One of the most common responses I used to get from people when they found out I worked with hospice was, That must be depressing. I was never quite sure how to answer that.
Because it wasn’t depressing at all. It was a whole lot of other things; hard, heartbreaking, inspiring, curious, overwhelming, humorous, wonderful, challenging, exhausting, transformative, and ultimately very, very uplifting.
But never depressing. Not once. And I’m a depressive.
I’ve been riding the cycles of major depressive episodes for almost two decades but, far from aggravating the symptoms, hanging around with dying people actually helped. They showed me what it can look like, living in the world of no-cure. How being incurable in no way limits the ability to make your miracles.
I’d always thought the dying were about-as-good-as-dead, so imagine my surprise to discover they’re actually still very much alive. In some ways more than most people. Dying didn’t suppress their ability to live, it enhanced it. They still felt everything we all do, only times a million. They were throbbing with life. Writhing and radiant from it. The fact that some of that life was transcendent love and some was sheer hell was incidental.
Life has always been a package deal.
So anyway, I’ve never been able to explain this beautiful side of dying with words. But here’s a video called The Unseen Sea by Simon Christen that captures the essence of it. This is how it felt during the hours I spent with them, turning and toileting, bathing and dressing, capturing all the last whispered, aching, illuminated stories of their lives. It often felt like floating on an ocean, carried along by some timeless, perpetual current that ebbed and flowed, swirling around us, filmy and comforting and soft.
This is some stunning time lapse photography of the changing skies around San Francisco. Just make sure you turn up the sound because the music is exquisite, too.
You can find the original posting of this video at Simon Christen’s Vimeo site here.
copyright 2010 Dia Osborn