Stephen Jenkinson teaches some of the following things, as best as I can recall from his talk. He worked in hospice for many years.
Being born happens to you. Living though, is a skill, and it needs to be learned. Loving is a skill. Grieving is a skill. Dying is a skill. It all needs to be learned, and it all takes effort, and not everybody does them. Can you think of anything else more worthwhile to learn?
Everything and everyone dies, but not all the same time. It’s staggered in time. Our death comes before some peoples’ and after others. This is obvious, but do we really deal with it?
Not everybody “dies”. In order to “die” properly, you have to have lived. Some people don’t really do either. They exist, then they don’t.
There are ways of dying really badly, and not that many people die well.
To say “I have terminal cancer” is different from saying “I am dying”. The first allows you to pretend; the second lets the truth in.
To love something means that you have to be aware of and love its ending as well as it’s beginning. The ending is built into it. When you fall in love and really embrace somebody you are also embracing the end of the relationship, you have to love that as well, or else you aren’t really loving. The same goes for your children. You have to know that they’re going to die, and trust other people to take over for you.
Love and grief are like twins; where one goes, the other is not all that far away.
Our North American culture is empty, lacking, it doesn’t support us in learning how to live, die, grieve. It denies death. And it doesn’t have to be this way. Other cultures do it better, but we cannot imitate them. Their ways belong to them. This is our sorrow and our loss.
Not everybody grieves. Grieving is a skill. Grieving is something you do, actively.
When something is gone, it’s gone. Your life is changed. When someone is gone, your life with them is gone too. But they are not lost, because you can remember them. You have a duty to remember them.
Talk to people about their dying before they are dead. Don’t wait until they are gone to give your eulogy to them. Ask people what it is like to die. Tell them that you will miss them. Ask them what it would be like for them if you were gone.
Don’t talk about losing someone. Say that they died.
Work with others to create a living village to live and die in. This means creating lots of meaningful connections that support each other.
The experience that you are having is not going to come your way again.
We don’t define ourselves, we are defined by other people. By their understanding of us and their stories about us.