I’m finishing up a course on deathwork and home funerals. This is the same course I took in 2021, but with a few new sections. And since I’m not sure I talked about this before, I wanted to share a little about my experience — and about how I think this work extends into the realm of the living.
And the realm of making magick in the world.
After all, it seems that knowing about sitting with death allows me to step more fully into the heart-pounding chaos of life.
It maybe, just maybe, helps me be present for what is happening.
Helps me support others.
Helps me hold my own heart.
Helps me remember the cycles of life, birth and death, and the wonders between.
The Appeal of Deathwork
Now, to be honest, I wanted to be a goth growing up. I never made that phase (grunge took me first), but the fascination with death has stuck around. Mostly out of fear. I have a very clear vision of my younger self in my bedroom in Michigan, crying because I realized my parents would die one day.
Crying because I realized I wasn’t very grateful for all they did for me.
(This is not any statement on how you engage with your parents. Or how you should. You do you.)
I guess I share that because there is something that remains from that time — a realization of how much time and energy I waste on caring about things that really don’t matter. What someone thinks of me. What someone says about me. What I think they think about me. Whether I did the right thing or the wrong thing.
By taking a class that brought me through grief, mine and others, through ancestral gifts and challenges, through the inequities of deathcare around the world, the legalities, the home funeral, and the ways I would/could/might/will/have served my community — I remember what is important.
To me, anyway.
Showing up for the Living and the Dead
I’m at that age where I’m beginning to see a lot of death. Some people are dying at ages that I’ve always considered ‘old,’ while others seem to be dying at ages that are too close to my own. Death is creeping around me and in me, and nothing will prepare me, but maybe looking it straight in the eye will help.
There is a practice of sitting vigil with the dying. Sitting with the body and its last breaths so that being is not alone, even after their heart has stopped beating. Sitting with them.
You don’t have to say a thing. Let the silence settle between the space of knowing and unknowing. Let it be clear that they are not alone. But they know. Their ancestors have probably already started to welcome them.
The voices of those who have already made the journey are probably louder than anything you might have to say. And leave any sense of ego at the door. Let it go. Sit. Wait. There is no rushing what is already on its way.
And in the times when I am not with the dying (though all of us are), I sit vigil with myself. I stop and wait in the long shadows of the night and the rising of the day. I allow the air to be quiet and still.
Sit by the bedside of longing and leaving.
Let it arrive and pass.
There is no rushing what is already on its way.