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Ran into a young friend last night. How are you? he asked. Very well; just back from visiting someone at hospice. Oh, that’s not good. Quite the contrary, I enjoyed the visit; I’m still buzzing from the encounter. How come? Being with someone near death, someone who’s consciously facing the end of her life, brings my own awareness in the present. When I visit her, there’s not doubt that only this moment matters. Little chit-chat, no filler talk. 

What did you talk about? Actually, we said very little tonight. When I arrived she told me that she’s decided to close the door on that. When I inquired about “that” she said “life, and pain, and waiting. I’m ready to die.”

Wow! From then we sat mostly in silence, her right hand resting in mine, her eyes closed and face relaxed. I aligned my breathing with hers and so we sat for 15 or 20 minutes. For a little while I directed my heart’s attention to her and, after a while, let go of all effort and my heart-mind opened into a vast emptiness with no beginning and no end. Suddenly, she opened her eyes and said “good-bye.” She lifted her arms, we embraced, kissed, and I bowed to her. Both with our hands in gassho (palms together), we parted. Cool!


3 responses »

  1. Peter, thankyou for writing about this experience. I find it very moving. How wonderful to have come to a place of such peace about what is. I bow to her.
    I also find a correlation between what you are doing for these people and midwifery. Being in service, accompanying, ushering from one state of being into another.
    Birth and Death – interchangeable, depending on which side of the threshold you are looking at it from?

  2. Dear Fiona, there’s a strong link to midwifery; when I trained in San Francisco in end-of-life care, we talked about becoming midwives to the dying. see:

    There’s a growing movement of ‘death doulas’ (from Greek “women who serve”): volunteers who accompany people with life-theatening illnesses from diagnosis to death. see:

    • After reading this post, i ask “How to have this meaningful level of communication in my daily life” and…the ‘death doula’ training is of interest to me…too bad it’s not in my area. Maybe someone will start one…


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