Isn’t That What Hospice Is For?

I spoke to a hospital chaplain the other day to speak to her about my end of life doula services. Her initial response to me was, “that’s what we have hospice for.”

If you haven’t already, pause here to read which gives relevant facts related to the systematic underutilization of hospice services and late referrals.

First of all, to be referred to hospice you must have a doctor state ‘if nature takes its course, death is likely to occur in six months or less.’ – There is no referral needed to employ an end of life doula. There is no criteria of ‘six months or less’. You call an end of life doula (EOLD) yourself, whenever you want. For instance, you could call for an EOLD consult at the same time you draft a will with a lawyer, to outline your choices for your end of life, whenever that might be. Or you can have your EOLD there at your doctor’s office visit as an extra set of ears and support while you take in the overwhelming information.

Secondly, hospice is not designed for long periods of interaction. A typical social work or chaplain visit is one hour in length, not usually more than once a week. The hospice gets paid a specific amount per day to take care of a patient, so they are careful stewards of their resources. – With an EOLD you are the steward of the resources. You decide what services you want your resources to go towards. You both decide how long visits will last, how many times a week/month/year and what you want to accomplish during that time.

Third, you do not have a direct line of communication to your hospice staff, you must go through the hospice service. – You have your EOLD’s direct number and you’ve worked out between you the terms of service hours and accessibility.

Fourth, If an individual leaves that hospice agency you get a new staff assignment. – Your EOLD is your staff, unless you fire her/him or there is an emergency, she/he is not going anywhere. On the rare occasions that a back up doula is utilized you hopefully would’ve met them ahead of time, or at least been made aware of them.

Fifth, the scope of practice for hospice employees defines their role very specifically in assisting with certain aspects of dying. – The EOLD’s scope of practice includes what she is skilled at within the parameters of ‘non-medical support’. So that might mean taking your dog to the groomer. It might mean a marathon scrapbooking session. It might mean doing rituals to provide emotional and spiritual comfort. Or using crystals and essential oils to promote a feeling of wellbeing. Or doing energy healing for the relief of physical/spiritual/emotional pain and discomfort.

EOLDs endeavor to work in conjunction with hospice teams, palliative care teams, doctors, churches, hospital staff and family units. There is no such thing as ‘too much support’.


Why I Am Not Called A Death Doula

‘Death Doula’, while I love alliteration, has the feel of ‘Angel of Death’…and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

While the end of life doula profession is being modeled after birth doulas, that is where the similarity ends. A birth doula begins her work at the birth. There would be an introductory meeting, but her work really begins at the birth and ends after postpartum follow up. So the title ‘birth doula’ is fitting.

Ideally, for me as an end of life doula (EOLD) my work begins well before death, hopefully even years, by assisting individuals in identifying the key components of what they feel would be a ‘good death’ for them, so that they can make healthcare and lifestyle decisions accordingly along the way.

This foundation plays an important role in the decisions regarding treatment when a life-limiting diagnosis or prognosis presents. When identified, all decisions regarding treatment can be weighed as either something that supports these or does not support these.

For instance, if a key component for someone is being able to spend quality time doing ‘last activities’ with family then continuing to pursue aggressive treatment past a certain point, when there is only a small chance of survival would not likely allow for the stamina needed to participate in a lot of ‘last activities’.

However, if a key component for someone is to “go down swinging”, then pursuing aggressive treatment until the last moment might be the right course of action for them.

But you can’t know these things if you aren’t examining the topic ahead of time.

No one wants to die. No one wants to admit someone they love is going to die. But this is a chapter in everyone’s life and our current model often has the author giving up their rights to pen their own chapter. We only get one chance to do this. There are no do overs and no rewind buttons.

I recall one individual who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer ending up with a death he never dreamed for himself. I was not the doula, but merely a bystander in this situation and never felt so helpless. After the first chemotherapy treatment he began to decline very rapidly. More so with each treatment he sustained. He was leaving behind two young adult daughters that needed quality time with him, but his energy was being depleted by the effects of the chemo.

His end of life care was being driven by his significant other because he had not had end of life conversations earlier, had not written down his wishes, had not identified his key components of a good death and he was less and less able to make his wishes clear as his brain began to swell.

Having end of life discussions is not morbid; is not tempting fate; is not bad juju; is not inviting death; is not jinxing anything. It is a way to have control over a time in your life where you may not feel in control.

As an end of life doula my job is not just about the moments of imminent death, it is about maximizing quality of life until transition. It is about giving control back to someone who may have handed it over to someone else, be they the medical profession or their family. It is about protecting their interests and preserving what is valuable to them.

It is about facilitating early conversations, encouraging someone to apply their lifelong decision making process to end of life situations, documenting informed choices, encouraging questions, planning last activities, assisting in legacy projects, providing comfort, providing an objective listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a safe space to fall apart and facilitating movement from a place of scared to that of sacred.

It is about reminding people of their power when they feel most powerless.

This is about more than ‘death’. It is about more than the process of dying. It is about living until and through the transition. It is about exploring beliefs about whether or not ‘life’ goes on after death. It is about preparing rituals that ease spiritual discomfort of the dying and the anticipatory grief of their loved ones.

This is end of life work, not ‘death’ work. It is so so so much more than just death.

It is a most sacred part of life.

The Elephant In The Room Is Dying

In my house, talking about death and dying has been a topic we cover on average once a week; perhaps a little more in the year after my husband’s stroke. I do realize that we are not the norm. 

Most people when they consider the concept of end of life discover they are more afraid of dying than of being dead. 

Dying is the elephant in the room. 

Religions refer to ‘life after death’ and ‘eternal life’, which is not a bad perspective. However, focusing on the spiritual eternal life exclusively, often provides a wall of mirrors enabling one to ignore the necessary physical death that segues to that spiritual eternal life. It is a disservice to talk of one without talking of the other.

Medical professionals often present treatment options in a ‘this or that’ formula. “Do this or die”, the implication being that “if I do this I will not die”. Death is presented as an opponent to be overcome in battle at any cost. 

But there comes a point in everyone’s life, where death wins the battle. 

Would it not be better to hold the truth every day that death will come? Would it not be better to live every day with the truth that one day we will have to surrender to death? And that holding that truth might give deeper meaning and richer context to the life we live, up until we die? And wouldn’t that start best with conversations long before we are given a terminal prognosis? 

Seeking out someone like an end of life doula, to facilitate conversations about end of life choices, long before a diagnosis or prognosis, can allow exploration of alternative treatment options, either along side or in place of traditional ones. It can alleviate making literal life an death decisions in the midst of a life or death crisis. 

An end of life doula is an invaluable resource.

A daughter said, “we’ve never been here before.” Individually, we have limited experiences with death and even fewer experiences with dying. An end of life doula has vast experience with many types of dying and death. Drawing on that experience can be priceless to you as you navigate these waters. 

A son recently said to me, “If someone had told us there was only a 30% chance of survival for my 80 year old mother, we would’ve made different choices. Why didn’t anyone tell us six months ago that this was the beginning of the end? We were robbed of the opportunity for six months of quality time.”

They had four days on hospice. 

The other day a hospital chaplain dismissed the need for my ‘services’ at their facility because they have an affiliation with a hospice. (Please refer to this page for further information. We seek to complement, not compete. )

In the July 6, 2019 update of the article, The 4 Common Myths About Hospice Care, Angela Morrow, RN writes: 

In 2015, the median length of service for hospice patients was 23 days. This means that of the estimated 1.6 to 1.7 million patients who received hospice services that year, half received hospice care for less than 23 days, and the other half received it for longer than that. In fact, the average number of days a patient received hospice care in 2015 was 69.5 days. 

The Dying process takes time. Because of the highly skilled care that hospice workers can provide to their patients, hospice proves most effective when the caregiving team has time to deliver it. Patients and their loved ones need support, information and medical care. Social workers and chaplains need time to work with patients and their families to bring them to a place of acceptance. Nurses and doctors ned time to optimally manage the patient’s symptoms. 

So, let’s look at exactly what that means in quality time. 

First of all, the criteria for hospice admission is a prognosis of six months or less to live. So why is it that the average stay is just 69.5 days? 

Second, in and of itself 69.5 days is not a long time. It is just over two months. Of the long journey many take with a life limiting diagnosis -some spanning years, others months- two months is nothing.

Many do not go into hospice as early as they could because they see it as ‘giving up’. Thus, many – if they’ve even heard of hospice – don’t choose it until they understand that death is imminent. By this time the symptoms of pain and discomfort have taken their toll. There is no opportunity for quality time with loved ones while you are in a state of suffering. 

In their struggle, they haven’t been fighting the disease, they’ve been suffering the disease. By the time the hospice or palliative care teams come on board to manage symptoms and relieve that suffering, the worn out body relaxes and sleeps for the first time in a very long time. 

The time and energy that could’ve been spent taking trips, having last conversations, writing memoirs, saying good byes, enjoying gatherings and celebrating a life well lived has instead been squandered on fighting the side effects of a treatment that did not deliver on the implied promise when the doctor said “do this or die”. 

Because he never said ‘you could do this and die anyway’. 

Now you are (on average) 69.5 days – 9 1/2 weeks – from death once you’ve entered hospice. But you don’t really have 9 1/2 quality weeks. It will take at least one week for the medications protocol to catch up to your pain and symptoms. Perhaps two. 

So, now you’re down to 7 1/2 weeks. People do not often (thought it does happen) stay alert and communicative up until the moment of death. Dying takes time. The Hospice Patient’s Alliance states: 

There are two phases which arise prior to the actual time of death: the “pre-active phase of dying,” and the “active phase of dying.” On average, the pre-active phase of dying may last approximately two weeks, while on average, the active phase of dying lasts about three days.

So, now you are down to 5 weeks of possible quality time and again you must allow for decline over that time. While at the beginning of those five weeks you might be alert 6 hours a day, towards the end of those five weeks you might only have 1 hour a day that you feel up to engaging. So, now we are down to hours…

I think you get the point. This is not the recipe for an ideal peaceful transition. 

But you might say, “no death is ideal”. Well, let me ask you this: If you accept that your life on Earth has an end time, and that end time is called death, how would you prefer to die? 

Do you envision yourself physically drained, exhausted and unable to communicate the thoughts and feelings of your heart? Do you see yourself connected to tubes and machines? Do you see hospital staff, sterile environment and procedures? 

Of those who can imagine their own death, most do not envision that kind of parting. Most envision being surrounded by friends and family in their own home or in some exotic locale. They see flowers and family pets and grandchildren playing out the window. Or they envision dying quietly in their sleep in their own bed. 

I once asked someone what kind of death he envisioned. He said, “fast and painless…but I don’t envision it.” I asked then how he decided what kind of death he wanted, “from seeing the deaths of others.”

There is a cost to every treatment. Sometimes that cost is money. Sometimes it is your hair. Sometimes it is quality time. Sometimes it is just time. 

Just as everyone has a birth story that was written by their mother’s choices regarding pain medications, attendants and location as well as natural phenomena, so too are our death stories written.

There are a million choices between receiving a life limiting diagnosis and the moment of death; each choice is a page in your death story. 

You can’t truly write your own narrative, unless/until you embrace the fact that this Earth adventure culminates in death, Unless/until you are aware of all the options available to you. Unless/until you start having conversations about what resonates with you and what doesn’t. 

Conversing and documenting your death vision years ahead of time, just like a will, relieves you of making those decisions under duress in a time of crisis. 

But if you just can’t imagine doing that, then at least consider utilizing resources like end of life doulas when you have been diagnosed with a life limiting illness, and palliative care and hospice when given a terminal prognosis. 

Special note to doctors:

Please, be honest about probable survival rates and the quality of life costs related to the treatments you are suggesting. Please do not push your own agenda regarding aggressive treatments. 

Giving your patients and their families the full picture, is the most honorable thing you can do to enable them to make truly informed decisions. Do not rob them of four months of quality time for six months of extended suffering. 

More importantly, do not think that “hope” means four months of suffering aggressive treatment before death, instead of eight months of quality time while nature takes it’s course. 

Explore all possibilities when you have to deliver a life limiting diagnosis. Explain the pros and cons to “doing everything”, “doing something” and “doing nothing”. Explain all the costs -mentally, emotionally, physically as well as financially. Explain that hope may be for survival in the beginning, but for peace in the end – and that is still hope. Explore all possibilities means having a plan b and a set point at which plan b might be enacted. 

Patients are not problems to be solved. They are not riddles you must figure out for your satisfaction. People are social beings who thrive best in the worst of situations with open communication and the support of others. If they are kept in the dark how will they get the support they actually need? Your patients depend on you for the truth to make the best choices for themselves. This is their only death. You owe it to them to give them all the information as soon as you have it. Remember that while they are not your only patient, you might be their only physician. 

You are part of their death story (even when they survive and go on to die many years later), make sure you are an enhancement to it. 

There are no losers when someone is referred to hospice early. There are no losers when palliative care is consulted right from the beginning. There are no losers when a death plan isn’t needed for several years. 

Conversely, no one wins when we prolong death by sacrificing quality of life. 

If this resonates with you and you have been diagnosed with al life limiting illness, print this out and take it to your doctor as an indication that you want to have an honest conversation about your care.

It’s Not My Death

1990 was the year of magical changes in my life. As is usually the case though, I couldn’t know it at the time.

I had been married a little over one year and my beloved grandmother had just died. I was 25 years old and working in a job that had nothing to do with my Life’s Purpose and the death of my Gramma left me depleted, devastated and depressed.

Just ripe for the Universe’s picking, I suppose.

I don’t even remember how I stumbled upon the new job as a Social Worker in a Valparaiso, IN extended care facility. I was to be responsible for the programming on the dementia unit, as well as the psychosocial care of the patients on the new dedicated hospice unit. My supervisor was ‘other worldly’ and introduced me to alternative non-medical modalities as a way to assist our hospice patients with pain control.

It was there that my end of life doula education/experience began, though -as I said- I didn’t know it at the time.

My work experiences served as fuel for some deep meaningful conversations between my husband and I about death and dying. As my career developed so too did our conversations around end of life issues. The topic of death was commonplace in our home and we clearly stated and restated the things we would want and not want regarding treatments and interventions.

As our daughter grew we included her in those discussions, too. She was four when I began to take her with me to visit hospice patients. She had a certain magic with patients who had long retreated behind dementia made walls. She was compelled to hold the hands of those who mere hours later would cross the Threshold.

We all lived our lives with the understanding that death was a bookend to birth, which gave us the wisdom to concentrate on the experiences between them.

The marriage ended in 2012 and like any family we struggled a bit to find a new normal. It was not easy, by any means, but we eventually found a place of harmony.

I would go on to remarry and my new husband and I moved to another state with my daughter, then 20 years old. My ex-husband and I maintained communication regards my daughter and often exchanged updates about our own lives.

On December 20, 2015 while back in town for a friend’s funeral, my daughter and I stopped in to see my ex-husband. It was then that he revealed that he had stage 4 lung cancer.

In the months that followed, a nightmare unfolded slowly all at once. The information he was giving my daughter contradicted the medical treatments he was consenting to. The woman he had been living with, now his fiancée, who at first seemed supportive, kind and compassionate became someone else entirely.

In late April my daughter was called to his bedside because of a decline. My ex-husband’s niece states he was calling for his ‘wife’, meaning me. My daughter called in tears and asked me to come. I did what any mother would do and hopped on the very next train.

Upon my arrival, my ex-husband perked up and began to proclaim his appreciation for me and stated that he did not know what he had when he had me. Over the next few days we would have meaningful conversations and in a private moment he gave me an apology I had long before given up on ever receiving.

That said, it was clear that his state of mind was altered at times. He had been having seizures which turned out to be the result of a rare secondary cancer of the spinal fluid that spread to the brain. While he was alert he was not always lucid nor coherent. This seemed to be ebb and flow with the timing of a medicine that was used to keep the swelling in his brain down.

As I stood in his hospital room it was very hard for me to remember that I was neither his wife, nor his end of life doula. I was simply there as the mother of our daughter and the step-mother to his first daughter. I had no legal rights. I had no rights at all. My place was simply as a guide for his two daughters, as they had all the legal decision making rights.

So I became their end of life doula, creating a space for them to be active in their father’s journey and to feel some sort of empowerment in a situation where they were feeling powerless.

Because the eldest daughter was local she was the one designated by the hospital to sign all consents for him.

As we all listened to the doctors we were clear on the fact that he was dying, so it was quite the shock when this fiancée of his, who had seemed compassionate and kind, suddenly turned into a different beast, and did not want to forego aggressive treatment. She was irrational and verbally aggressive. She began to stay away from the hospital for long periods of time.

In private moments my ex-husband would talk of acceptance and a lack of desire to pursue active treatment, but his thoughts and intentions were overpowered by his fiancée.

His only advance directive was the one we created when we had been married and now his competency was in question so having him sign a current health care representative form was not an option.

His two daughters agreed that seeking further aggressive treatment was not what he would want. Was indeed not what he was expressing he wanted.

My daughter and I needed to return to our home and we left with the promise to support his eldest daughter in decision making.

On April 27, 2016 we were about 2 1/2 hours away on the road when she called us to say that the fiancée gave her a consent form to sign so that she and their father could get married.

My daughter strongly objected and we all found it suspicious that this was not mentioned at all during our visit, but suddenly presented mere hours after we left. This woman’s motives were now suspect.

On April 29, 2016 she had him sign a printed-off-the-internet durable power of attorney, witnessed by a friend of hers. Then she forged his signature on a will, witnessed by a friend and her sister.

It was later discovered that on April 26, 2016 she named herself as beneficiary of his retirement accounts with another forgery.

On May 2, 2016 this woman managed to convince the eldest daughter that this is what her father wanted and she signed the consent for them to marry. A sitting Indiana juvenile judge performed the hospital beside ceremony.

On May 15, 2016 the now wife attended her ‘wedding reception’ without her husband because he was too weak and ill to even get dressed. He sat at home with our daughter at his side and later his other daughter joined them.

On May 21, 2016 she completed a quit claim deed, as his DPOA, transferring his house to herself.

He died on May 25, 2016.

My daughter and I had arrived on May 22, 2016. I was there strictly as support to my daughter. When we arrived for a moment he became alert, recognizing our daughter right away. The wife made sarcastic passive-aggressive remarks about how he had been non-responsive to her but perked up for our daughter. Then he saw me and gave me the same kind of greeting. This clearly angered the wife.

My daughter spent most of the next two days with him. Because of legal matters that were transpiring, the wife became hostile and my daughter and I both felt it best I not return to the home.

While she was there the wife would leave the home to run errands. My daughter would call me and we would Facetime as she laid with her father, being present for him, reminiscing, playing music, comforting him and giving him permission to go. In effect, our 22 year old daughter was doula-ing for him. And I was doula-ing for her.

In the afternoon of May 25, 2016, while his wife stepped out to get ice cream, our daughter by his side, he took his last breath. The details of that moment are her story to tell, not mine, so I won’t share that here. But know it was powerful and beautiful and full of love.

Since that time my daughter, my husband and I have talked often about how we wished it could’ve been different for her father. We talked about how we would’ve welcomed him into our home and attended to him. How we envision that he would’ve wanted things to go. We all wanted a ‘good death’ for him and while the last moments were precious, the months leading up to it were not.

I know in the marrow of my bones that this was not a death of his choosing, even though I have to accept it was the result of his choices. I know it would have been very different if we had still been married, or even if he had just not had this someone in his life.

But it wasn’t my death.

And that is the most important thing as an end-of-life doula we must understand. It is not our death. When we are asked to doula for someone we are there to support their decision making, not steer them towards particular decisions. Our biases are to be left at the door. We are not to push our own agendas, no matter how perfect we think they are.

Individuals must have autonomy in their dying, just as in their living. Their rights must be protected. In this case, while in the end he was taken advantage of and swindled, and we don’t believe he was directing the journey of his treatment, he made the earlier decision to have this woman on his journey.

Despite all of this, our daughter and I did everything within our power to allow him space for autonomy over his transition. We felt that was our duty as human beings who loved him. Not to push our agenda, but allow him to create his own. While we feel that he was not in control of his treatment, he certainly was in control of his last moments, choosing to leave when it was just him and his daughter.

It is hard for us to find the peace in it sometimes. We had such a beautiful vision for his journey, based on the decades of conversations we had. Because of our long history together, we believe we knew him better than anyone else. We believe we know what his ‘good death’ would’ve looked like given different circumstances.

But it was not our death and we have to find solace in the fact that we supported him when he needed it most, in the moments we had with him.

When you read end-of-life doula stories you hear some amazing stories that read like a Hallmark movie script; but that just isn’t always how it goes. It’s important to know that.

People are complicated and die the way they live. An end-of-life doula is meant to support the individual and their family (the ‘unit’) in a way that is harmonious with their situation. An EOLD enhances, they never take over, overshadow or override the individual or the family. They are meant to assist the unit in creating their own highest experience.

NOT to script or direct an experience of the doula’s imagination.

Yes, my daughter and I fantasize about a death we feel would’ve been ‘better’, but -again- it was not our death, so we have come to accept peace in knowing that we absolutely served our role in enhancing his death to the level allowed.

I would’ve scripted a different movie for his transition. What I would’ve scripted would’ve made my daughter’s healing of grief a bit less complicated. What I would’ve scripted would’ve been the stuff of Oscar winning movies. What I would’ve scripted…

…is irrelevant.

Being an end-of-life doula means I support the script of the one making the journey. It’s not my death.


Why ‘Sacred Healing Facilitator’?

For those who have been following me for awhile, you might have noticed I have changed ‘titles’ several times. It has never been easy ascribing myself a label. I’ve always lived with the idea that I don’t have a box, so therefore no place for a label on me.

For those who have been following me for awhile, you might have noticed I have changed ‘titles’ several times. It has never been easy ascribing myself a label. I’ve always lived with the idea that I don’t have a box, so therefore no place for a label on me.

But when you are wanting to be of service to others it is helpful that someone who needs you, can actually discover you and to that end, labels are assistive.

So how did I settle on Sacred Healing Facilitator?

Let’s start backwards. Facilitator. I have always shied away from calling myself a healer. I suppose I am, but because I imagine myself to be more of a conduit, ‘healer’ never seemed to feel quite right.

A facilitator is “a person or thing that makes an action or process easy or easier”.

Well, that is what I do. I facilitate a lot of things for a lot of people. ✓

Healing. We’ve already discussed my definition of healing, but for those coming in late…

Healing: The raising of personal vibrations to an individual’s optimum level of peace.

Healing looks like different things to different people. It is not so just like an open wound on your arm that closes and disappears with time.

Much healing can take place in the last phase of life before transitioning.

Now, Sacred. While defined as something religious, Sacred does not mean that for me.

Something sacred has the highest resonance. The highest vibration. Sacred is the ultimate reverence and respect. It is the highest honor.

For many sacred might relate to religion, for others it might relate to spirituality, for still others it might relate to consciousness. In my experience, even atheists experience something sacred.

Being a Sacred Healing Facilitator in a Modern World

Previous generations were strongly connected to their church communities and had direct access to their religious leaders. The church community was referred to as a ‘family’. Today however, that community is known as a ‘congregation.’

Having direct access to a religious leader was of great comfort to families. They often had the same minister perform marriages, baptisms, and funerals for members of the same family. The minister was an extended part of the family.

As the last two generations have gotten away from dogma, doctrine and organized religion there is a bit of a void. While individuals are taking back the power over their own spirituality, they lack a confidante, minister and healer. They are lacking someone outside themselves to administer spiritual/consciousness healing and comfort.

As a Sacred Healing Facilitator it would be my privilege to step in to fill this gap as individuals transition from organized religion to self-directed spirituality. I am receptive to providing ministry to those who are estranged from organized religion but have a need for an adviser, elder or guide, with no need to subscribe to a certain dogma. I aim to fulfill reverent needs at times like weddings, blessings, namings and funerals, as well as offer support and guidance in times of crisis such as trauma, end of life and loss.

People used to have family doctors. One doctor for the whole family from crib to crypt. I am using that as my model. How amazing to be a sacred witness to weddings, baby blessings, living wakes and memorials all in the same family. How comforting would it be for a family to have a familiar face standing with them at such sacred times?

By the same token, I may be needed to minister to those who already have a strong relationship with their church community, but need assistance to facilitate difficult conversations about end of life issues, completing advance directives, planning celebrations of life ceremony and help navigate the emotional waters around that.

A shift is happening in our society’s experience of death. Death was once seen as a natural part of life. With modern medical advances, things that were once life threatening became almost neutralized. Death became an enemy to be beat at all costs and not a natural transition from a well lived life. Extending our life expectancies created a denial, as death was whisked from our homes into sterile hospitals and funeral homes.

This sterility has caused a problem.

It has removed some very important parts of mourning. It disallowed anticipatory grief, because the idea that ‘we can beat this thing’ is the motto until almost the last exhale. It disallowed acceptance by labeling it ‘giving up’. It disallowed conversations about last wishes and good-byes, by labeling them ‘negative talk’.

Let me ask you something.

Have you ever talked about winning a big lottery pot? And if so, did you ever win that big lottery pot? No? So, just talking about something does not have the power to make it a reality, right?

Now, let’s apply this to the conversation about dying.

If I feel like death is a possibility and I am allowed/able to talk about that openly with my loved ones early on while I still have the energy, I can have meaningful connections with my loved ones. If I pull through, I have still made meaningful connections that only enhance my life.

If, on the other hand, I feel like death is a possibility but I am not allowed/able to talk about that openly with my loved ones early on, there will less meaningful connections. There will always be an elephant in the room that isn’t discussed. Words left unsaid. “Thank you’s” left undelivered. “I’m sorry’s” left on hearts. “I love you’s” left dangling.

These are precious gifts stolen from those who need them most – when they need them most – just because we are uncomfortable talking about death.

What if I’m wrong?

Exactly. What if you talk openly about the possibility of death and you are wrong? Then you’ve had deep meaningful moments, thereby making more memories and when death does comes to you in the future, you will have had the experience of acceptance and the peace that there are no words left unsaid.

If instead, you deny talking about the possibility of death and you are wrong, you have lost the opportunity to have those deep meaningful moments forever; because by the time it is determined that death is imminent, there is little energy left for such things.

I believe this is a disservice. I believe there is healing that comes from sharing our fears, our disappointments, our uncertainties, our sorrows and even our anger. I believe there is quality of life when the truth is laid out on the table like a feast to be digested. I believe that in the shadow of silence lay regret.

I believe the healthiest approach to anything is a holistic one. If, while you are aggressively fighting your illness you still make room for meaningful end of life conversations, then that’s living. Time spent writing letters filled with advice or good wishes on a special day can’t ever be a waste, can it?

I also believe that a well thought out plan for your funeral or memorial service is a precious gift you can give to your loved ones.

I know these thoughts might make me seem weird and I’m ok with that. Someone has to be and I’ve got it down to an art by now.

Yes, Sacred Healing Facilitator. This is my calling. My Soul’s purpose on this Earth during this lifetime.

Soul To Sole Sacred Space July 14, 2010

If you weren’t able to join the live broadcast, I hope you make some time to watch it in replay.

Today’s message was about bravery, courage, and vulnerability as they relate to authenticity.

Our healing circle involved QiGong energy healing and chanting with a mala.

Soul To Sole Sacred Space

Being raised strict Catholic and then a young adulthood of exploring many religions I find comfort in rituals and know the importance of taking time to connect with Spirit.

I no longer resonate with organized religion, but I do resonate with connecting with other like-hearted Souls with soles (live people, as opposed to just spirit people) and creating a community of both!

Last week I had the awesome opportunity to do the first Soul To Sole Sacred Space devotional hour and it was a game changer. I had the battery power for the difficult week ahead and from the messages I’ve received, it has been a game changer for others as well.

I may not share all my future broadcasts here, in the blog, but here’s the link to the first one so that if you are interested you know where to find us every Sunday at 9:30 am EST. Like me, it is unedited, fresh, authentic and imperfect.

Consider this your formal invitation to join us!

I love you.


The Most Important Question

Photo by Pixabay on

Yesterday I had the immense privilege to co-facilitate a memorial service at a retirement village. Three beloved residents died within the past few months. Two, very unexpectedly and there was no time for good-byes.

My co-worker and I designed a simple but powerful service to allow them to do just that. We provided the framework and they put in the pictures.

It didn’t go perfectly, but it was perfect.

During the service a lady with Down’s Syndrome came up to say a few words. No one’s ears could understand the words she was saying, but our hearts understood her clearly. Grief is a wound that needs no words to explain it. We all understand.

Holding space for people to explore their wounds is when I’m at my best. I know I am in service then.

I set daily reminders on my phone. The first one reminds me that my devotion attracts resources and support. What devotion? Devotion is another word for attention. What is attention? The direction of my energy. So, the direction of my energy attracts the resources and support that I need to fulfill my destiny. Check.

The second one reminds me that everything I need and more is on its way to me. The Universe is always conspiring on my behalf (yours too, btw) and it provides me everything that I need and so much more I didn’t even realize I could need. Check.

The third one is the one I want to talk about today, so I’ll come back to that.

The fourth one is to remind me to surrender to Divine Grace. This is a reminder that there is more working through me than from me and I need to surrender each day to the Divine. Divine Grace is my word for the year. To feel it. To live it. To BE it. Check.

These three reminders are vital to my daily practice. But the most important one is the third one. This one is a question.

Am I in service to the Light within me?

I could ask myself this question 30 times a day. Before each meal, before I utter the words on my tongue, before I react to a thoughtless deed…

Am I in service to the Light within me?

There are some days the answer is ‘kinda’. And there are other days that it is a ‘maybe’. But yesterday that answer was ‘YES’.

When I am in service to the Light within me I am in a zone. It is where I was when that beautiful woman came up to speak, with one tear running down her cheek, uttering intelligible words that my Soul understood. It is where I was when I stumbled through the closing. It is where I was when the music we planned didn’t cooperate. It is where I was when one resident announced her desire to share the stories of the loss of all her pets.

The feeling of being in service to the Light within is undeniable. It is incomparable. It is where I want to live all the time.

It has been a challenging week at my ‘day job’ as my coworker and I struggled to be Divine Grace in the face of incongruence, displaced anger and dishonesty.

But the Universe conspired to have us end on this powerfully transformative moment that elevated us. This is what we are meant to do. To be of service…

…of service to the Light within others as well as to the Light within ourselves.

You don’t have to wait until you are working at your dream job to be of service to the Light within you. To get to work at your dream job, it pays to bring your Light to whatever job you are at now. Your Light will draw the resources and support you need to find that dream job.

In fact, it pays to bring your Light to whatever you are doing now…grocery shopping, gardening, talking to the neighbors.

The world is filled with darkness because so many are afraid to show their Light…afraid that they will be judged, laughed at, ridiculed, ostracized. Ok, you might be, but your Light can handle it. Your Light is not dependent upon the acceptance of strangers.

When you learn to stand with your Light shining, you serve as an example and inspiration to others to stand with their Light shining. With all this Light there will be less and less room for darkness. No corners for it to hide in.

When more people stand with their Light shining there will be less crime, less war, less bullying, less suicide, less anxiety, less depression and less cancer. There will be more peace, more sharing, more prosperity, more laughter, more health and more joy.

Are you in service to the Light within you?

Can you make a practice of asking yourself that every day? Are you in service to the Light within you in the car on the way to work? Greeting your co-workers? Completing your tasks? Answering the call from a friend? Running errands? Eating a meal? Thinking a thought? Holding a belief?

Is this (thought, word or action) in service to the Light within me? Is this who I want to be? If its not, then you have a choice.

Changing your life is not ONE decision, it is a million decisions. It is every decision you make.

The only way to have a fulfilling life is to be in service to the Light within you. It has nothing to do with your house, your cars, your job, your bank account, your looks…

It has everything to do with your attitude, your heart, your beliefs, your acceptance, your allowance, your kindness…

Your life is not happening TO you, it is happening because of you. You are of your own making.

Stop chasing quick highs to escape your pain. Examine your pain. Understand it. Embrace it. Then you can heal it and let it go. Holding on to pain is not noble, it is in direct conflict of being in service to the Light within you. It is the darkness. It is the dis-ease. It is the addiction.

I promise there is no greater high than being of service to the Light within you. It cannot be duplicated by any synthetic means and if you are being courted by addictive behaviors then it is a clear sign your Soul is longing to share its Light.

I love you.



I recently published a piece called ‘Acceptance or Judgement’ and then I realized that it was all about judgement and not so much about acceptance. An imbalance I am compelled to remedy.

I find many people have issue understanding the difference between accepting and sanctioning. Let me say this about that.

I accept that you are an alcoholic. It is none of my business how you live your life. How you treat your body. How you deal with things. How your relationships do or don’t work. It is not my place to lecture you, judge you or punish you.

I accept that you have an addiction, but I don’t sanction your addiction. I don’t buy your liquor, but I also do not count your drinks. If I don’t like your behavior when you are drinking then I don’t make plans with you that include alcohol. If I am with you and you begin to drink and act in a certain way that makes me uncomfortable, I remove myself.

I accept it. I accept you. I support you. If you call me intoxicated and need a ride home, I’m coming for you. I got you. That’s acceptance of your right to do with your body, your life, what you choose.

I accept that your path is different than mine. That you don’t see the value of living in high vibration. That you don’t see the Light in everyone. That you don’t believe in magic. That you don’t see messages in every single event of life. I accept it and I don’t judge you for it.

I accept you where you are. Even when I am not there. Even when I can no longer stay with you in that place. Even when I think you’d be happier a few steps ahead. Even when you take a few steps back. I accept you.

I can honestly say that has not been the case in reverse. The most personal decisions I have made have been the most judged by others; even by others who are supposed to accept and support me. I have been demonized by those who should’ve known better and by those who didn’t know me at all. Yet, I did not judge them in return.

I never let them change who I am at my core. I cannot preach about living a higher vibe life, wanting to be free to make my own choices and then turn around and not extend the same courtesy to others – even if they are ‘drawing first blood’. That’s not my style and it never will be.

Accepting others starts with accepting ourselves.

Read that again, for good measure. No, wait. I’ll write it again, for good measure…

Accepting others starts with accepting ourselves.

I find those who’s first inclination is to find something to criticize in someone else, is only externally exhibiting an internal dialogue. I don’t believe you can be judgmental of others unless your internal landscape is filled with landmines of negative self-talk and harsh criticisms. The more you talk about someone else’s flaws the more flaws I know you see in yourself. And right now, your mindset, is in survival mode and you are thrashing about in waters of despair over your head because you can’t see the ocean is of your own making.

If I believe I am tall and someone tells me I am short and I like being short, then I am not offended by their perception of me. I am not affected at all. However, if I don’t like being short and someone comments on how short I am, I would be offended because I want to be seen as taller than I appear. I do not accept that part of myself and want to be something I am not. This creates dissonance and dissonance shows up clearly as attitude and, if not addressed, as illness.

Many do not know that I had malignant melanoma almost 20 years ago. I had not yet begun to understand how our internal world manifests our external world. I did not yet understand how that which was afflicting my energetic and emotional bodies would show up as illness and injury in our physical body.

But this experience launched me into that exploration and I see clearly now, that my lack of healthy boundaries caused my melanoma. Do you see how that correlates? Our skin is our physical boundary. It is what keeps our insides, in and the outside, outside. Our skin protects our insides from the pollutants of the outside world we live in. When we do not honor our emotional and energetic bodies we create dissonance and that dissonance then shows up in our skin.

There are other ways, besides skin cancer, that this sort of dissonance could show up. I don’t want you walking away thinking that our lack of boundaries only shows up as skin cancer. Lack of boundaries could also manifest as weight issues – over or under. It all really depends on the underlying belief that is causing the dissonance.

I could go on forever about all the ways dissonance shows up as illness or injury, but this post is not about that.

The more we learn to see ourselves with kind eyes, the more we will look upon others with kind eyes. I think kind eyes are more powerful than even gratitude, because I think gratitude can be faked. Or maybe just mimicked but not truly gratitude. Kind eyes cannot be mimicked and kind eyes move us away from dissonance.

What are kind eyes? Kind eyes are looking into the mirror, not to check to see what needs to be fixed, but to appreciate our beautiful uniqueness. Kind eyes are looking at others and immediately finding something to love about them.

Kind eyes are the heart’s eyes. They are the Soul’s eyes. They are the Creator’s eyes.

I see you. Like it or not, I see you…and I love you.


A Late Announcement Is Better Than None At All…

Some of you have followed me for a long time from Namaste` Holistic Services, The Sentient Soul, WillowSong Medicine Woman to Mystic Willow. Some of you have known me as Judy Polimac, Judy Edwards, Judy Klemos and from Judy, to Jude to Jade.

I appreciate your acceptance and support as I have done my own transitioning. As the seasons change, so too do we and I have entered into a new season of my life.

I want to take a minute to explain it.

I have lived my life in service of others in various roles over the course of three decades. I have a long career in Social Work, working in most of the genres within that field. Without question I have been most honored to be allowed to work with those with Intellectual Disabilities and those in hospice.

Alongside this fulfilling career I studied and practiced in the metaphysical field developing a skill for energy healing and intuitive energy counseling. I have developed a very unique approach to life and assisting others by combining these two worlds.

Recently the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association has developed a committee to develop and structure a paradigm for end of life doulas. This non-medical based approach to this last transition is long overdue. I have the privilege of being one of the pioneers of this frontier.

Thus I have started Healing Rites of Passage and for lack of a better title I call myself an End of Life Doula, however I believe this model can be applied to all of life’s transitions, thus making me more of a Life Transitions Doula, specializing in end of life transitions.

What does an end of life doula do? Similar to what a birth doula does, but instead of assisting a mother in bringing a life into this world, I assist those leaving this world and their families left behind.

It is important to note that this is a non-medical support position not intended to replace things like palliative care or hospice, but to enhance it. I provide therapeutic presence, emotional support, spiritual support, education on the needs of dying as well as the needs of the grieving, the end of life process, advocacy, opportunities for legacy creation, memorial/funeral planning, advanced care directive planning, companionship and energy work just to name a few.

I have been an ordained minister since 2003. I am not aligned with any organized religion, but rather have a holistic spiritual focus.

I have met many children, spouses and siblings who, when I tell them of my path, state that they wish they had someone like me when their loved one transitioned. I have had others say they wish they’d known me when they were going through a major life transition of their own (such as divorce, baby blessings and chronic illness). This post is one way of telling the world I move in that this service exists, and that I am here.

I appreciate your continued support, encouragement and companionship on my own journey, and as always…

I love you.


%d bloggers like this: