local journalism: "midwives to the dying"


Took the boys to Starbucks today (their choice...not that I'm complaining). Picked up a copy of the local City Paper, which I love. Wish they had their content online, but they don't. (Updated 1/3; thanks, Michael!) The cover story was entitled "Midwives to the Dying," and was based on interviews with a doctor, a nurse who runs a small hospice, and a pastor.

The whole story was wonderful, but the interview with the nurse, Kathie Quinlan, was really moving. It got me to think a little differently about the process of dying, and the inevitable loss of the people I love. (Which has been on my mind lately, even more so after reading about Gary Turner losing his dad.

We need to educate about death, just as we've done so beautifully with birth education. Dying is not something to be shunned. In our society, we resist dying. We deny it. We defy it. The greater percentage of the health care dollar is spent on futile end-of-life measures that desecrate the process of dying, not allowing it to be lived in a comfortable, dignified, reverent manner. We know so well that dying can be lived fully and beautifully. Yes, painfully. I would never attempt to romanticize death or to diminish the anguish. But within that anguish there is the potential for transformation for the whole family.

and further...

All along that way, we are givin them every medication we can for their symptoms, always assuring them they won't be alone. In that inward journey toward the work of spirit, the work of soul, going deeper and deeper into oyourself, your center, your spirit. Getting ready to let go of that is an incredible effort. You don't have the energy to keep relating to even those dearest around you.   Oftentimes, the waiting seems interminable. Clincally we may see no reson why the person continues on, and yet they do. The permission to die is so important. And we will suggest at teh eend, ever so gently, "Have you told your mother, hyave you told your child, that it's all reight to go when she is ready?" The person will say, "How could I ever say that?"   I tell them you can't rehearse this. You just sit beside the bed and speak from your heart. She may be waiting for that. [...] Sometimes families tell us they don't know what to say to the dying. I tell them to go in and shut the door and reminisce, tell family stories. Of course they can hear. The hearing is the last of the senses to depart.


This article is important and its advice so true. I recently sat days and nights with a dying relative - much loved. Although she was silent and under morphine, I realised she still heard me speaking; no, more than that, she still wished very much to hear me. My great reward was a real smile which followed the telling of a memory of her mother in the old kitchen making bread, always with flour on her nose.
Never be tentative, impatient, or embarrassed to speak, for this is the time for human warmth.

The city paper is actually online. They don't seem to promote it as much as they should.

Ah, if you are so lucky to recite your memories to a dying loved one. My late husband fell into a coma. I had rehearsed what I would say but did not get the chance. My dad passed away this year. I can only say that the last thing these loved ones wanted to hear was any talk about death. The best advice in my experience is to live each day as if it were your last and say those sweet things to the people you love daily.

For me and many of my friends, the departure of a parent or husband has been a messy affair...like a botched stage play--off cue and off kilter. The last bedside moment is not the kabuki play we think it is..if you even get the moment.

I wish we had the Asian festivals we hear about--sailing paper boats down the river, burning incense to ancestors, devoting a day to spiritual meditation about the illusion and finality of it all, with a shaman presiding.

In modern US life, it's either work or entertainment. No space for the ceremony/celebration of what it is to be human.

Extemporaneously yours,

My friend is interested in learning more about death midwives, and i have tried to find information about them ( it`s how i found this article ) can anyone tell me how to contact them ?


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