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Living Life Fiercely

Over the past two days, I have attended a conference, “Midwifery and Death”, focusing on midwifery of the soul. The atmosphere was electric, in spite of load shedding, with the charged energy of people who are intensely aware of the sacredness of the human spirit. From the moment we arrived, I sensed a higher vibration, an awareness.

People who have brought many into this life, and helped many to transition out of this life. People who have known the sorrow of a stillborn child, who have held the hand of a spouse or a child or a beloved friend in their dying moments. I often think that one cannot know Life until one has encountered the mystery of the death of a loved one. I was inspired by the stories of those who have lost children to death, who have carried a dead baby inside their wombs. I was deeply moved by their stories of courage, grief and sorrow.

Of course, the topic of dementia came up in several conversations, a subject as taboo and misunderstood as the subject of death. I think they share a stage because they are both filled with fear, making us shy away from them. And we somehow treat them both with the same disdain. Again and again, I hear stories of horror of a parent living with dementia, with no connection or loving attachment to their children. “I have to go and sort out my Dad. He is in a terrible state in frail care. I have no idea what to do…”

This quote was used in one of the sessions:

“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.”

― William Butler Yeats, The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore One of the gifts that the person living with dementia offers us is the gift of silence. When words are gone a sacred silence sets in, a silence in which we can nd our Selves. There is often no need for words, no need for doing, but a desperate need for PRESENCE. Somehow, this being silent in presence scares the living daylights out of most of us. We cannot bear it, we run from it. Sitting with someone who no longer communicates verbally is extremely confrontational. We want to talk, always. The person living with dementia is offering us a stillness in which we will see our own reflection, especially if it is our Father or Mother. In seeing ourselves in this reflection, we are indeed becoming aware of our own Life, and might just be inspired to live it more fully, fiercely, and clearer. When we change our discourse around ageing and dementia when we begin to see older people as our Teachers, we will reflect differently on our own lives, We will Know more, understand more, and feel more.

This year started at high speed – I took up art classes, pottery and adult ballet in between doing my PhD and being the director of my own company. I just finished a 21-day meditation course, starting my days with quiet contemplation. I am constantly inviting friends for dinner and having tea with others. What is that all about? This crazy fun-packed life, running at the speed of light? I have reflected in many, many older faces still as water, over the past 24 years. I have seen the regrets of not living. I have seen too many sudden deaths with unfinished business. I have seen too many faces that are like deeply turbulent rapids caused by a life not lived. My teachers, older people and those living with memory loss have shown me this path of living a fierce Life.

I am not afraid of Death. On the contrary, it excites me! I am deeply curious about Death as a transition. If there is no transition, well then I will indeed “rest in peace”. Somehow, and this was reinforced over the past two days, I do believe that “Death is not extinguishing the Light. It is putting out the lamp because the Dawn has come.” (Rabindranath Tagore)

Go and visit an older person who can no longer communicate. Be still with them, be present. Look into their eyes, still your Mind. Perhaps, just perhaps, you will see something that will inspire you to live your life more fiercely than ever before.

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