Five years ago, Cindi, Jasmine, Vinnie, and I formed our Sage Sister group. We were bright-eyed, bushy-tailed revolutionaries … wise elders intent on supporting each other in embracing and savoring our aging process with grace and consciousness. To support our intention, we read and discussed all or portions of:
- The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully by Joan Chittister
- Conscious Living, Conscious Aging: Embrace and Savor Your Next Chapter by Ron Pevny
- From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
We supported Jasmine during her depression as she and her husband adjusted to their move to a retirement village. Her enchanting smile and sparkling eyes gradually reemerged.
We supported Vinnie as her health declined, made decisions about which mementos she couldn’t take with her to the retirement home, and until her death at 85 in September 2015.
We invited Cathy H to join us and began meeting in Jasmine’s apartment to make it easier for her. We noticed her memory failing.
We took a break for a few weeks in early winter while Cindi and her husband moved to a retirement home. When we returned, we were shocked to find that Jasmine and her husband had been moved to memory care.
The realities of aging hit us like a ton of bricks.
We regrouped in February and invited Carol to join us. After introductions and check-in’s, we chose our next book … Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying, a 1982 book written by Stephen and Ondrea Levine. I agreed to facilitate our conversation on Chapter 1 for our next meeting.
Cathy C and Pam accepted an invitation to join us at our March meeting.
In the meantime, Cathy H recommended Katy Butler’s new book, The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End to Life. Cindi gobbled it up and came singing its praises.
We shared deeply about the challenges we are facing …
- Waning energy making participating in evening activities difficult
- Less comfort driving at night
- Difficulty getting help … for little things like changing light bulbs
- How hard it is to let go of our material things
- The sneaky, benefit-denying clauses in long-term care insurance
- The lack of quality home healthcare that renders expensive long-term care insurance useless and aging & dying in place little more than a fervent wish
- The in-sensitivities faced in even the most prestigious of retirement homes
- Our death-denying culture and medical profession intent on prolonging life
- The lack of awareness that prolonging life is often prolonging suffering
We all agreed that death is not what we fear … it is the dying process and having to deal with all these challenges and more we may not even be aware of as yet.
We shared stories of people we know who have died well … so full of love and compassion that they were able to let go of their bodies lightly. We reaffirmed our intention to be like them.
We looked at cultures that celebrate and acknowledge the continual changing nature of life … where death is an opportunity to let go of the illusions of life, to see it as it is, and open in love to all around them. We reaffirmed our intention to learn from them.
Our Sage Sister group is in transition.
- We still intend to support each other in living life as fully and gracefully as possible
- And we see more clearly how supporting each other in dying well is part of the process
- And we felt in our bones the importance of this group for supporting us in living into the question Stephen & Ondrea put before us …
“How do we allow ourselves to come into the unknown with an openheartedness and courage that allows life its fullness?”
What about you?
How do you deal with the unknown?
Who do you know who has died spreading love, joy, and life lessons on the art of living and dying well?