of the Story
Certified Death Doula Services and End Of Life Consulting
Creating an End Of Life Village
Whether we know death is coming or it is unexpected, it is still complicated, challenging and messy. It is a time when all components of living, mental, emotional, spiritual and physical meet in an elevated state of shock. And this is where an end of life care partner/doula steps in to the story. In ancient Greece a doula was a household servant. In Hebrew the word for funeral is levaya which means, to accompany. This is the role of an end of life care partner/doula. The care partner/doula is here to be your household servant and accompany you on a path to death whether it is your own or a loved one. In my doula servant role, I serve first with my ears. I listen and we create a safe space to grieve well. I apply years of experience as a facilitator of individual and group conversations, both joyful and difficult, to help you find your specific needs. The final decisions are all yours. I listen and then ask you clarifying questions. Together we sort out what you value in this life and how this final segment will reflect those values. As care partner/doula and facilitator I walk behind, beside or in front of you as needed and determined by you. You will discover your personal needs as the author of this chapter of your life story. Through this purely personal approach, I hope you will find beauty in these final days and beyond.
I begin my story by telling you who I am: I am husband of Holly and father of Eleanor (Ellie), Benedict (Ben), and Basil. I am the youngest child in a family of five. I loved my father so much I made him the best man in my wedding. On the day we buried him I vowed to let the rest of my life honor his life. Little did I know the final days of his life in a hospice and the disease that took him, dementia, would place the most influence on that commitment.
Previous to my dad’s death I had worked with young people of all ages. I was a teacher in outdoor education, a facilitator of team building experiences, youth pastor, worked in special education, and I was a stay at home dad.
After my dad’s death, I devoted myself to working with those who have dementia. I took up work in memory care facilities. Along the way I found myself in love with the people and the work. The residents were full of life and energy and all kinds of beautiful quirks. The first time death took one of our residents, I thought to myself that I could never work with the dying since it seemed too much of a burden to bear. Slowly over time I was somehow drawn more to the people I served as death occurred. Somehow I felt an even greater love for them as they passed. I loved the stories of their lives and wished I could have learned more. Though I was only with them for a very short span, as they passed I realized I felt like I had known them for years.
I became a hospice volunteer. I found myself feeling honored that complete strangers would allow me to be active in this most sacred time in the wheel of life. As I was given glimpses of the stories of those who would die at any moment, full-time work with those at the end-of-life began to become reality.
One day my wife said to me, “you should be a death doula.” My response was, “There is no such thing, you are making that up.” Our children’s births were guided by midwives and doulas. That made sense to me — but a death doula? I pursued some research and, sure enough, this was real, very new, but real.
In January 2017 I entered into a four-month death doula training through an organization called momdoulary (mourningdoula.com). Laura Saba is the trainer and mentor in this program. She has been written up in the New York Times, Psychology Today Magazine and various other media. Laura Travels the world studying death. Momdoulary offered an extensive “6 in 1 special edition training.” I now hold a Gold Star certificate from this organization as a certified end-of-life doula. Along the way I began to look back at my own story. The narrative of my life is full of memories of family. Once upon a time I was a little boy being held. Then I would become and a father holding his little boys. Playing football, watching Star Wars over and over, traveling the world and so much more have filled the pages of my narrative. My story is full of change, both difficult and joyful. It is full of obstacles overcome and disappointments lived with. It has been decorated with events, relationships and pilgrimages of all sorts. My story is full of beautiful people who I miss on a daily basis and some I don’t miss at all, but even they are shapers of my story. I have now opened a new gate with a new story that will be told. It is our stories that really make up our lives, your story and my story and so many who will weave the tapestry of our story. I see story at the center of the death process. It is the cornucopia of stories that keep us alive in the world well beyond our physical death. I am here to walk along with you in the sacred end of life story.