Loving, Sacred Passage: Weston Mother and Daughter Discuss Death and Dying
May 02, 2017 01:02AM
● By Ariana Rawls Fine
Susan Broody and her mother, Margaret
Natural Awakenings sat down with Susan Broody and her mother, Margaret, to ask about their experiences being part of the Alliance for Conscious Transitioning’s The Conversation meeting in April 2017, and what has led them to talk about the dying process and death. Many topics are explored during the monthly Conversation event, including life, death and end-of-life options. The mother/daughter pair, who live close to each other in Weston, discuss their planning for and philosophies about death from a sacred and loving perspective, rather than morbid or sorrowful. They hope their own process will be a meaningful last journey for all involved.
Barbara Slaine, of Liphe Balance Center, and I started the Conversation meetings a year ago. It has allowed community members to come together and have a safe environment to share emotions and experiences about death and the dying process with those in their lives, and talk about the fear and anxiety about it. My mother, Margaret, has been involved in the last two to three Conversations.
I am very old at 93. I said goodbye to my husband five years ago. It was very hard, especially because of his dementia. As we proceeded through the dying process, I started developing my own ideas about how to pursue it for myself before Susan had even started this with Barbara.
Intellectually we all know we will die. But on a visceral level, we are frightened, concerned about the process. When you have a family with aging people, they don’t want to face it. I have no use for family secrets; you should not have secrets going out. Let the sun and air come in. I don’t care how old I am as long as I am feeling well. I am letting Mother Nature have her course. And, for me, just because there are tests, treatments and surgeries, doesn’t mean we need to do anything medically speaking to stay alive. I want to try to live as well as I can and not be a burden to those who I love and my community.
As we reach our middle ages, we have to confront our issues. The more you talk about dying with your loved ones and your differences, the better it can be. Are you more afraid of death or of dying? Being able to sit in a quiet place such as The Conversations with like-minded people who are not afraid to let their fears and thoughts out can be therapeutic.
My mother is good content, isn’t she? One of the reasons I wanted to become an end-of-life doula was missing out on having that experience with my dad. I want to be present with my mom when it is her time. Being an end-of-life doula is about finding out how to be present for someone who is in the dying process and the family with their fears and anxiety of the family member’s passing. One thing I have noticed in my work is that how we live in this present moment is going to translate into how we will leave.
There is also a generational thing with this process and being open-minded. In the era in which I grew up, we didn’t talk about these things. I didn’t really start until I reached my 50s. It is like opening a window that is locked so the fresh air is let in.
At this point, and over time, we conquered communication even if we are at odds. Communication is the way to stay connected. I have worked very hard to keep it going. I am becoming, in some ways, more childish. Susan and I have to approach a reversal of roles with the needing of help. And we’re finding common ground wherever we go. Never stop learning. And sometimes you have to live longer to learn these lessons. I am more and more comfortable with it—whatever it is—and this whole concept of the afterlife and the lead up to it. Some parts of it I will never believe in because I don’t understand and that’s ok.
The Conversation, held in Weston on either a Sunday afternoon or a Thursday evening, is a monthly discussion on various topics regarding life, death and end-of-life options. The next evening will take place on May 25 from 7-9pm. Contact Barbara Slaine at 203-912-2791 or [email protected] to reserve a space. See Community Resource Guide listing, page 76
Ariana Rawls Fine is editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County/Housatonic Valley, CT and New Haven/Middlesex Counties, CT. She resides in Stratford with her family.