Here, our facilitator Johanna Munson answers two key questions. Read more about Johanna at the end of this entry.
|Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash|
Our current experience of this pandemic is bringing the topic of end of life issues front and center to a culture that is not comfortable talking about death and dying. Many of us grew up in families who didn’t even bring it up, much less do anything more than have a will in place, if that. I deepened my understanding of the importance of being open about the choices we can make around how we want to live out our lives as I went through the process with my dad. He was very open about researching end of life options, and brought me and my sisters into the conversation in a gentle yet insistent way: he needed to know that we would be there to support him at the end. Knowing what our options are, and being able to not only put our choices in writing but to have conversations with those who will be there for us, brings a sense of peace and an ability to be present that is unexpectedly liberating.
Being present at the end of a person’s life is one of the most holy experiences I can imagine. As a death doula I gently inquire as to the person’s spirituality, and work from there to support them as they approach their transition. One man I worked with was a devout Catholic, and was already at peace with his coming death. He was in bed at home, and I provided respite care so his wife and family could take breaks. As he drifted deeper and deeper into the unconscious state, he would mumble and occasionally smile, and I could make out one or two names that were unfamiliar to me. I asked his wife about those names, and she said one of them was his brother who had died in WWII. These kinds of conversations with loved ones who have died are one of the most fascinating elements of being present at this precious time. It takes amazing courage for families to hold space for their loved ones as they die, and it can be a time of deepest connection.
Johanna Munson is a Death Doula and End of Life Navigator. She works with families and individuals to creatively plan for an end of life that reflects and supports their values, wishes, and circumstances. The “End of Life Peace Plan,” her online course, is a comprehensive approach to getting the important work of legal, medical, and emotional preparation done while we are of sound mind. She also provides support at the end of life for those wanting to die at home in Kitsap and Jefferson counties. Encouraging open conversations around the often uncomfortable topics of death and dying is a passion of hers. She is active in the Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church as a Worship Associate, and finds great joy in reflecting on spirituality in community. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 206-406-0063.