Copyright Vicki Rivard 2017

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On Befriending Death: It Begins

April 25, 2019

On Saturday, I will be travelling to Toronto to begin my studies in Contemplative End-of-Life Care. I have wanted to enrol in this program for many years. I will be leaving my 8.5 month-old for the first time (cue tears). I have purchased a manual breast pump for the messy, milky situation I am sure to find myself in (along with a small cooler to carry around my frozen milk from school to dinner to fridge). I have downloaded some podcasts and purchased snacks for the ride. I am excited and a little terrified and feeling vulnerable and brave. 


This is a program that has been calling my name.


When I tell people that I’ll be studying End-of-Life Care, I get one of two reactions. The first is a shocked expression followed by an incredulous, "why?" The second is a thoughtful pause followed by an interested, "wow." I have had a few of the wow people say, "tell me more," which is such a beautiful and validating thing to say to someone: tell me more.


I am happy to tell them more. I feel like we should all be talking about death and dying more openly, and more frequently, than we do, if only for the simple reason that death is all around us, always. It’s within us, always. It’s a fundamental part of life. Yet, so many of us live in constant fear of it.


I don’t want to live in fear of it, anymore.


I want to get closer to it. Ask it some questions. Get to know it. I want to befriend it and maybe learn to love it or, at least, wholly accept it and welcome it into my world.


And if—if—I am able to do this, I want to learn how to help others do the same. I want to be that steady hand that someone can reach for, that unassuming presence in the room that brings quiet comfort at the end of days.


I have decided to share some of my writing assignments for this course on this blog, starting with the Letter of Intent I wrote as part of the application process (next blog post). 


I have decided to share this writing as a way to encourage conversation about death and dying. As a way to invite others (you) to explore your own relationship (or lack thereof) with death and dying. As a way to shine a light on something I am really scared of and, by doing so, begin the befriending process.

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