At dinner last night, a well tequila'd woman was talking with high volume and animation about her father. I turned in time to see her eyes well with tears, a signal to me of an important story.
She shared with all of us in earshot, "The night he died, he saw my mom and his sister on the couch. I told him he was hallucinating." I smiled. My beloved smiled. We knew there was more to story. I want you to know, too.
I'm Dr. Martha Jo Atkins. You've found my new website and blog. Welcome.
After the death of my friend Laurie last week, I've come to know the time to do my work in the world is now. That call has never been stronger. I'm paying attention.
I teach about dying. Specifically, I teach about the trajectory of dying and the Signposts; the changing sights, sounds, and behaviors many dying people experience as they are taking leave of this world.
I believe in my bones if you know what to watch and listen for, if you have context, the dying experience with someone you love can be meaningful in ways you didn't know it could be.
If you're the dying person? I'm told, for some, there is comfort and helpfulness in hearing what has happened for others who have gone before you.
I became interested in end-of-life experiences after I watched my mom in her dying process. Here's a 3 minute 36 second story about that:
Interest morphed to fascination when I saw the changing patterns of dying, something I hadn't recognized until I watched my father engage in many of the experiences I'd researched for a decade.
Language changes as people near their end. What they see and where they see it changes. What they hear changes. How they engage in the world changes. The energy of these changes can be tracked. I want to teach you how.
I love this work.
I love the mystery and the elegance of the dying process.
I love the patterns that emerge over and over with dying people across the world.
I love helping family members make sense of what they're seeing, hearing, and experiencing.
I believe If you have context about what's happening as your beloved is dying, you can make meaning in new ways.
If you can make meaning in new ways, the leave taking of your beloved and the resulting grief will both be richer.
We're all gonna die and we're all gonna experience the death of someone we love. This is part of the wholeness and fullness of life. Here, we will embrace dying and all that it is. We'll talk about the big questions and the mundane ones. We'll help each other along.
If you'd like a head start on the conversation, go pick up a copy of my new book, Signposts of Dying. It's available for Kindle and will be available in paperback the first of April.
Dying is inevitable. All the pain, fear, and madness that often surrounds dying doesn't need to be.
My goal for this work?
To teach a million people about the Signposts of Dying.
To move the energy of dying away from fear and towards love.
To help grieving daughters like the one I heard last night consider the possibility that the hallucination could be seen another way. Maybe, just maybe her mama and aunt were there to help her dad as he was leaving this world. I believe that. I believe there is more to the story.
I invite you to join me in this conversation. Let's see what we can discover together.
Martha Jo Atkins, Ph.D., LPC-S is the Executive Director of Abode Contemplative Care for the Dying in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Atkins is a professional counselor, coach, and researches and teaches about the trajectory of dying. You can learn more about Abode Contemplative Care for the dying at www.abodehome.org. You can learn more about Dr. Atkins at www.marthaatkins.com or find her on Facebook here or here.