Death and Other Love Songs: On Midwifing the Death of My Father

by Jacqui Woodward-Smith

In memory of Ronald Henry Smith, 14th September 1929 to 17th August 2007 and for ‘She who births us, and waits for us at the end of a life, to take us to another shore’1

And when life can no longer hold you let the red and white springs sing you home …2

I thought long and hard about whether to write this article; death is such an intimate, personal thing that I thought perhaps it would be a betrayal of my father, who I loved more dearly than I can ever say. And yet, when I think about the days and months before his death, about the honesty, openness, dignity, and humour with which he approached his final moment I know that he would say that it was ok. That if it helped others to be less afraid then his death should be shared. Ultimately, his final journey was his alone, and I can only relate my experience of it, so perhaps there can be no betrayal after all. The secrets of that journey have gone with him and I can only share what I know. From my own perspective I do know that death should not be hidden, as is so encouraged in our society, and that the strongest memory I have of those last hours, and the days following it, are of the savage beauty and fierce love to be found at the heart of the Crone.

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