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A Calling Decades in the Making

As a caregiver for an elderly relative, you may not have realized it until recently, but the role you're playing – and living – is significant. It's likely been decades in the making; part of your destiny, even without recognizing it all along. Now here you are caring for someone so dear to your heart that no words can adequately describe the bond that has grown between you both over time. It's more than taking care of basic needs or checking in with their doctor; it's about welcoming them into another era with dignity and grace. You're providing something invaluable for an often forgotten part of society — a type of love and comfort that only comes from sharing life together as one family unit despite age-based obstacles placed before them.

I'm often asked how I came to be called to this incredible, yet often difficult, work. Yes, it likely started with a strong empathic connection to family as they faced end-of-life issues. But the real calling came while I was working part-time as an obituary paginator at the Akron Beacon Journal newspaper. I wasn't writing the obits, I was placing them into layout electronically. Part of my job was ensuring that the photos aligned correctly with their corresponding obituary. I considered this holy work, as these were for many readers the final images they might see of the departed. Some photos were more poignant and emotionally stirring than others: There were older people who were "together again" with their mates, teenagers tragically lost in car accidents or shootings, and newborns who hadn't really gotten the chance to live at all. It was not an easy job, but all the while, I was hearing a voice that beckoned me to volunteer at hospice.

I wasn't sure why my spirit guides wanted me to do this work; I only knew that they wanted me to put up first. I was to quit my job and return to freelance work from home, and in return the Universe would provide. But I had to first invest with my faith that it would all work out. Not an easy sell to my husband...but it worked out and within the first month, I had several clients for my writing business. I guess the Universe wasn't kidding.

How did things go from there? Over time, I will be sharing a lot of great stories from that time. But suffice to say, life took me on several other paths. There were more children, more jobs, several moves and a million distractions. After I stopped being a hospice volunteer, the Universe kept sending people to me anyway. The message was clearly, "The world is now your hospice." I continued to help others wherever I was at the time, knowing that at some point I would be called to return to a higher calling again -- and this time, it would be in a much larger way.

Death leaves a deep and lasting impact, and seeking solace afterwards can be a long and tumultuous journey. As a death doula, I am thankful for the hospice that provided me with the opportunity to help others in their times of deepest need. It has been an honor to be able to serve those who cross my path through advocacy and support - providing comfort both to families at the time of death, as well as allowing them to feel prepared.

To any aspiring volunteers who may find themselves wondering about when or how this type of service might call out for you, I hope this post provides insight into one possible trajectory in which someone could become a death doula. Through our collective voice we can end the stigma around death while diminishing barriers that prevent us from recognizing our mortality. Stay tuned for more stories of my experiences serving as a death doula, as I stand firm in my perpetual commitment around establishing moments filled with love, connection and healing upon someone’s passing from this life to the next.

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