A Good Death

by Amber Magnolia Hill on October 6, 2013

Today I said goodbye to my first Hospice patient. She would have been 100 in December. They work hard to match up volunteers with patients, and they did a fantastic job with us. We bonded quickly and talked about everything, from how short Tom Cruise is to how worried her five-year-old self was that her father would have to leave the family to go fight in WWI. She talked about “the tremendous progress of the female” over the century of her life (she was especially sympathetic with all the hardship the pioneer women endured), and she often told me that I don’t need a man and, in fact, better keep ‘em away from my hard-earned assets!

She was also extremely encouraging of, well, just me. My life, my path, my business, my motherhood. She thought I was truly amazing, and melted my heart to tears a number of times with her loving praise. A lot of people love me and encourage me on, but there was something about her words and her expression and conviction that went right to my heart and made me believe that just maybe she was right. She really saw that I had different opportunities than she had, and was proud of me for working toward what I want and feel called to.

She was also feisty and funny and raw, even as she struggled with the challenges of very old age. The last time I saw her she looked at me and said, “My advice to you kid is- die young!”

I thanked her today for initiating me into this work and for her endless encouragement. In her courageous spirit, I will be beginning to speak publicly (something that I absolutely hate doing and have avoided for many years) around issues of death and dying in and around our community in the next few months, along with my friends in the Full Circle Living & Dying Collective.

I am so grateful for my youth, health, passion, and supportive community.

Onward ’till the end!

(Stay tuned! I’ll be hosting Nevada County’s first Death Cafe next month and it’ll be a rockin’ good time. If you’re interested but not local, check their website to see if this ever-expanding movement is headed to your town soon!)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brandi D. October 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Amber, I’m so happy that you have an opportunity to do this sort of work. It truly is a symbiotic sort of relationship. My beloved grandmother was a home care worker for many, many years. She was often the only person there when a client died, and she was very well suited to the business. She was also the person who cared for me after school each day, so when her work hours went beyond my school hours, I would join her at the home of her client. (Not at all sure this was allowed, but no one ever said anything to her about it.) The people she cared for were always so happy to have me there, and I loved looking at their old treasures and hearing their stories. The first time I witnessed a person’s death was at one of these visits, and it shaped my views on death and illness (and life, of course) very distinctly.

You’re doing good work. Good luck on your upcoming public speaking!

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Milla October 13, 2013 at 10:13 am

Amber I am just so impressed with you. It seems to me that this could be your soul work, your labor of love. I feel blessed to know that you’re out there, walking this path with the dying, comforting them with your presence. This is big, important, life-altering (pun intended) work. I’m so stoked to see where it’ll take you, so impressed with your strength. Love ya.

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