Before my first child was born, I keenly remember the moment when I desperately felt like giving up. Not managing my pain well, I wanted the unbearable process to stop. I literally wanted to quit, pack up and go home. However, it was a blessed event that was irreversible and forever life-changing. There was no stopping the process once it had started. The only way out was through.
Contractions in my lower back, coupled with my first-time-mom fear-of-the-unknown, made it nearly impossible to relax, do Lamaze breathing, and surrender into the experience of childbirth. After pushing for over two hours, the doctor finally asserted he was stepping in to use forceps to assist in the delivery. A few minutes later, our son was delivered and took his first breath.
Sitting by my father’s bed, I witnessed his laboring. Cycles of shallow breathing, weakened pulse, and peaceful pauses, were interrupted with what felt like excruciating labor pains. Wincing and moaning, he journeyed through an endless rhythm of contractions as he prepared to leave his body. At the moment we thought he was delivered into the peaceful embrace of death, another wave of un-surrendered life had him laboring for enough breath to get him through the next contraction.
Flashes of that moment – giving birth so long ago – grabbed my attention. I saw my father in an arduous dance within the liminal portal – somewhere between life and death (the “death canal,” if you will), managing his own labor and delivery.
I recognized myself compassionately sharing his fatigue and resistance. He had labored for hours. Fear of the unknown lingered in the room. I wanted the process to stop! In my discomfort and pain, I prayed for a quick and easy delivery. I observed myself in my own self-induced-suffering, not wanting him to suffer. But, like birth, I knew this was another one of those blessed events that was irreversible and forever life changing. He had to go through it alone. I could choose to experience his death in a limited state of fear, separation, resistance and pain; or I could shift my reality and awareness to open to the expansive, sacred knowing of this blessed moment.
I paused, took a deep breath, and tuned-in to the resonant field of love in the room. I called on my higher self and quickly discovered a cosmic harmony within the life cycle of birth and death. I witnessed this eloquent process and myself within it. The mystical doors of the Universe opened, as I experienced the tremendous grace and deep meaning in the Holy process. Instead of fear, pain and suffering that had gripped my attention, I found peace. I was handed a precious gift and consciously chose to claim and receive it. I stepped through my own limiting portal of embodied consciousness and became fully present to the mystery and miracle of life. Surrendering, I relaxed into the death process and became one with it.
Physical death was my father’s lone journey now. We all wanted to be there for him—with him—to support and comfort him in his transition. We desperately desired a peaceful resolution. However, this was his delivery and only he could labor through the process and move through the transcendent birth/death canal. This was work of the soul. He, alone, had to go through this narrow portal to deliver himself.
The Hospice nurse, Lisa, in her palliative wisdom, intuited the same thing as I left the bedside and went to sit in a recliner several feet away. She kindly invited us to step away and rest in another room for a while, allowing my dad to fully relax into this sacred dying process. We were all there with loving intentions to support him in the transition. Yet, our relationships as wife and daughter perhaps kept him in a place of resistance and emotional attachment or interference, keeping him in his earthly embodiment as husband and father. It was time for him to release himself and give birth to the celestial role of his greater essence.
Her gentle suggestion was perfect. The short time of physical separation, assisted in his ability to relax and surrender. Having us step away allowed a heavenly mid-wife, with divine forceps, to step in and assist. He let go, moved through the portal, and finally found peace. A few minutes later, my dad was delivered and took his last breath.