There’s something about road trips that make me reflect on my life. Maybe it’s the hours spent staring out the window as the passenger, having time to ponder all the things I am often too busy to ponder when at home. Maybe it’s that I are transported back in time, to days and nights spent on the road as a kid with my late Mamma, doing long trips up north. It could be a combination of many things, but this trip in particular has had a rather pensive, deep and very real end of life slant.
Dying to Know Day is fast approaching, and I have a couple of packets of postcards stashed away in the car to send out to my nearest and dearest, as I do every year. They always start “If I should die before I wake, I’d just like you to know…” But it’s not just Dying to Know Day that has got me thinking. On the way north, we made a special detour to visit my late Mum’s wife who is now herself dying of cancer. We had an all too brief moment to speak what needed to be said in order for some healing to take place, but it wasn’t enough. As I watched her tie up loose ends I could not help but wish we had the opportunity to speak the 10+ years of the “unspoken”. When I asked “Is there anything you need?” she replied “More time”. If only we did have more time! More time for heartfelt connections with the living and the dying. More time for planning our deaths. More time for healing old wounds. Just MORE TIME!
As we drove away, headed for Broome, I could not help but wonder over and over again, would she still be alive when we pass by in a few months on our way home. I am not so sure. So I continue to ponder what it will mean when my second Mum dies, and so many family stories and history along with her. In some ways I suspect it will be like letting go of another layer of my Mamma’s life…and some of my own childhood history.
Each day, we have watched the sun rise, and driven into many a golden sunset. This travelling bug was instilled in me by my beautiful gypsy Mamma, and I cannot help but think of her and wish she was here too. I also recall promises made to her best friend, to take her on a road trip such as this. A promise as yet unkept. And with every setting sun, I have found myself acknowledging that a day that we will never be able to get back again, has just drawn to a close. The question “Have we made the most of this day? gives way to the bigger question “Are we making the most of our finite lives?”.
My Dying to Know Day musings are usually a little brighter than this one. But the bare facts of life is that even for those of us who interact with death and dying on a regular basis, death can challenge us. It makes us question what we ourselves would want, what death will mean to us, and whether we will in fact be left wishing we “had more time”. So whilst I create amazing memories for my four year old on the road, we also allow death to travel with us, talking about loved ones passed, organ donation, and what our futures hold. In her innocence, she asks if we can “cuddle whilst we both die at the same time” and asks “Daddy, can we cut your eye out when you die?” (i.e. donate it) It wasn’t until I saw her sit by a dead kangaroo and make sand castles in the red dirt that I fully recognised just how much of an impact that these ‘deathie’ conversations have, and how comfortable she seems with death. It gives me great hope that when she grows up and she herself has to face death, that she draws on the months and years of casual chats we have had about The End.
And so as I continue to wonder who my Dying To Know Day post cards will reach, and what they will say, and whether I will see my Mamma’s wife again, I also feel compelled to ask you all, if the sun was setting on your lives, what would you need to say and to whom? And what are you waiting for?!
Blessings from the dry and dusty road,
Shamanic Midwife, Artist,
End of Life worker
(previously Kim Ryder)