Last night I attended a talk given by physician and author Karen Wyatt in the living room of a private home in Encinitas, California. Dr. Wyatt wrote the book What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying, which is a distillation of the most meaningful lessons she has taken away from her years working as a hospice physician. The talk, entitled Death as a Teacher For Life, was inspiring and insightful, with each of the 7 lessons being punctuated by true stories about the people Dr. Wyatt has cared for and learned from over the years.
Dr. Wyatt’s is a very engaging and gifted speaker. Her stories were filled with poignant takeaways about the true essence of life. Being immersed in the lives of patients who are dying and the families that are caring for them teaches us things that most people aren’t privileged to encounter. It really does teach us what is most important in life—what matters most. According to Dr. Wyatt, (and I couldn’t agree more) what matters most is love.
In the room, brought together by some unknown force, were about 20 other people who are working in or interested in the field of hospice– caring for people nearing the end of their life. The group included 2 other physicians, a hospice nurse, an end-of-life doula (midwife,) a massage therapist who is also a hospice volunteer, a transformational life coach who leads visions quests, yoga instructors, yoga students, and the founder of the San Diego Death Cafes, among others.
Before the talk each person had an opportunity to introduce himself or herself and shared why they were there. After the talk there was a question and answer session and some open dialogue. The conversations naturally turned toward the concept of death and the shared desire to bring the discussion about death more into the mainstream. Each person in the room felt called to somehow be a vessel for helping people transition from one life to the next, in addition to being part of a shift in the consciousness of our culture that will allow us to approach the concept of death with reverence and awe, instead of fear and loathing.
There was a bond shared among this group that was palpable. I realize that these people— of very diverse backgrounds, ages, races, and religions—are my tribe. They speak my language and live their lives without the fear of death hanging over them. Their hearts and minds are open. Their souls are fed by being of service to others who are afraid, or struggling, as they navigate the terrain of death and dying. Together, in our own way, we are working to create a more loving, nurturing and peaceful world.
There were deep connections made last night, some of which I believe will be lasting connections. I am thrilled to have found other members of my tribe right in my backyard, and look forward to exploring how my work and their work, how my passions and their passions, will weave together in the creation of a beautiful tapestry that makes a truly positive impact on the world.
I am grateful to Dr. Wyatt for shining her light on the world and sharing her words and her heart so openly and generously, and I am grateful to our hosts last night for welcoming this incredible group of transformational agents into your home.