My name is Mary Shannon, and I am an Eldercare Specialist and End of Life Doula.
“I’m dying you know” – what my dear childhood friend said to me as she lay dying of cancer at the age of 34. “I can see it in my friends eyes when they look at me.” How do you respond to that? Here I am, 30 years old, in shock over the fact that we’re losing her. I validated her and said, “Yes, I’m sorry you see that, we love you very much and are going to miss you.” She said, ” I know.” Finally it was said out loud. I’m not sure if that was the first or only time she said that, but I feel honored that she felt safe enough to speak those words to me. I hope that she felt some relief by saying it out loud. I hope I was able to validate her and that she felt safe in talking to me openly about her impending death. I had no idea that it would begin the path I am on now.
That was in 1999. It began a path for me, finding myself of accompanying the dying again and again. It led to me caring for friends and family, volunteering with Hospice of Michigan, Avow Hospice and working with home care agencies. I still found myself continuing to be put in end of life situation even when the people around me didn’t realize it.
All of that prepared me for the most important job of my life, caring for my mother. I was fortunate to be able to care for her full-time those last months, an amazing gift. A few weeks before my mom died, she had said to me randomly, “I want to die with a crown of flowers on my head.” “Done.” Little did I know at the time, how important that task was. Having that task gave me something to focus on, other than the fact my mother was dying. Creating that crown gave me something tangible to do when there was nothing left for me to, other than be present and honor her. During those last 24 hours I felt helpless, knowing that this last part of her journey was hers alone. Having that task allowed me to feel a part of her transition. I don’t know if she realized having that task would allow me to continue to be a part of her transition, but it meant the world to me.
Thank you Mom,
You earned that crown, wear it proudly in the great beyond.