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A Good End of Life Comes From Attending to Death Throughout Our Entire Lives

All humans are born. And all die. Seeing death, throughout our lives, as a normal process is the preparation for a good end of life.

Photo of Liz Fukushima
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I've been asking myself questions about the nature of death and dying ever since I was a child. I grew up in a small town. And I knew 18 young people who died before I was 20 years old. I've always considered this to be a defining experience in my life, but when I've asked my childhood friends and my siblings about how this experience affected them, most have said that they really hadn't noticed or ever even thought about it. Recently, I've come to realize it is not the experience itself, but rather, the way I noticed and attended to this experience. 

In my adult life, I've had 30 years of clinical experience practicing Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine. Two of my areas of clinical focus has been infertility, and treatment of cancer patients - including end of life care. The juxtaposition of these two, the start of life and the end of life, has made me realize that much of what makes the end of life experience difficult is that it is foreign territory for many. As if their first experience with the end of life is their own!  But, this can't be so, since death is with us all the time, as surely as birth is with us all the time.

So, for this challenge, I started visioning a flow chart of the way we could relate to death throughout our entire lives, and I began to see that there could be many parallels to the way we relate with birth, if only we noticed and allowed ourselves to step into that experience.  They start with very general experiences far in advance of our needing to make personal choices and decisions, and move toward increasingly personal and detailed experience.

These ideas are very preliminary, but I have offered two parallel charts to instigate inspiration and thinking by others.  I hope something on them will spark some new ideas for you!

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Don't be afraid to notice death. It is around us all the time. It is worthy of notice. Of celebration. Once you are no longer afraid, you will be able to offer support and guide others on their passage.

Tell us about your work experience:

30 years private clinical practice of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine, meditation instructor, and graduate student in clinical bioethics.


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Photo of Mai Anh Nguyen

I love your idea to compare dying and giving birth flowchart. Very useful and easy to understand. Great work. Thanks Liz

Photo of Liz Fukushima

Thanks for your comment, Mai. I'm glad the visual information came across as easy to understand.  ~liz

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