Making Friends with Death

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In September, I was asked to be a guest on a radio show hosted by the amazing Janet Conner. Both of us are great lovers of the work of John O’Donohue. She had decided that in the month of Samhain and Halloween (October) she would have a weekly guest who would talk about “Making Friends With Death.” I was to be the guest on the third week.

At that time, I was in a joyful place anticipating the marriage of my son Christopher and his beloved Annie. Though I teach and coach people through grief, this was a step deeper then I had ever gone. Make FRIENDS with death? Really? And then I re-read John O’Donohue’s beautiful book “Anam Cara”, which translates as friend of the soul, where he proposes that death is born with us–though ignored in the celebratory surroundings of birth–and walks with us through our life.

I began to pay attention to my life in a way that allowed for all the “little deaths” that had come and gone with small griefs, and the larger deaths that had imprinted me forever. As I did, I noticed that aging in small increments held my attention as I had entered my 70th decade, and that the Fall of my life was impinging on relationships, choices and emotions. So I began to walk with death and discuss with death what comes next.

I noticed a comfort level, almost a support and encouragement, in my soul. Colors were more vibrant, the joy surrounding the wedding was palpable, and I was in gratitude to a larger degree then usual. As I talked with a beloved friend undergoing cancer treatment, we were speaking at the level of soul, not fear. I realized that though I had made friends with grief on many levels, I had run from death–especially the bony scythe-wielding caricature of Halloween as we practice it in this country.

Janet’s challenge to me changed my life in ways that are just beginning to show themselves. I encourage everyone to imagine what it would be like to removed the fear–especially that we see on television 24/7 not only through the news but commercials. Obviously, when I watch the nightly news, the medication commercials are aimed at an older audience who fears the effects of aging. When we see through death’s eyes, we are not afraid–we are empowered to see those things for what they are and we can laugh. We are triumphant when we have no fear.

I welcome your contact in the way of your going. Peace and love surround you and your loved ones and your quiet companion.

2 Responses to “Making Friends with Death”

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  1. Janet Conner says:

    Therese, what a sentence, to see through death’s eyes…

    It was an amazing month, wasn’t it! We barely scratched the surface of this rich call to become friends–friends!–with death and yet it has transformed the hearts and minds of thousands of listeners. I am so grateful that you, who so understands friendship with grief, was willing to take this walk into friendship with death. and then share it with us. The view of the walk of death changes everything, doesn’t it!

    Janet

  2. Beautiful, Therese. (I will share it on my author’s page tomorrow.) My hospice work keeps me close to the world of death. I’m learning to sit with death without fighting it–easier when it’s someone I love, but not my child or spouse. I wonder about the impact of your experience with your son, so sudden and shocking with no quiet time of surrender to prepare you. I was given a few days of quiet surrender before my husband’s death. It was a gift. Our cellular bodies want to live at most any cost, it seems, so it takes a strong inner practice to know how to let go every day and at the end of life. I practice as I watch the leaves fall from the trees, the garden turned under for the season, and the days grow short and cold.

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