"YOU WORK IN THE DEATH ARTS?!," my husband Nate looked at me incredulously.
"Apparently," I said, followed by, “and I have no idea what the f*ck that means."
It was my 41st birthday, and Nate had just given me a pair of binoculars for my new bird watching habit. (I love birdwatching, it's like navel gazing but with live animals). Anyway, the binoculars sparked a conversation with our waiter who turned out to be an avid bird watcher. I had just asked him where his favorite place to bird watch was, which he replied, "Well... it's kind of creepy, but there is this cemetery..." to which I interjected without missing a beat, "Oh no worries, I work in the death arts."
Here are a few things to know about me:
I don't lie. Ever. After the words came out of my mouth, I had to examine what the universe was trying to telling me. Apparently that was that I work in the death arts.
This led to me immediately starting a full time job as a hospice nurse and giving up my orthopedics career.
Which then led to immediately starting to train as a death doula (also called a death midwife), which it turns out is the thing I was put on this planet to do.
When I turned forty, I told close friends I was going into my “phase two.” I didn’t know what that meant at that time, but deep in my bones I knew there was a big change on the horizon. There were so many omens. In fact, one week prior to this conversation I asked my tarot cards if I should transition my life and work with the dying. You know what the answer card was?
The death card. You can't get more literal than that.
I have been a close friend of Death since I was fifteen and "saw the light" in a car accident. Yes, it was so many of the things you have heard - first a flip book of images of my life to that point, then the tunnel, followed by the overwhelming sense of calm and wanting to desperately go to a place I can only explain as indescribable beauty. But it wasn’t my time. As my nose touched the glass of the windshield in the spinning car, my best friend saw what was happening and yanked me back in my seat, saving my life.
I walked away forever changed. What was left behind was a little whiplash, a totaled pancake of a car, and a deep ache for what I only saw a glimpse of. Not a day of my life has passed that I haven’t thought about what I saw, or more correctly, what I felt. In many ways, the search for that deep peace led me to become a yoga therapist.
Death is woven into my shadow now and has lived so close that it has played a part in all of my life decisions. It has also permanently changed my view of the world and our concept of time. Death is always there saying “Dear one, will that ‘x’ really add value to the precious time you have here?” Most days, realizing that we have a finite amount of time gives me great comfort. Some days it stresses me out instead.
Death has become my greatest teacher.
Those who know me best know that I seek out beauty constantly. It's my life path. In order to know the light, we must also be willing to explore the dark. Death is both, and it is so beautiful. There are times, especially in the case of trauma, that the act of dying itself may not be beautiful, but that last moment, that pull to return to the light is something so remarkable that we can only call it… extreme beauty.