Wednesday, April 30, 2014


There is so much we do not know- particularly about the journey of the soul during those big transitions of birth and death.

For the last year, visits to my father have been heart-breaking. Confined now to a wheelchair with advanced Alzheimer's he responded to my presence by sobbing and begging me to "Help!" over and over. He was clearly suffering, and I took his call for help to be an expression of his desire to leave this life. And who could blame him

Recently my father had an infection and I was called upon to determine what level of medical care should be offered. I asked that he be given palliative care- care that would keep him comfortable but not keep him alive if his body was dying. The next week he rallied, seeming to shake off the immediate infection, but remained in palliative care. He was weaned off all medications.

And then something new happened: he became very calm. Last week when my eldest son and I went to see him he was not agitated or crying at all. He also did not seem very present. When I spoke to him there was the briefest flicker in his eyes, and then he receded back to whatever was happening for him elsewhere. He'd just woken up from a nap and was lying in bed, deeply relaxed, . . .fading. . . shrinking. . . sinking into the bed, and (I imagined) physically returning to the earth. There was a new and different kind of ache in my chest to see him leaving, to not be able to connect with him, but I could not help but be relieved and grateful that he did not seem to be suffering as he had for so long.

Trained in shamanic medicine I've been honoured to be companion in the dying process for some, have left my body and journeyed with an individual who was on the edge of death. I know that there is often a process of going out and coming back, a time of wandering in the inbetween.

It reminds me of birthing- probably in part because today is my youngest son's birthday. Thirty-one years ago, he was born at home as planned, all twelve pounds and ten ounces of him. I was guided by a midwife who allowed that process to unfold and supported me in being present with my body wisdom to ensure safe delivery of this small (okay, not so small) new life.

Each person's needs, abilities, resources and preferences are unique. But it occurs to me, watching my father and remembering my son's birth, that the processes of birthing and dying may be more similar than they appear, may involve things on a soul level that we cannot perceive.

Acknowledging there is much we cannot know, it would seem wise to err on the side of patience and loving care, to allow the process to unfold with maximum support and minimum interference. I am filled with appreciation for the men and women who are caring for my father daily at the long term care facility where he lives. They do so with good humour and great tenderness. They are truly the midwives to his dying, and I am deeply grateful.

Oriah House (c) 2014


  1. Hi Oriah, this is a beautiful and interesting perspective, I feel, on birthing and dying coming from your training experience and observation of your father. thank you for relaying it to us. I hope your father will not be suffering anymore.
    All the best for you today and every day. Jean

  2. Hell Oriah, I felt very moved that you shared with us such intimate snap-shots of your father's process towards death, as well as your son's birth, the impact on you and your reflections on this mysterious journey we have/will all embark on.

    As well as feeling so moved and open by your share I am struck by the generosity of it, I want to say that I receive this gift with gratitude, thank you.

    Heart blessings to you and your family.

  3. Dear Oriah,
    I so relate to this story of your father and his transitional process. I am witnessing this with my mother. Sometimes she knows who she is and where she is, and other times she seems to be in another world.

    I see her slowly and gently slipping away and all I can do is watch and be present to her as often as I can get down to La. My last visit was very painful because I saw clearly she was going to leave. I am going down on Monday to spend another 10 days with her and I am tossed between joy knowing I will get to spend more time with her and sorrow knowing she is in the process.

    My heart goes out to you. It is not easy to see a parent die.

    1. Brenda, sounds like we are walking parallel paths- prayers for you and your mother. It is such a bittersweet time.

  4. Dear Oriah, thank you for this post! Yes, Midwiving at the gateway of Death, so appropriate! I will remember that, as a care-taker for my old father, and i did for my Mother many years ago.
    So good to know that there are now many that are able to hold the space for the process of dying; professionals and healers, family and freinds.
    Lots of love for you and Family in this all! <3

    1. Thank you- and yes, I think as a culture we are learning more about being with death, companioning each other on that final human journey.

  5. Oriah, may you be borne by compassion,
    may you live these days in peace.

    1. Thank you Nora- feeling very held compassion (and mostly at peace :-)

  6. Beautiful Oriah! And I so agree. Just want to say many years ago when I was going through a really difficult 'dark night of the soul' I came across your book 'The Invitation.' It helped me in many ways. I passed it on to my Daughter and she still has it. You are a very wise woman. Thank you for sharing that wisdom. Blessings, Elsie