What is with my fascination with dying?

I seem to be compulsively drawn to an awareness of death and dying. Of course, there are the circumstances of my life: The death of my husband at 49 after only an 8-month journey with cancer, and my own direct experience with a life-threatening leukemia diagnosis just a few years later. Death wasn't much in my awareness before these two events. And afterwards, it seems to have dug into my awareness.

In the years that followed I have worked with people confronting life-threatening illness and at the side of those who are dying. In the past year or so I have become involved with The Wake Up to Dying Project and then helped launch a Death Cafe here in Montpelier which has been meeting monthly since last December of 2013.

This work has been – quite surprisingly – the most amazing gift. I relish the opportunity for the sense of full presence and intimacy that life-threatening illness so often offers. I always find it remarkable that I have sense of coming home every time I enter a Death Cafe. I feel relief that there is no pretending, no avoiding what is inevitable for each of us. As my yoga teacher says, "We are all compost." And each visit makes me feel and think about the question: Am I making the most I can of this precious life?

Am I awake to how I spend my time?  Do I notice what I feel? See? Smell? Touch?  Alive to now?


What do you think about discussing this often taboo subject? I would love to know your  thoughts.

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Dancing with Life (and Death)

This post was written in November, 2013 when a beloved friend was gravely ill.

In the past few weeks I have been yet again reminded of the precariousness of this business of living.

I took this picture recently on the beach in Florida while I was visiting a dear friend who is in hospice care. Each morning his partner and I would rise early and walk along the ocean.

The image reminds me of essential truths of nature: the sun illuminates the sky and water even on a stormy day; the turbulence of the water changes the terrain of the sand beneath; nothing stays the same.

Each morning in my yoga practice I create space and time:

  • To be present and tuned into life and nature right on my mat
  • To notice what illuminates me from within and without in that moment
  • To see the turbulence in living and to welcome both the disturbance and the inevitability of change
  • To remember to step lightly and breathe and move with these rhythms that are surely beyond my control

This week marks 12 years since my stem cell transplant. I have moved from living with the near certainty that death was around the corner to the simple knowledge that death is yet to come and may well arrive when least expected.

As I recall the churning ocean and see the diminishing light as we move towards winter, I feel the inexorable pattern of the ebb and flow of all existence – whether a wave or a leaf or a life. Each single piece is a precious part of something vast coming and going.