Life and Death in 24 Hours: What I Learned
Sa Ta Na Ma is a mantra I have recently learned that is used in Kirtan Kriya, a wonderful mediation practice. The mantra translates to birth, life, death, rebirth. To me, personally taking on this new meditation practice, I am awakening to the infinite possibility of the everyday miracles and the “what if’s” in life.
At 4:40pm on December 16th, a strong, healthy, exceptionally beautiful baby boy entered this world with a smooth push and loud cries. His Mother was a champion: steady, loving, joyful and fierce. His Papa was emotional, steady, giddy and proud. Love was all around as his Grandmother, Aunt and Uncle raced to meet him moments later. Family.
At 4:37pm on December 17th, a strong, passionate and devilishly handsome man took his last breath, left this earthly plane and transitioned onward. Literally surrounded by his loyal and loving wife, his 4 dedicated daughters, son in laws, grandchildren and great grandchildren (playing in a nearby room) his final exhale tiptoed from his lips. Love was all around. Family.
What is the connection, you might wonder, between these two people, a newborn baby boy and an 86 year old man? The common thread is that I happen to be present for both experiences, living fully in the moment and engaged. The gorgeous baby is the son of my precious doula client, who I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past 8 months. The man who passed was my grandfather, Liborio ‘Buddy’ Borsellino. He left our lives fighting to remain with us as long as he could, almost exactly 24 hours later from the baby boy’s grand entrance. In 24 hours I witnessed life and death with little sleep and a whole lot of love, hormones and respect for the life we have each been given.
Have you ever witnessed a birth? Do you know the amount of trust, faith, strength and love that goes into the preparations, the labor and the birth of a baby? For me as a doula, there is a bond that forms with a couple and especially with the Mom. I am invited into perhaps the most sacred moment of her life. The smells, the sounds she makes, the connection; it’s exhilarating! Birth doesn’t always go the way you hope it will go but that is the beauty of it all. No two births are alike. This is life. The exchange of hormones alone during a birth keep me kicking long after I get home to catch up on sleep. I feel such honor and gratitude that I am able to act as a protector of space and a part of their story as a new family. Calling birth a miracle sometimes feels inadequate. You almost can’t find the words to express how special the moment is that a baby, body and soul, comes to be earth side.
As I gazed into the captivating eyes of my client, I remained present. Serving her felt so important. We had begun the journey a few days prior and I wasn’t leaving her side now. But I did want to be with my grandfather. I knew that it would be soon that Nonno Buddy would leave us. I felt heartbroken and elated at the same time. Instead of breaking down, I whispered into the deepest reaches of my heart, “Nonno, I am coming to be with you. But if you need to leave before I join you, it will be ok.” And I felt peace. Because I knew I was in the exact place I was meant to be: with this couple about to become a family.
After the baby arrived, my little family drove to Pennsylvania to join my Grandfather and the rest of our big Italian family. I cried tears of joy at the babe’s first breath. And now, tears of sorrow serving my Nonno as he peacefully breathed his final one.
Have you ever witnessed a death? My Dad was at his father-in-law’s bedside for many hours offering reiki. I held my Nonno Buddy’s hand and could feel the energy between us. I felt so grateful to have made it but even more grateful to love him so hard for 37 years. He was quite the character. Full of life and passion. He was a risk taker, a lover, a fighter and he always made us laugh. Even in the end he smelled so good and looked so beautiful. It was hard to let him go. He left his life in the perfect way: engulfed by the love of his family. I held my cousin Maria, as we both rested our hands on his heart while he took his last breath. For me, Death felt profound. I could tell he didn’t want to leave us, but God had other plans for him. We are not here forever. I felt excited for him in a way, that he would get to know what this transition felt like. I am crossing my fingers that he is singing and dancing and eating the best pasta ever (or whatever brings him bliss) where ever he is now.
Three angels guided my family and took the greatest care of Nonno in his last days, hours, and minutes. Two of the caregivers had been working with my Grandfather for quite some time as he moved through Alzheimer’s, until his last moments. The other caregiver was part of the hospice care. As his body shut down and his breathing slowed, I witnessed, through tears, the greatest love from his caregivers. They were genuine and engaged with our family at all times, they quietly explained to us (in the way a passionate, knowledgeable teacher explains and teaches) what happens to the body as it moves through death, they gently encouraged our singing and praying around him and offered supportive hugs and stories. But I noticed that they each kept Buddy their focus. They washed him, administered morphine, cleaned out his mouth and treated him with the respect and honor he so greatly deserved. They allowed us space to help out and love him. His passing was the death that every person should have just as my client’s birth was a birth everyone deserves. One with love, honor and respect.
Watching the love pour from the caregivers, I recognized the healer in me. They served in a way that touched me and this action was like a mirror reflecting back to me the power of healing. I was called to connect to the healer in ME more powerfully. I AM making a difference in this life as a doula, as a teacher and as a healer.
What I know for sure is that life is precious from the the moment we take our first breath to our very last and how we use our time here. So, I ask you, Emaya Circle: how do we choose to use this time that we have been given?
After this whirlwind 24 hours and the full spectrum of love and emotions I experienced, I found if I hadn’t been fully engaged in every moment, I would not have felt fully alive. By using my breath to steady and navigate each given chance, by pouring my love and light into the moment, by letting my instincts and listening guide me, I seized this unique opportunity! I made heartfelt connections with every person I came in contact with: the new Mommy, Papa and baby, the nurses and midwives, my family, my Nonno and myself. I learned so much that led me to trust this path I am traveling. Being ALIVE is so lush and layered! I want to feel alive as much as I can and help guide people to that feeling. And when we do that we live more closely to the reason we are here because after all, we have one chance, we are not here forever!
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