I decided to do this website and get involved in educating people about choices around how and when we die because I wanted to share the vast amount of information that I learned by being Alan’s advocate, wife and best friend. I helped him navigate two illnesses. He was diagnosed with both laryngeal cancer and Alzheimer’s only six weeks apart toward the end of 2011. He healed naturally from the cancer in four months (LINK to How Alan Healed From Cancer). I provided him with information and all the necessary resources so he could make an informed decision about how to die with dignity and peace. He did not want to live into the late stages of Alzheimer’s like his mother had done.
I experienced a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety about losing Alan, about my own aging process, about my own pending death. Yet one of the biggest gifts that I received from Alan was having the privilege of living with such a wonderful man. I learned from him and witnessed him as he dealt with his own mortality. I came face to face with dying.
Prior to Alan’s illnesses, I wasn’t aware of how much fear I was holding about my own decline and death. From witnessing my husband’s action, and his level of equanimity, I began to redefine the process of decline and death for myself. One of the biggest gifts of aging, if we allow it, is peeling away the layers of fear and ultimately the fear of death. Now I think about how I want to die. I talk with friends and family about it. It is reflected in my Health Directive. I began to practice and understand that the only way out of something fearful is to go through it.
I watched my husband have a conscious death on his terms. If we can open ourselves to the idea of consciously facing the certainty of death, whether it be in the face of disease or just because death is an eventual surety, we as individuals, and together as a society, can move into another way of being.
This website and information is to inform you. It is not shared to convince you about a certain way to die. It’s about helping you open yourself to your own possibilities and options. The idea of death usually lurks subconsciously as a cavernous unknown. Anything unknown or unexplored consumes a lot of life energy to keep it covered or contained. Facing your own death brings up your fears so they can be explored and released.
To use a common metaphor, imagine a huge elephant in your living room. It is right there and you must walk around it and accommodate it anytime you are in the room. Imagine a blanket covering the elephant. The blanket gets disturbed from time to time showing a tail or the leg or the trunk. Imagine the flurried rush, without thinking, to cover that revealed part. While this example may seem silly, we really do no less with the idea of death and all its attendant circumstances. This behavior not only takes energy, but it creates a level of anxiety that we don’t even realize we are carrying.
I carried this type of anxiety inside myself until I faced and accepted my husband’s choice to die by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking. My husband was a conscious man who was always learning and open to the exploration of new ideas. His demonstration, leading up to and through his dying experience, provided a platform inside me that helped me release tremendous fear, including the fear of my own death.
Once Alan made his decision, he lived in a state of deep, calm, accepting presence. He spoke these actual words to me: “I am comfortable and at ease with everything. I just feel great all the time even when I’m tired. I’d love to help people reduce their suffering. People notice how happy I look. I think that’s important because I’m really at the end of this life. I’m sure it goes on. I don’t know how to share this with other people. It’s up to you, Phyllis, to do that.”
As a teacher, business consultant, life coach, and public speaker, I’m using all my skills today to share these ideas with others.