Note: More to Life with Faith and Lois is designed to be heard, not read. We hope you’ll listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that won’t be on this page. Our transcripts are generated with speech recognition software and may contain errors. 

 

Lois                        

Welcome to the podcast, More to Life with Faith and Lois.

Faith                   

I’m Faith

Lois                          

And I’m Lois.

Faith                      

Our podcast explores life’s many transitions that inspire and daunt us.

Lois                       

Greetings to you, Faith.

Faith

Good morning. How was your week?

Lois                         

You know, it’s been a week where I have been looking for those moments of personal evolution. And as you suggested, when the bubbling happens, what do we do with them? And there are a number of new avenues that have been catching my attention and am I ready to seize on them? Don’t know yet, but I’m moving through on a few of those.

Faith                    

That’s how good it is. Fun.

Lois                        

Even in the midst of fear and uncertainty, we encourage you to look for those small victories. So today we’re going to continue with one of the more challenging transitions you may ever have to face. And maybe you’re facing it right now in this moment, or one that you’ve just gone through. And this transition actually tops the list for many people of a transition they do not want to face in any way, shape or form. Episode 62 Transition: The Impact of Facing Death.

Faith                     

Wow, this is. It can be really heavy for some people and yet it’s not talked enough about and we need to talk more about the reality that we do face death. Not only our own mortality but that of those that we love and are close to.

Lois                       

Yes, in getting ready for this, as we researched this topic of death, if you Google this and start looking at how people approach and discuss death, you’re going to find out the reality of it being one of the most major taboos in society. It used to be sex and death. And now we’re not afraid about talking about sex in any way, shape or form. Selfies. No matter what? You know it’s out there. We have jumped that bridge, whatever, good or bad, that’s just where we are, but when it comes to death, we do not want to discuss it. Especially in our American culture and I think it does change up when you look at where you’re from or what kind of family you were raised in – or whether you’ve experienced a lot of death in your life because of family members or friends that have passed that gives you a different tone and look at it. But for the most part we avoid this subject more than taxes.

Faith                     

We certainly do death and taxes, right? Yes. For everybody, it’s a different issue that causes them to kind of pull back and not want to look at it and not want to face it. It’s the unknown. You don’t have the control. It’s the kind of mystery, the great dark mystery, of what or if there is anything on the other side for some. And so we don’t like to approach things that we do not have control over. And death is one thing that we do not have control over. We can take good care of ourselves and we can eat well, we can exercise, we can do all the things, not take high risk and those are really good things to do. Care for yourself. Live a long and healthy life. And yet even when you do that, there’s still this moment in time that awaits all of us. And so how do we do that? How do we face that? How do we enter into it and how do we deal with how we were brought up, what were some of the messages we were given as children? What were some of the ways we were protected from it? I work a lot with people who as a child, they weren’t allowed to go to their grandmother’s funeral. You’re too young and their hearts are broken because they never had that closure. They never had that final goodbye. So we do different things that we think we’re doing in the interest of the person, but sometimes we’re doing harm because we don’t want to deal with it.

Lois                       

It comes back to what is our own relationships to definitely. So if our relationship to death involves all those things you’re talking about, the last thing we want to do is put that on our kids or on anybody around us. And so I think before we even dive in, I think Faith and I will share a little bit about our own relationship to death. And you know, as a reporter I became the queen of doing live stories. So if somebody died in your neighborhood, I was going to be there and cover that. And I realized that there was a place for me there that had to do with the people who are grieving a loss or who were fearful because their child went missing or they were afraid just because something had happened in their neighborhood and they didn’t want it to happen to them. So for me, I felt like I was coming in on a couple of different levels. One was to report what was actually going on, to witness the actual travesty that had happened, which includes seeing bodies, and then next to go to the living members and figure out how to get in conversation with them and to see where they were going to go next. So death for me, sadly, became a part of life now. It wasn’t an easy thing, you didn’t go home. Talk about that with the kids. You know that you just saw this horrific thing happen, especially when it had to do with people who homicidal situations or someone killing children. It was really, really difficult but it also gave me a different taste of – this is. And those were all unexpected by the way. The death I was dealing with is not something that you’re planning for. This was always something that took you by surprise. It also became part of the fabric of what happens in life and how do you move from there? So death became less, I was less afraid of death only because I was faced with it. Seeing that this is what happens when people get to this point or when this kind of accident happens or if there is certain evil.

Faith                   

We don’t like to see the reality of what happens in our world and in your position. You’re up close and personal to the very reality of what was happening in life. And we as a human race would rather candy coat it, gloss it over. And I think that when you’re looking on the other side, you were actually there. But when the other person is watching it on the TV, there is that barrier between you and the reality of it so we can become immune and numb to it. And the reality is death is a part of life. It is a part of it. And it comes in so many different forms. And your experience, you know, you were able to handle it and to deal with it and to step into it and you know, how did it change you?

Lois                       

Well, it also came from my faith background from my family, from the love that I had, but it changed me and that I could express and talk about those moments and accept that this is what happens. Even in horrible situations. I’ve covered a war in the nineties in Bosnia and I came back and there were people who were offering to give me PTSD counseling because it was so difficult there. But because I went through it and expressed my emotion, it helped me in the next level of life to say this is what happens when this gets out of control. It’s kind of like an – if then – and so I would piece all of that together and be very, very conscious about these actions do result in that. And this is all for just sudden death. In my view of death, that as we look at all of ourselves as aging and with our parents or with siblings, I have a very different view of that. Also more as a continuum of life, which some people don’t feel comfortable with right?

Faith                    

They don’t, they, they would rather avoid it and stop it and all the energy is put into not having it happen. And that’s a choice. And if you’re, you yourself are facing death, it’s your right to choose however you want to face that and one how you want to go into it. We want to, I don’t know, just sanitize it? And the reality is that it is very real. It is very painful. It does hurt. And I think some of that is we don’t want to feel the pain and the sting of death, but it’s a reality. Death hurts. There’s a sting in it. There’s a loss, there’s an emptiness, there’s a void that happens when someone that we love is no longer there. But there’s a beauty in being with that person in that transition. And I have attended the bedside of several of my family members and friends and I would not trade the sacredness of those moments and those experiences for anything in the world. Because there’s been a beautiful experience. As painful and as ugly as death is, there’s a beauty in it of seeing what happens to that person as they move through the transition.

Lois                      

And that is what we’re going to be talking about today even more in depth, the impact of facing death and we want to share with you something that many of you may not even want to say, but that there is something beautiful about planning for death, dying well. And that the art of dying is actually a possibility. And this is separate from sudden death. And yet we’re going to go through how even in sudden death, the process and how you can grieve is very much the same even though it happens when you’re not expecting it. Anita Hannig is a professor at Brandeis University and she wrote this brilliant essay, “Talking About Death in America, an Anthropologist’s View.” And one of the things she actually says is in the US, the end of life has become so medicalized, that death is often viewed as a failure rather than as an expected stage of life.

Faith                   

That is so good. And so sadly it is true – it is so true in other cultures in the world do not view it this way. It is a part of life. It’s that whole cycle that we are going to face this, and how do we do it well?

Lois                      

And so that’s what we hope to kind of unpack with you today. Exploring what facing death might look like, whether you’re facing yourself or a loved one is facing death or whether you’d like to see this as a part of your life. You know, one of the things you may have heard people say and you can like it or not is, live every day as if it’s your last.

Faith                   

And it is so good because it brings us back to how do you want to be known? How do you want to be known in this given day? And we don’t know. There is no, there is no guarantee in any day that we wake up into that we’re going to end that day. That’s right. And that we will be here. And so what are the things that you want to say and do? How do you want to treat people? So many people have had regrets at the end of life. I wished I would have. If we can look at each day as an opportunity of, today is a day that I can, today is a day that I can step into. I can do those things. I don’t need to have regrets.

Lois                        

When we say live in the moment, and you hear this a lot, this would fall right in with that, right? Live each day as if it’s your last. But one of the reasons I think we don’t do this is because maybe we’re worried that if we really live like that, then I just wouldn’t pay my rent. But that’s not the case. Or deep down, maybe we actually believe that death happens to other people. Oh yeah. And not to us. And so I don’t want to live like that because that might actually confirm that, you know, we’re sealing our fate, Faith, that we’re saying. If we say that, then we are doing that. Why are people so afraid of having that as their sentence?

Faith                    

Well, isn’t it an interesting that with death we move into superstition? It happens so quickly. We have these superstitious things that there’s going to be a boogie man, or we can speak it and it will happen, or that there’s some kind of dark power or something around death – because it is dark to some people because we’ve made it that way. But we need to move beyond superstition into the fact that it is a part of, it is a part of life. And we have the power and the authority and the ability to say, how am I going to embrace this in my life? How am I going to look at it? And if I have some feelings and fears and doubts and even superstitions, maybe I need to look at that and talk about it and work it out with somebody and find out what’s the source of that? Where did that come from? Cause I guarantee you it didn’t come from death itself. That’s right. It came from an influence. So face the influencers in your life so that you can step into more freedom in knowing, how am I going to face my own mortality or those around me that I love and care about.

Lois                      

So there was a book that was written 50 years ago called “On Death and Dying,” Elizabeth Kubler- Ross. Death is central to the meaning of life, really, is the premise that she would have as she looked at this book. And she lists five stages of dying and they are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We mention these because whether it’s a long process that someone is going through that involves death, or whether it’s sudden, you will go through these five stages. Maybe a little mixed up, maybe you’ll have two heavier than others, but you will go through this. And how people die matters. That was the point of her book. She actually interviewed people who were in the process of death or family members. No one had ever done that and listened to what they were experiencing. And that’s how she came up with these five stages, she didn’t just create these out of thin air. She was listening to what people were experiencing and how as they moved through this process, if they were cared for, or their medical treatment was done so that it was kinder to them, their experience of this process improved dramatically.

Faith                    

Yes, because it became supportive. There’s an undergirding that happens when you can really relate at these stages that the person is going through and walk it with them and be with them. It is supportive and helpful and that person can then move into acceptance. And these are also those stages that you’re going to deal with if you’re the person left behind. That’s right, because these are the stages of grief. And so you grieve in the same way of the denial and the anger and all these different emotions until you can finally embrace and accept the reality. So this was brilliant when she came up with this, and it’s been used in so many different ways in people’s lives.

Lois                      

And hospice really is almost a direct outcropping of this. I mean, there are plenty of other ways you can look at how hospice came into being, but they use many of these tenets. And the way people can be cared for is very different. And here’s the truth. So many of us are so afraid that we would prefer, as we heard earlier, that a medicalized conditions. So we don’t want to face that. We don’t want to see what you’ve experienced, Faith, by being with people toward the end of their lives. So it’s easier for us if they’re in a hospital. My experience with death especially recently came about, not because I had chosen this, but because my mother had chosen something. She was hospitalized two years ago for a medical condition for only a week, but in that week she realized she did not like being in a hospital overnight. She lived in our home with us. So when she came back and the symptoms recurred, the doctor said, look, we can do this and we can manage this and you’ll be fine. We’re going to take you back into the hospital. And my mother looked right at her and said, I’ve had a wonderful life. I have six fabulous children. I have more than a dozen grandchildren. I have people that care about me and I am going to take this medication at home. Lois is with me, she can help me. And uh, I’m like, well, no, no, this is, I don’t want to go back in there. And I, that’s not where I want my life to end. If it’s to end and if it’s not to end, then these medications will help at home. Well, six weeks later, my mother did pass, but she passed here in our home. I did not intend to become a flag bearer for hospice because that didn’t, but it turned out that way. And so this process of her being here, her being comfortable, her being surrounded by the people who loved her, every family member got to come and talk to her, was so special. She chose it. I don’t know that I would have, I don’t know at that point that I would have, but she did. And so as a result of me being her daughter and the one taking care of her, I was brought into it and it became such a beautiful way. It was hard. Don’t get me wrong, this was challenging. I miss her, but it was the choice she made that made it easier on the way she passed. And she felt that this was where she wanted to go.

Faith                 

And she accepted. She embraced it and she could see it and she knew what she wanted. That’s what we’re talking about here today is that it is not this thing out there that we need to be so terrified of as much as what do we need to do to step into it? Please hear this unless you’re really in it, it’s not even on your mind, but it will be one day. So what we’re sharing here today is to kind of plant some seeds that if you face it for yourself or for someone else to honor the process of what you’re going through or what the other person is going through. And let them begin to choose because they know, they know.

Lois                       

That’s right. You know, because there is no template for thinking about death. So I think that’s where we’re bringing up the question. How do you feel about it? I don’t want to talk about it. Okay. But some point, there will be a time when a conversation can come up. You know, if you have aging parents, you know how difficult the conversation is either for them to stop driving or how to deal with finances and eventually you’re going to end up with those conversations. They don’t have to come up today, but know that they’re going to come up. And how do you feel about that?

Faith                

And if you don’t want to talk about it, just ask the question, why not? Why not? Why don’t I want to talk about it? Because if you can answer that, you’re going to get some insight into yourself. And then the next question to ask behind that when you get the answer is to say, where did it come from? Where did that come from? What experiences I have had? What was I told? Because that’s an obstacle in your life and it’s in your way because you’re viewing something that you don’t fully understand through the grid of that experience.

Lois                        

And you know, so many of us have faith traditions that give us hope or that give us – there’s something on the other side that’s going to be really positive. But we still fear death. Yeah. So I think we’re talking about death even in one sense, almost removed from how we feel, even though you can’t totally remove it from your worldview. But the idea being, it’s not just about what happens, it’s how you go through the process and how you at make things palatable for all of us who are involved in it.

Faith                  

Because some of the religious beliefs give you so much hope and that’s a part of the faith. And so it’s a bypass. It’s a bypass of death itself. That’s right. And it’s like, whoa, wait, wait, wait, wait. No. Death happens. How do you deal with that? Now you can go onto the experience that your faith says you have, and that’s beautiful and that’s wonderful, but you still have this reality and now this is a part of your life, part of your reality. How are you going to face it? How are you going to see it? How are you going to process it?

Lois                       

And you brought this up earlier because I think the big piece for us is what if we, or a person we love disappears and doesn’t come back? And that’s the piece that we’re so sad about it. And you know, all of you who have lost loved ones, and it all depends on what stage of life, there’s no question about it. But for some reason with my mother who was in our house and cooking with me all the time, I feel like she’s here. I feel like she’s, you know, looking at me while I’m doing some cooking and it’s just, it’s odd. I remember once a long time ago from Byron Katie that it’s as if they’re in another room – as if you’re talking to them through another room. So that’s how I do it, by the way. I kind of pretend she’s at the piano and she’s not really, it’s something that keeps that life going in a different way and yet they’re not there. It’s true. And there is a huge period of grief that all of us need to go through and we don’t know again how long it will take one person and another person – they are two completely different arenas.

Faith                

And you’re defining so beautifully the beautiful memories that you cherish in your heart and they do not go away. And that’s why you can see and feel and imagine her being there at the piano and everything. Those are memories. Those are all the things that are cherished. And that’s what we hold dear. But you’re absolutely right. We still have to face the fact they’re not here.

Lois                     

And that’s where grief comes in and giving people space and making sure that you are present for those in your life who have lost loved ones and be kind. I can only say that coming from experience, that’s what we all want. And can you – at the end of this, become less afraid of death?

Faith                    

Yes. I think so much of it is the influencers in life around it and my influence around death and mortuaries and everything is so fond. I have such fond memories because two the people of the town mortician, were dear, dear friends of our family. I loved her. They became my surrogate grandparents because my grandparents lived, you know, 2000 miles away. And they loved me. They cherished me, they’ve read to me. They were so dear to my heart. And as a result of that, their environment became safe. So that’s my whole premise is the fact – our influencers make the difference. Mortuaries do not frighten me. I have no problem going to a mortuary. I have no problem going to funerals. I have no problem singing at a funeral or doing whatever had a funeral. They do not frighten me because I was loved well by these people and that was their world. So death wasn’t frightening to me in that respect. I went to every funeral as a preacher’s kid – of everybody who died in our church, you know, we went to the funeral. So I wasn’t protected from that. It was a part of life. My view and perspective of death is very different than someone who hasn’t had that experience, and that’s why I want to just encourage people, whatever is going on, find out what that is. If you’re afraid, yes, you can become less afraid if you know what those influencers are.

Lois                       

And hang around with people who have this view, if you can. We were visiting a church recently and the pastor actually came up and said, we love funerals. This is one of our favorite things, and I thought what an odd thing to bring up. But the whole idea of being, it’s a part of life. And if we think of death as a part of life versus as something so separate and tragic – and yes, it’s tragic, yes we will grieve, but that moment where we can have this beautiful time of celebrating the life of somebody, I just thought that was a beautiful way to think about it. I also read a blog recently where somebody wrote accepting death before it arrives gives birth to a second life in us, making us more capable and willing to take risks and live.

Faith                   

Isn’t that good?

Lois                        

I just, I thought, how can I get to that place? Ayusha Bhajanka wrote that and I thought that is something I want to carry with me, that to accept death before it arrives, it’s so much of life, right? Right. Things happen and accept it before it even arrives.

Faith                 

Oh, that’s good. I love that. Living life in every moment is our goal with More to Life with Faith and Lois and talking about death is powerful and liberating. And we hope this podcast gives you some fresh concepts about life and death.

Lois                       

So please share this podcast with someone you know who might benefit from a discussion of death and life. And join us next week for Transition, the Impact of Rejection and Alienation.

Faith                 

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Lois                       

More to Life with Faith and Lois is a podcast to support, encourage and uplift you.

Faith                  

As you transition through all sorts of change, we want you to know there is more to life.

Lois                       

We’ll be back next week.