then he asked me “What do you know about death?”

I told him about Blue, but very little, in fact I never even told him her name, just that I had lost a baby. We discussed death for hours in many different ways, preparing. He is Christian man and said that when he died the first thing he would do is find my baby in heaven and tell her what a wonderful mother she has. He also told me to look for a sign because he was going to leave me a sign that he had done it. He was adamant about this! I will keep you posted on that.

Well when I showed up for DV on the morning of Saturday March 14, he could no longer speak and was in the final throes of dying. I hadn’t seen him since January.  We had spent hours in the end of 2014 talking about death.  Now here we were together. I could tell he knew it was me there with him as he slowly let go. I held his hand, I sang him songs for hours, creating a sacred space for his death transition, just as I had done when Blue died. When DV passed I felt his life energy go through my body—just as I had felt Blue rush through me after she was gone—it was different but the same. What a gift.

The gift is this reminder of the magic in the tragic. The beauty of death. Blue is fine, DV is fine. In fact they are both more fine than I am, although I am fine. I am reminded that the only time I am not fine is when I believe, wish or think anything should be different than it is—to think that Blue shouldn’t have died. It is is natural and there is nothing wrong with  me to want Blue here with me. I don’t need to judge myself for that longing. However, when I don’t long for things to be different I am happier. When I remember that death is a gift, and Blue is always my greatest gift in this life, I am happier.

And then at 9 pm tonight I got a text from one friend, who had been at the ritual two years ago, saying “thinking of you and Blue.” One person remembered totally on his own! That is enough! I didn’t expect anyone to remember but me. Now I am feeling the glow of DV and the love and gratitude we share and the presence of Blue in the midst of it all. And even though DV and I share different spiritual and religious beliefs I find a great comfort in knowing he and she are somehow connected. Now, I can celebrate his death and her death every year together— just a few days apart—and week before my own birthday!

 

©Marna Cathleen. She blogs at marnacathleen@wordpress.com. Published here by permission of Marna Cathleen.

 

 

Image: Diogenes (detail) by John William Waterhouse {Public Domain}