I have a passion for life and death, and death and dying – specifically, palliative care, oft times referred to as ‘end of life’ care. For many years I’ve wanted to be a palliative care worker, and in 2010 I began my ‘Karuna Journey’. As I walked through the doors of Karuna, I could feel myself smiling. I felt like I was home, and that this is what I wanted to do with my life – to look after the dying, or as we say in palliative care, to help people ‘die a good death.’ After all, it is life’s only other true certainty (taxes are not). Through Karuna I studied two levels of ‘Spiritual Care with the Dying’ with Tenzin Chodron, an earth angel and Tibetan Buddhist nun who works at Karuna, giving clients and their families the spiritual support they both seek and often crave as they come to the end of their lives.
The last two weeks have been a cyclone of questions and answers. I’ve been in contact with the lovely people from the Flinders University post-graduate Palliative Care program, because I wanted to do the Graduate Certificate in Palliative Care they offer. The only problem is that I lack the appropriate health degree (I’m sure as hell *never* doing nursing, and I bow down to all nurses) and practice lead experience, so with their guidance, kindness and a couple of suggestions, I’ve enrolled to do a Graduate Certificate in Human Services through Griffith University which will essentially be my segue into the course I so desperately want to do through Flinders.
By the skin of my teeth, thanks to an agile email eye and persistence, I begin studying next week
gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh which means that I’m going to be a student again. This excites and terrifies me in equal measures. The course is part-time and will take me a year to complete, and in March there is a volunteer intensive training course run by Karuna. I applied to do this intensive this year, but for some strange reason – and I’ll put this down to the universe working in fucked up mysterious ways for the greater good – my application went M.I.A. I had been waiting ever so patiently (nearly ten years – I still have the original bright yellow brochure from Karuna), and of all the things to have happen, knowing I’d slipped through the cracks left me feeling crushed and unsure about my future. It was something I had wanted to do for so long, and I thought ‘Yes. This is it. I’m actually doing this!’, but it was not to be.
I can deal with 99% of ‘difficult’ situations by dusting myself off and pulling my boots back on, but this had me howling for a good couple of days. Worse than any heartbreak, I would have to wait another year – a year I may not have due to the nature of my dis-ease. I didn’t have time to wait, and coupled with the fact that I had a suspected heart issue and a raging chest infection, I was one very sad girl. But still, I polished my boots, pulled them back on, and had ultimate faith that the universe would provide – I just had to be open to it.
And so here I am on the eve of becoming a student again. The dreaming stops and the real and tangible begins.There’s the faint taste of ink and paper on my tongue.
Tonight I tilt my head towards the sky; the moon slung high in its splendour. My tea bursts with vanilla as it wakes my tired mouth and warms my belly; City and Colour is on an endless loop, and I’m happily walled in by anthills of books: Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Susan Sontag, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Patti Smith – my journey women who so boldly cut a swathe through what they recognised as the binds of their lives with the ultimate enterprise and courage in a world so fuelled – and consequentially flawed – by fear. In its place there was blind faith, impudence, fabulous spelling and grammar and an absence of fear.
Life makes me happy, as does death. Both as ambrosial as the other.