That Time I Lived in South Africa
Updated: Oct 29, 2017
You may go your whole life without anyone really stopping long enough to truly see you and find you.
My job in South Africa was to take care of adults and children as they died of AIDS and teach others how to do the same. To teach people how to be with someone and be present for them and support them as they pass. I was in the hospice field for some time.
As a kid I would go to the nursing home down the street to hang out with the old folks. I would just sit and listen to stories for hours.
The more senile the better. The stories that make no sense are always the best stories.
Going to Africa was a dream of mine and I will go again.
I feel like I need to explain why I choose this as my field. Why would someone want to be around people dying? Death and Dying are avoided at all costs. We spend most of our day and night avoiding death and suffering, both in ourselves and in others too. This fascinates me.
Everyone runs away from what everyone will do. You and I are very different but we are identical in that we will both die one day. I, too, run and avoid death.
What brought me to this field is I wanted to know why. What is this death business that I and everyone else is so afraid of? I turned around and began walking toward this scary monster named death very young, purely to rebel against a fear that grips people.
"Oh yeah? You are so scary that you make me and the whole world scared. I bet you are not so scary. Let's see you then!" My ego came in handy at this point. "How dare death think it can back me into a corner and frighten me. I'll show you."
Over the past 17 years or so I have got the privilege to be with a very large number of people going through the process of dying and I feel lucky every time. Each persons experience is different. The trick to being with someone facing death is to face it with them.
Not imposing any of me in their death.
I do get very scared... with them. Happy... with them. They take me on their ride.
I must have used up my entire ego facing death because when it's faced I find myself forgetting about me all together and being a canvas of whatever is happening for the other. I obsessively have spent almost every moment of my life watching and observing people, all our whys, and what’s. I'm fascinated by us.
I have a doctorate in human condition from the school of myself.
I have come to this conclusion…
I promise you that this conclusion is really all you will ever need to know…
Everyone is wanting and waiting for someone to know them. You are hungry from birth to death to be known. Every single thing you do today and every day is in hopes to be identified. To be seen for who you are, who you think you are, who you might be, who you truly are.
All the time there is an unending yearning to be found, understood, got, uncovered, known. You may go your whole life without anyone really stopping long enough to truly see you and find you.
When I say stopping, I mean someone completely being present to who you are regardless of themselves. Beyond the noise in my head. Beyond me trying to relate to you. Beyond deciding who I think you are so that I feel safe in your company. Beyond assessing.
For someone to die to themselves for even a moment, to be present and recognize another is truly a rare event. It is the biggest best-est gift you can give to anyone.
Someone stopping their whole understanding, their whole life, to stand in the face of you. Seeing you very clearly. Maybe even clearer than you do.
That's the long awaited goods.
And in those last moments of life, that stopping occurs. Even for a moment.
And it is a great teacher.
I feel very lucky to have faced that scary monster. Because that monster holds in its stomach a secret...
And I am very grateful.