Honouring life and death

8th June, 2016 Guest Blog

A heartfelt, thought provoking guest blog from Terrie Birch on a subject we all need to embrace as all too often it’s sanitised and shied away from.

This week I felt very honoured to witness a very special part of someone’s life and the experience has been moving, humbling and honouring. And part of that has surprised me. There were many, many gifts, one of which was the final realisation of how fear holds us back, and how, when we put it down, things can be simple, very normal. Maybe sharing my experiences might help to demystify things for someone else and help them to lay aside their fear. But this is not really my story, it is meant as a dedication to some very special people, with gratitude and love.

As a karmic astrologer, my essential, and main tool, is a person’s natal or birth chart. We do look at what has happened during someone’s life so far, and often look ahead too, but because the natal chart gives us the clues we need to find information on past lives and Soul intentions, the majority of my work will be using the natal chart. I muse on why that person has chosen that chart (life) and how they will cope with their challenges, how much spiritual growth they will achieve, what their past lives may have been and the karmic work they have already achieved, giving them strengths and skills to draw upon in this lifetime.

This week, however, I was reminded of the opposite end of birth, and one I don’t study astrologically – death. I was greatly honoured, although surprised, to be with a beautiful, inspirational and courageous Soul and witness her transition back to spirit as her current human lifetime ended. It was a very calm and natural experience, unexpectedly quick in the end, and I was grateful of that for her and, being the first time I had witnessed a Soul passing, it was reassuring to have confirmation that it can be that way. Knowing that she was returning to spirit form, going home, eased any sadness I felt, although grief, a very human emotion, was present. It was, however eased by this spiritual knowledge, and enabled me to sit calmly with her, to talk to her, reassure her and maintain as pleasant an energy in the room for her as I could. Even though I could tell that her Soul had left her human body, I still felt it was right not to leave her on her own and sat with her when others weren’t coming in to see her. I remembered reading that the Soul often hovers in the room, close to the ceiling for a while, especially if loved ones are coming to pay their respects. I chatted to her, silently, reassuring her that I would do what I could to love and support her immediate family, and hoping that she was enjoying reconnecting with loved ones already in Spirit.

Quotation-Terry-Pratchett-world-death-Meetville-QuotesSomething made me want to continue the process that had started for her with that ending. When nurses came for a planned visit, they were genuinely shocked at the speedy passing and now, not needing to perform their expected duties, instead of hurrying away to resume their already pressed schedule, they kindly offered to wash and dress her. They said we could stay and watch or help if we felt we wanted to, and again it felt right to be part of that process. And so together, we further honoured the Soul and human body, cleaning, anointing and dressing, in a ritual that I realised had been repeated for an unfathomable number of years. Mainly, or probably traditionally, women’s work I felt, something that was innate in a woman’s nature, as natural as bathing an infant. The nurses were so respectful, treating her with kindness and compassion as they would have in life, explaining beforehand what they were going to do next, and talking gently and reassuringly. And I know she would have enjoyed the humour we shared over the muddle with the clothes, but we got them the right way in the end! I thought logos usually went in the front!

I wanted to honour her and her life, to make those last moments in that room feel special to her, to let her know that she was loved and appreciated and to create as warm and welcoming an atmosphere as was possible under the circumstances, I plumped her pillows, helped her to look nice, cleared the now defunct medical paraphernalia from the bedside cabinets to make it more homely and found personal items and photographs to put close to her. I added a rose from the large bunch I had brought in to her that morning from my garden, hoping that the wonderful scent would reach her, although before her passing she was sleeping all the time. The senses are the last to go I believed, so I hoped she could smell them. They could have been perceived as funereal, but were brought and intended as a celebration of life, which was the way I knew she had planned her funeral. We will be having a party, with drinks on arrival, colours (no black) and photographs to make us smile and remember with fondness not sadness. Lovely smelling incense and a candle completed the mini makeover. The night before, when she stirred she seemed to be singing but we couldn’t quite make out what it was. What was her favourite song? We finally tracked it down, thanks to technology and search engines that made sense of a few jumbled words and I was able to play the video to her. We sang along, well we did our best, but The Carpenters obviously didn’t suffer for us not being in the band! It gave us a laugh, and I know she was chuckling with us. Hearing is probably the last sense to go, so I knew she was listening to us and joining in, in her own way. I chatted to her now and again, told her the latest news, discussed the lovely weather and things that might be of interest. Normal things, as if she was awake and hearing every word. Acting normally felt the right thing to do.

Replacing the sadness, there was a calm assurance inside me, a joy and excitement for her that I knew might not be understood by those without my spiritual beliefs. But it was more than a belief, it was a knowing and it felt so right to do what I was doing that I realised I was probably repeating something I had done in past lives. Being a Soul midwife in this lifetime is something I am drawn to do, although it doesn’t feel that the time is quite right for me. Although clearly, it is coming closer.

From the astrological point of view, you can look at possible exit points in this life, and my spiritual belief, tying in with the Soul plan, is that there are often more than one potential exit points, giving us free will. But, morally, I don’t feel it is right to either look for them or to forecast them. After someone has passed, it can be interesting to see what influences were happening at the time, but I would never try to predict someone’s death. The chart shows potential, and as I said, we have free will, so we are not forecasting. I prefer to think of myself more as a spiritual counsellor or a guide to this life.

And so, I realised this week, that, although I accept that we are all going to die and transition to spirit, I don’t consciously, on a day to day basis, actually embrace that. I focus so much on the beginning, the potential, and what is going on in the moment, that the end hadn’t really been in my sights. That is one of many gifts for me this week, alongside those of gratitude, love and huge respect. The tenderness and love I witnessed between two Souls and the open-heartened, care of one for the other, moved and humbled me more than anything I had ever seen.  Maybe witnessing that, inspired me to continue that energy and honour and love her right until the last moment I could, when her now human body was removed by the undertakers. Their dignity and respect is also always inspiring, as was the genuine care and support given to her and her loved ones in those last weeks, days and hours, by angels who attended her in human form as doctors and nurses.

And with hindsight, I realise that when I was younger I wouldn’t have been able to do all those things. I would have been unsure, maybe even a little frightened. Death is too much of a taboo subject, and that can create fear. It is a natural process and needn’t be frightening, for anyone. It is as simple as taking a breath in this life and our next in another. Yet another gift, I now reflect, is that I realise that death holds no fear for me. I understood the process, even wrote about it, and I believed this was what happened, but now I have experienced it and know in my heart it is all OK.

There were many gifts, not least of which was witnessing how much difference love, compassion and kindness can make to another human being.

I feel very humbled and grateful for all these gifts. Thank you all.

Dedicated to Jill and Dave Lockyer.

My lovely friend Felicity Warner, a very special woman who runs Soul Midwife trainings in Dorset (www.soulmidwives.co.uk), has written beautiful and compassionate books on the subject http://www.amazon.co.uk/Felicity-Warner

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