She looks exhausted. She can barely raise her head to ask me for a cold towel. I place it on her forehead and hold it there. When she points to her neck, no energy for words, I put the towel on her neck.
"Too cold," she says. I warm the towel and reapply.
She needs water. But only takes a small sip.
She moans and groans. She feels just awful. So exhausted. So much pain.
Eventually she looks up at me and says, "Thank you." And I see more in her eyes, but it is all she can say at this moment. I consider saying, "You know, grandma, this is exactly what I do when I go to a birth."
So, I look back at my grandma and I say, "Of course."
She hangs her head back down low. Moans some more. I hold on to her arms and continue to give her the close presence she desires in this difficult moment. And then we get through it.
We get through it, alright, the many labors in our lives. But not without being utterly changed by them. Or at least that is the hope.
I am honored, humbled, and overjoyed to witness these labors--of both birth and death. For dying, the process in its entirety, in all of the days, months, or years that it seems to take, is uncannily similar to the process of birthing. We can believe it to be scary and we can hand over total control to modern medicine, we sure could do that, or on the other end of the spectrum, we could support birth, support death, and bring it home. We can witness the natural process with trust and love.
This is my role--in my work and in my life. My role is to be present. My role is to support. My role is to take care of the laboring woman, the transitioning woman, the birthing, dying, and re-birthing woman. . . My work is to witness the natural process with trust, love, and awe.