Saturday, August 25, 2018

DEAD LIVES MATTER



A big welcome to our first guest blogger Jerilynn Jacobson:

Jerilynn is the author of the Facebook blog, “Broken: A Widow’s Journey Through Chronic Illness and Death”.  She lost her husband, Eric, in December, 2015, to complications of End Stage Renal Disease. His bone, tissue and corneas were donated to 73 medical facilities in the USA and Malaysia. Three American people now see with Eric’s corneal grafts. Jerilynn currently resides in New England with her 12-year-old son. She is an impassioned advocate for organ and tissue donation awareness and hopes to promote a more realistic dialogue about bereavement and grief. 


Nothing casts a pall of silence over a room faster than mention of my late husband. 

I am not disingenuous enough to think that an anecdote about a dead husband would be a great icebreaker at a cocktail party. 

What I am talking about is mentioning him because I am reminded of something funny he said or because I see a book he'd love to read or because I hear a political debate he would love to polemicize about. 

I mention him the way other people mention their living spouses-almost breezily, and with a smile on my face-not the maudlin way that I am expected to mention him.

People respond this way because they are good people. 

Good people who are at a loss for words when faced with someone's unspeakable loss. Think about that very phrase-unspeakable loss. 

To me, that's an oxymoron, as I find the sound of silence about the dead to be deafening. Loss is meant to be spoken of; we teach people that doing so is distressing to the bereaved.

I think of my husband when I wake up, before I go to sleep, and every waking moment in between. 

I think of his wry sense of humor and incredibly quick wit. 

I think of the day he told me I could start a support group called "On and On and On and Onamous" because of my loquacious nature. 

I think about how we would tease each other. I would insist I was always right and he would just demur, muttering, "Okay, Jeri. Even a broken clock is right twice a day." 
I think about the time a woman in a buffet angrily accused me, much to my embarrassment, of taking the last of the chicken in a dish. 

My husband skulked over to her and in a conspiratorial stage whisper, informed her, "Actually, they are cheap here and they use pigeons. Want me to go grab you a new one off the roof?" She left shortly thereafter.  

I am smiling as I'm writing this, and I smile when I recall these incidents with others. 

Even though he is gone, I can still share so much of him with the world.

We talk about our dead loved ones because they mattered and they always will. 

We talk about them because we walk around the world with a heart that is both irreparably broken yet flowing over. 

We talk about them because their imprint on the world is indelible. 

We talk about them because their essence is entwined in every fiber of our being. 

We talk about them because they gave us the courage to be completely shattered and at the same time rebuilt into something that is almost shatterproof, absorbent of others' sorrows, and imbued with a new-found empathy.

We need to talk about them.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Breaking the Silence does not mean Breaking Down

art by Erin Hancox
The Death Dialogues Project is about breaking the silence.

Death changes people.

Either it tightens you up as you try to create an impermeable boundary so that Death can never find its way to you again or it loosens you to a place of acceptance. 

(and yes, there, too, lie places in between)

Tightened folks find that fear and anxiety become their bedfellows.

The hyper-vigilance your system practices to keep Death away wreaks havoc with many areas of your living-- physical, emotional and relationships.

Loosened folks hold hands with Death.

No, it doesn't mean those walking hand and hand with Death are more emotionally affected or constantly walking within a cloud of grief.

Typing as one dear relative is dying, after just receiving word of a sudden accidental death of one gone too soon, while one of my best friends acknowledges her daughter's (who has been on the other side for 10 years) 30th birthday, while also still holding my loves in my heart-- how can I tighten and lock those experiences (Death) out and pretend to be living a full life?

No, you don't have to open to Death.

You also do not have to worry that those who do open to Death are mired in the morose and are despondent.

Holding hands with Death and Grief simply acknowledges the full spectrum of Life.

The more we allow conversations about our experiences with Death, the better we are able help create a death-positive culture for our children.

Don't worry about those who walk this type of walk of opening to Death with their work in the world; they are living fully.

Love abounds. 

Happiness brings light.

Life, for me, is about living the full spectrum and understanding that the love and learning from "the beyond" is with us on our daily walk.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

submissions welcome

Do you have a story of dying, death or the aftermath that you would like to share here?

Fill out the contact form on the right with your concept and we will get back to you. 


Monday, August 6, 2018

"loved and were loved and now we lie . . ."


(adapted from current travel journal)

The surprise gift of a meaningful discovery in Scotland was made possible by the invention of the internet. (thank you Al Gore)

Having last travelled here 28 years ago, at that time, we journeyed looking for my partner’s family's homestead, which we successfully found. 

Little did I know that the MacRaes, that I searched for in every cemetery we happened upon, actually had their own geographic cluster of ancestral footprint and all those years ago, we had driven not far from it.

Googling our family name on my mom’s side showed me that a mere two hour drive from where we were calling home for 12 days could have me on ancestral ground.

We took that drive. 

Aware that we were getting close to the Eilean Donan castle in Dornie, which holds family history of the MacRae clan, we were absolutely unaware of anything else that might be pertinent in the area. 

Crossing a bridge in a bucolic setting— the kind that has called me since I was a wee one and akin to our views in New Zealand that reached deeply into my heart (the same view that moved dearly departed Max and my mom to exclaim,  “this is paradise”)— we pulled over on a lay-by. 

There was a misty light rain falling.

In the distance I could see a cemetery. 

Yes. 

Me loves cemeteries, precious.  (bear with--it was a bit magical to watch The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey, the other night while here up in this ancient Scottish grove above Loch Awe)

As I walked through the old wooden gate marked “Kevin’s Way” I thought of my McCray cousins— one a Kevin be. (forgive if I start writing in lilting Scottish brogue-ish manner)


 Me also loves ruins and there in the cemetery stood the ruins of a church. And above the cemetery, on a hill, was a monument honouring fallen MacRaes. 

A lad of his twenties was geared up and weed-whacking the tidy surrounds as I entered the gate. We chatted realising we were likely distant kin.

Walking up to the first monument and eying the writing on the wall—the name MacRae came jumping out and then followed on almost every tombstone within the ancient cemetery.


We’d happened upon our people.

We did have people. 

And apparently they weren’t just the sheep-stealing scoundrels that I’d seen referred to in some genealogy. 

I read up before we hit the road and was assured that McCray was, in fact, absolutely a derivative of MacRae and that through the years with literacy issues and reports being given to census the name had taken many other forms; our McCray actually being one of the more straightforward derivatives. 

There were some examples of changing MacCrae spelling even within this cemetery.

Seeing my very special uncle, Hugh’s name repeated in the cemetery as well as my young second cousin’s name, Duncan, prolifically sprinkled about touched my heart.

The magic of walking upon this find, the sun making an appearance and peering down on us, will go down as one of the most deeply soul-centred moments of synchronicity of my lifetime.


I felt a deep soul connection upon our arrival to Scotland as we drove around the lochs from Glascow to Lochawe. 

Cellular memory seemed to be saying: this. 

This is why you love the terrain you love.  

Antiquity you’ve always been drawn to. Lonely ancient cottages sprinkled on a country side, rolling hills or coastal front. Babbling brooks. Green and varied terrain. Woods. Nature, full stop. 

Space to breathe; to be.

As we visited the castle, Eilean Donan which is claimed to be the most photographed castle in Scotland and maybe the world, my partner was happily chirping out— this is her family; The MacRaes are her relatives. 
Full of awe and disbelief I looked up at life sized portraits and could see hints of relatives in their faces.

The Scottish lad standing outside, in full regalia, affirmed that he had MacRae in his grandmum’s side which made me swing around for a photo not just of him but with him. 
My only regret is that I didn’t spend more time in the cemetery; had I been on my own I surely would have and that, alone, would make me consider taking this journey, once again, to really sit with the spirit of this area. 

This leg of the journey hasn’t been one for words; but for feeling. And I must say, although this chilly wet summer weather and intense winters isn’t what I would want to live with year round, my heart dreads the leaving. 

So I needed to document this while I was still here. Breathing this air. Looking at the heather we picked from the hill where the MacRae monument to fallen soldiers of the family stood from above the burial grounds: Clachan Duich.
I thought I would take a wee break from Death and the project on this holiday-- but the overriding lesson has been that Death follows us everywhere. 

Having heartfelt visits with my partner's mum who teeters close to the line. Our best friends had to leave Scotland early; one of their dear parents died (RIP Mitch).  

And I then find myself standing amongst the ancestral dead in a wee mystical hollow in Scotland. 

IN FLANDERS FIELDS 
In Flanders fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses, row on row 
That mark our place; and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie 
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw 
The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
In Flanders fields.
Maj. John McCrae, 3 May 1915



Sunday, August 5, 2018

Welcome


Welcome to The Death Dialogues' blog page. 

Please visit our FaceBook page to learn more about The Death Dialogues project.

Life is full of Mystery and death encompasses much of that space.

What we know for sure is the more there are open conversations about Death and how it visits us and our loved ones, what we desire for ourselves surrounding death and dying and what our experiences have been-- the easier we will be able to walk through that final passageway at peace with the great Mystery that lovingly awaits us.

Here you will find updates about our The Death Dialogues project along with musings from the project and guest bloggers

Blessed be.