I took this photo while sitting and crying in a bathroom stall at the hospital, while my dad was in Emergency, just ten days before his death. There was so much to take in. The graffiti was a lifeline in that moment. Love and Light.
We sprung my dad from the hospital after a few days, with the support of his care team. His wish was to be at home in his artist's studio. With 24/7 nursing care from the Palliative Home Service (angels all, those who practice Slow Medicine!) we helped dad make the transition to whatever plane of existence is on the other side.
I say "plane of existence" because that's what my son said when he was about four years old. He sat in the back seat of our car, and chattered on about life and death. "Why do people get so sad when others die? They just go to another plane of existence. It's the same place that I was before I was born. And you didn't cry about me before I came, did you?"
Dad's "home death" was peaceful but powerful. There was art and music, tears, laughter, heat and questions. The neighbours brought fruit and salads, and the still hot air shimmered. It felt like we were at a long home birth. He was given the time he needed to complete his journey, with the family and his caregiver by his side. Quietly. Outside of time. There were challenges and struggles for him, but he slowly and peacefully surrendered to the process.
So, like my son had said, my dad sailed away on a journey to another world - the world where babies come from. How fitting all the births that I attended for the rest of the summer were so similar. All the babies came into the world just like my dad left this world, slowly and gently, with grace, at home.
I tell my clients that they have all the wisdom needed to give birth. Our lives teach us the lessons that we need. Our bodies know, on a fundamental level, how to give birth. One of these women had a hard time understanding this - "How can I access that knowledge?" she asked. I said we just had to find her unique key to that knowledge. One woman might find that key through her knowledge of pacing and breathing when running, or how to pedal up a mountain, or how to be calm during a Bar Exam, or how you can lose yourself in a song. Every woman has a different key.
So, on a hunch, I asked her if she had attended a family member in a hospice setting. Amazingly, she said that her dad had just died a few months earlier, and that she had sat by his side during those last few weeks. "Oh! I know this!" she exclaimed. "Birth and death must be mirror images of each other!" That was her key. She drew on the lessons she had learned at her father's bedside. She said that her main memory of that time was of such sparkling joy. "Don't get me wrong, it was so very hard! But there were many gifts and joys during those days. The stillness of the room was incredible. The connection that we felt transcended space and time. Is home birth like that?" Yes. It is like that.
"I can do this." she said. (She surrendered to the process and her baby slipped into the world, at home.)
In birth, there is a point when the door between life and death is wide open. At times there is great struggle. Then, there is a calmness and a stillness and a quiet joy. There is a connection between past, present and future. No words are needed.
Birth and Death. Love and Light. A coming in...and a going out. They can be mirror images of each other.
My son was right.