It was National Palliative Care Week recently, and Compassion Fatigue Australia was invited to be a part of this important event. Palliative Care Week, is aimed at raising awareness and understanding for palliative care in the Australian community. I was honoured to speak on the topic of Compassion Fatigue and Resilience at the Palliative Care Volunteers Conference.
I met some truly compassionate and amazing people that week. I believe that these Death Walkers who support those at the end of life, are offering a sacred service in our death phobic society.
Death is an inescapable part of life. Those before us, told stories, wrote poems and myths, affirming the mystery and inevitability of death. In our contemporary society however, we have lost touch with such stories, and conversations. We have distanced ourselves from the natural cycles of life. Alienated from this rhythm we unsurprisingly relegate death to bogeyman status. Because of this separation, we have become afraid of even going through one ending, one small death, whether that be a job, a relationship, going grey, or relinquishing a bad habit.
Cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien taught that we have two companions on the journey of life, one is Destiny, and the other Death. Each day, Death asks us to consider what needs to die? What illusions, outdated beliefs, expectations and behaviours need to die, to generate more life?
Jungian analyst, Pinkola-Estes, speaks of the Life/Death/Life force. When Life moves, Death moves sympathetically. When Death moves, Life moves in response. The most natural dance, yet few have considered listening to the music let alone learning the steps.
Death Walkers are those who have heard the music, took the time to learn the steps and consequently, attend to the dying with kindness and care. I was deeply humbled to be in their presence.