Yesterday, some fifteen friends and neighbors crammed into our living room for the second salon of the season. There was wine, white and red, and cheese and chips and dips and a tray of spicy deviled eggs.
I find deviled eggs laborious (all that peeling and filling) and messy (the filling sticks to my fingers no matter what I do). However, since we were going to talk about death and dying, I decided we needed something cheerful to look at–I think deviled eggs always look cheerful. Also, there\’s nothing like a mouthful of cayenne to make you feel alive.
The speaker was a friend who has been a nurse for many years, in oncology and cardio wards. She spoke with feeling about sitting with dying patients, about their needs and the needs of the families. She spoke about helping people to let go, about ensuring their comfort, and about the horrific lengths to which modern medicine, if allowed to, will go to prolong a torturous life.
It was a beautiful afternoon, with the sun shining on the snow outside and the chickadees and nuthatches coming and going from the bird feeder. People spoke eagerly about their own experiences around the death of friends and loved ones. Others spoke about their utter lack of experience: after all, it is entirely possible in this country for a person to reach adulthood never having seen a dead body, or stood at the bedside of a dying relative.
From the beginning of the talk, there was a feeling of warmth and relaxation among us. There was also amazement that here we were, on a day that made us all, even though we knew better, think of spring, talking about death–the ultimate taboo as well the only certainty.
There was humor, too. One woman told about a friend, who had always been a controlling type, deciding after a long illness that it was time to die–and being annoyed that she couldn\’t make it happen by sheer force of will.
After a while the talk meandered to other topics. There was an update on the sheep that had gotten into the grain bin (she\’s chewing her cud!) and talk about when it\’s too late to breed a bitch for the first time. Some people had brought puppies in crates in their cars, and went outside to let them out. In other words, life took over. The deviled eggs were all gone.
Next month we\’re going to talk about bees.