As a part of the Ten Things You Need to Know About Death workshops, Frances Taylor-Marshall, Mentor, Advocate, Counselor, and Ten Things Workshop Facilitator, shares her personal stories.
When I was growing up, my Mother and I shared a love of phenomena, those extraordinary events in life, especially the end of life.
Mum had a knack of being with many people when they were dying and was often present at their death. Mum would come home and share her experiences with me without any hint of fear, fright or dread. Listening to her was fascinating to me and I would wish I could have been there to see the story for myself.
The years have passed, and as it so happens, I have come to see for myself. I have come to know death and dying as a unique and intimate process and it offers all those involved an opportunity for joy and self-actualization. I am left in no doubt that end of life experiences can either be as disastrous as a train wreck or, the desired effect; a deeply moving and meaningful experience for all involved, having been brought about through open, honest and loving conversations. The conversation is paramount.
My Wednesdays With Wendy Story
Wendy died in August 2015. We met two years prior. Wendy knew she was dying and we talked openly about her wishes and desires. Wendy desired to die at home. As it happened, Wendy died at the RNS hospital, but because of the conversation, which was had regularly, when Wendy arrived and was only able to nod, I was able to speak on her behalf and make her wishes known to staff. What I saw unfold was a best possible outcome for Wendy and everyone around her, myself included. Wendy was treated as she desired to be, staff knew how to manage her final days and were able to do their best work. I was able to sit with Wendy, acknowledging that she was in the best place and that she had my full attention. Wendy died peacefully.
When it comes to my desired end of life, I talk about, I create around it, I live it, I embrace it, not because I don’t have a choice, but because my life is richer for it. I decided over a decade ago that I would choose to live, age and die as gracefully as possible. This then means I need to attend to matters daily, as my ETD will remain unknown.
My mortality came a little more into focus in 2013 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I saw my cancer as an opportunity to evolve by embracing it, not fighting it, and I prefer not to be known as a ‘cancer survivor’ because it wasn’t about surviving something, it was about coming to know more about myself. I simply remember when being given the diagnosis, inside me I had a feeling of joy, that I had come to know personally, how it feels to be given such news and yet could rest into the knowing that I prepare for end of life daily, talk about my wishes to my loved ones and enjoy those processes by doing various creative projects. In the words of Leonardo Da Vinci: “While I thought that I was learning how to live, I was learning how to die”. Whenever I reflect and ponder on how I make sense of my life and inevitable death, I can see how I have come to find meaning, when I consider my life inextricably linked with preparing myself for when I die.
I am designed to live and designed to die, I choose to trust in this design and believe in the end my body will reveal how I lived.
What to learn more about death?
Attend one of our “Ten things you need to know about death” workshops.
While it may seem scary to think about your own mortality, becoming death literate and building your capacity for end-of-life planning can help create healthier community attitudes about death.
The 10 Things Workshops will teach you what you don’t know about death; allowing you to set aside your fears of having ‘the conversation’ and walk away knowing how to plan your end of life the way you want to.
At the Groundswell Project’s 10 Things Workshops you will walk away with ten facts about death that will impact you and your loved ones.