“What does unassisted death have to do with unassisted birth?” you may be asking. Well, if we begin our lives (or bring our babies into the world) with unassisted birth, doesn’t it follow that we would incorporate other natural, non-medical, non-institutional choices in our lives? Attachment parenting, unassisted miscarriage, home-schooling, home-based businesses, homesteading, and even "unassisted death" are some of the "alternative" lifestyles I'm talking about.
I would like to propose a definition of unassisted death as the unaided termination of life; a natural progression of dying; expiration in which extraordinary means were not used to prolong life. I do not support suicide, homicide and euthanasia - acts which cause an "untimely" death.
Like birth, death is somewhat of a mystery. We are familiar with the biology, or science of birth and death, but the spiritual realm of the after-life is something we can only speculate about. When left to nature, the exact time of birth and death are unknown miracles and mysteries. We should not tamper with the making and taking of life. We must let nature / God predominate over these functions. (I say functions because birth and death are a function of the human body/soul which are controlled or willed by God. With the help of science and technology, Man does his best to manipulate the entrance into the world and exit from the world).
During birth, the fear of death of the mother or newborn gives people reason to turn to the medical establishment to serve, in part, as their saviors. During death, we fear a new birth because we do not know what will happen. Again, there is something safe and secure in focusing on the medical (and tangible) aspects of death and dying. I believe that most people would rather stay alive at all costs than to risk the unknown and let go of what they know. As with birth, people are afraid of pain and suffering, so they turn to medication to inebriate their condition.
Rather than face life and death with full alertness, some people turn to chemicals or things outside themselves. People who thrive on drama and need attention may prefer others to manage their death rather than accept the role as lead actor in their final scene. And that's fine. Most of us will need to come to terms with our own death. Emotionally, we can choose to confront death with fear or courage, denial or acceptance.
Those who face a debilitating or terminal illness will have to decide how much medical treatment or intervention they are willing to receive. There are no easy, right or wrong answers. My hope is to encourage people in these situations to (1) consider their options (2) pray, meditate, research the illness (3) do not make hasty decisions (4) do not become overwhelmed by family and friends opinions of what to do (5) be flexible and willing to change course (6) try to embrace death with more courage and less fear. You are not alone.
Death: the prohibited topic of the century
Just as sex was not frequently discussed in public 100 years ago, death is a topic that makes people uncomfortable. Most of us go through our lives avoiding thoughts or discussions of our own deaths. We don’t seem to know what to say or how to act when someone dies and we generally avoid the subject. Widows and widowers wonder if their friends have forgotten about their loved ones as an eerie silence permeates the air.
The experience of death continues to be denied and ignored by an affluent society that prefers to bask in creature comforts. Not only is death eliminated from conversation, it is removed from eyesight and is not part of family life. After someone has died in the hospital or other location, the body is usually transported to a morgue or funeral home where the body is made to look and smell alive. (After my mother-in-law died in 1993, my husband told me that at the viewing, the coiffured appearance of his deceased mother was uncharacteristic and unusual for her).
Primitive cultures prepared their families bodies for death and created their own rituals. When death is experienced as an intimate part of life and kept at a close proximity, people are able to accept the death and grieve in more healthy ways. The fear of death is decreased and the isolating and alienating feelings after death are not as strong as in modern Western society. By allowing death (and birth) to be managed by those outside ourselves, we often give up our special individual needs.
I believe that there is a relationship between taking chemicals or drugs to the fear of our own mortality. Those who turn to legal or illegal drugs to control or escape from life are not comfortable with who they are and where they are going in life and beyond.
Something missing from a medical death
The greatest tragedy about dying in the hospital is that a multi-dimensional experience is reduced to a purely medical event. The emotional, spiritual and personal elements are downplayed and people find themselves concealing and repressing their true feelings. This is not healthy.
Unassisted death can bring dignity and a more meaningful end to life and can provide a peaceful transition to the next realm.
Some questions to ponder:
1.How and when do you think you will die?
2.What are your expectations about death?
3.What do you visualize for your death? Where is your state of mind regarding death right now: accepting of death, fearful, welcoming?
4.Are you ready for death, mentally and spiritually?
5.Are you living your life in a meaningful way?
6.If you died tomorrow, would you be satisfied with your life (career, relationships, accomplishments?) or do you have "unfinished business?"
7.Have you made financial arrangements? Is your will updated? Have you considered prepaying funeral expenses or set aside some money for your family to pay those expenses?
*Reach out to someone who has lost a loved one recently with kind words or actions.
*Treat everyone you meet today as if they were going to die at midnight.
*Begin taking care of that "unfinished business."
*Live today as if it were your last day on Earth.