Seven years ago, after spending the night sitting at my mother’s bedside, I left the hospital at 6 a.m. to catch a train, knowing that my sister would shortly come to take my place. In those few minutes of her being alone, my mum died.
There are many stories like this, of devoted families caring for a loved one and then the actual death happening when no one is there. It seems that many people want to be alone when they start their new journey.
Once I was in a house in a remote part of Ireland and a friend began to give birth. There was no doctor or midwife present, nor the opportunity to go to a hospital, and I found myself supporting the mother. Her husband was also there. Half an hour into the birthing process, we asked him to leave because he was intrusive and insensitive, for example telling her to "Breathe!" at the wrong times. He understood; in fact, he was relieved and left quietly.
At dawn, the child was born into a silent candlelit room, the walls painted a misty apricot and the curtains too made of light apricot mesh. The newborn settled on to his mother’s chest and never cried. His entry was peaceful.
At key moments in our lives, we often need calm and privacy. Comfort and support are wonderful, but some events need to be done in a private and sacred space.
I found myself thinking about all this as I prepared the first of what is going to be a regular column in this journal. Like all magazines and papers, the pages here are filled with messages, images and communications. Think about this. Think about that! Buy. Sell. Enjoy. Be good. Be better.
And yet…here is the miracle of writing. In the midst of all this information, right now you are reading these particular words and, in privacy, we are meeting. Regularly writing this column for you, I look forward to more of this.
In my own life, I regularly need time to be quiet. To some people this may look like withdrawal and isolation, but it is in the calm that I feel most connected and touched by the community of life. This is a way of being that does not need physical isolation, but can be done with an inner attitude in very public and busy places. Just quietly going within. Calming the breath. Softening the eyes. Relaxing chest and stomach.
It’s brilliant – that when we are quiet and private, we may most easily experience the wonder of life.