Our Greatest Act of Love

Article Featured in Stroll Magazine

It was a sizzling, summer day in Texas. Three boys with their final days of junior high in their rearview mirror jumped into the neighborhood lake to cool down from the midday heat. They playfully teased one another as one of the boy’s summer crushes waited on the other side. With the weight of their clothes and sneakers, one of them began to struggle. My sweet friend, Jason, never made it across. At the age of 14, I began to think about my own death and notice the way others, especially adults, responded to tragedy.

Fifteen years after that formative day in June, I accepted a position as a hospice social worker and knew I was born for death. I listened. I learned. And over and over, I witnessed the act of dying as a sacred moment that has the power to connect us more deeply to one another. Where I once was a stranger walking into someone’s home, I quickly became an integral and harmonious part of the dying and their family’s story. I have felt this in my own family as I have ushered grandparents to the Divine and integrated grief from sudden losses.

Death is a universal truth of life, and yet it is often the last thing we want to think about or discuss with others. It is the surest end that awaits us all. As neighbors, we see life’s transitions unfold in one another’s driveways, yards, through the windows, cars coming and going, and through brief conversations at the mailbox, sidewalk or walking our furry friends. We know and share the milestones of birthdays and graduations, the new cars and pets, the vacations, and the accidents or times of need. Even if we aren’t in one another’s homes, we feel the joys and sorrows from porch to porch, door to door.

Over the years, our home has hosted hamster and squirrel funerals, made cards when the neighborhood cats and dogs have died, brought food when our neighbor’s family members have died, hosted celebrations when the scans show no more evidence of cancer, and pray outside on the hospital lawn when neighbors fight for life in the ICU. We talk about death over dinner, hang homemade bird feeders on a tree by the neighborhood fire truck park to honor a loved one and etch the names of the departed on rocks for the memory garden in our backyard. We do our best to lean in as to communicate that no one should be alone in dying, death experiences and grief.

As a Legacy Navigator and End of Life Doula, my passion is to inspire you to consider how you want to be remembered. I have the great honor of walking alongside others as they turn their vision into something tangible that can be used as a guide for living with more intention and purpose and can be shared with loved ones and future generations. Our life story is a gift, should be written and shared. As a doula, I facilitate beautiful conversations about how to prepare for your own death, however far in the future it may be, and companion the dying and their loved ones during the vulnerable moments of death and grief.

Dearest friends and neighbors let us normalize death and hold space for one another when we experience it, not be afraid to name it and discuss it. Let us say the names of those we know who have died. We have the opportunity to honor one another’s lives through the connection we have in death; this life transition can be one of our greatest acts of love.