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December 16, 2012 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Labor of death much like the labor of being born?

My grandmother is in hospice care as of this morning. We aren't sure how long she has left. No one can tell us, of course.

I seem to recall reading something about dying being an act of labor like that of being born. I can't remember if it was a story, an article, a quote, etc. Searching has turned up little, so I am hoping the hivemind can help. Any ideas? Or any other productive reading material while keeping a dying woman company?
posted by itsacover to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This recent three part story in the Toronto Star made reference to death being like the labour of being born. The article is about a little girl named Stella Joy who had a brain tumour. The references to labour and a "death plan" (as opposed to a "birth plan") are in part three. It's a sad story, but full of love. Readers beware.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:51 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Good advice and resources in this previously. I am so sorry.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:08 AM on December 16, 2012

That description of the act of dying reminds me of things I've read in the work of Stephen and Ondrea Levine, who spent many years working with the dying in hospices and hospitals. They have written a number of books that address this subject, including:

Meetings at the Edge - Dialogues with the Grieving and the Dying, the Healing and the Healed
Who Dies? - An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying
Healing into Life and Death

There is a definite spiritual vibe to the books, so if your viewpoint is secular they may not be so helpful. The Levines are predominantly Buddhist in outlook, but have also collaborated with Ram Dass in the past. I found their writings and meditations helpful in my own family situation. My condolences.
posted by toadflax at 10:29 AM on December 16, 2012

There is a poem by Galway Kinnell which refers to one who
cries foremost, as at birth,
still breathing heavily
from the hard labor
of dying

I could not find the title, due to GBooks omissions.

This is a piece by a hospice worker: The Hard Work of Dying

There's another piece here for family members of the dying that makes the same analogy.
posted by dhartung at 2:58 PM on December 16, 2012

I'm really sorry that you are losing your grandmother. When I went through the same thing, the hospice nurse gave my family this poem to read which made us think about how beginnings and endings are intertwined:

A Parable of Immortality
Henry van Dyke.

I am standing by the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch
until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sun and sky come down to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says, 'There she goes!
Gone where? Gone from my sight - that is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the places of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
'There she goes! ' ,
there are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout :
'Here she comes!'
posted by Sylvia Plath's terrible fish at 2:02 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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