A student of my End of Life Guide Training Program wrote a wonderful response to the 10th module of the course, so much so that I wanted to publish it for all to read. Maryann did a wonderful job of linking the four elements earth, water, fire, and air to the death process and drew parallels to the birth process. Enjoy.
How Henk Died
The dying process as I understand it is a gradual process. The time duration varies of course depending on the circumstances but unless it is a sudden death, we all go through the same stages. In some ways when I think about it, it seems to me to be similar in some ways to be being conceived and growing in different stages in the mother’s womb.
First you are conceived and embedded well into the wall of the uterus. This to me would be the grounding stage, the Earth Element. In the beginning of the dying stage this element is the first to start to leave the body. When it does, the person begins to lose their strength and endurance. They become tired more easily and their way of life begins to change: sometimes quickly but not necessarily. Sometimes the dying person can seem to suddenly rally and go through a period where they feel fine, again similar to a pregnant woman who can suddenly have a time where she is more energetic and less tired before birth.
Henk, my late husband, had gone through this when he was sick. He was getting tired easily and went out less. Then suddenly he felt good and looked good. His daughter came for a visit from Holland and they even went on little road trips with him driving! He felt great. I still look at the photo of him and his daughter together at that time and he was literally the picture of health. You would never know he was ill. Then a month or so later, it was like someone hit a switch and his illness accelerated very quickly.
When the Water Element begins to leave the body I again think of the birthing process. It is a gradual loss and then suddenly your “water” breaks and then the process of birth is inevitable as the amniotic fluid is needed to keep the baby alive. The same is true for the dying person, but perhaps does not happen quite as quickly.
When the Fire Element begins to leave the body it has been my experience that the dying person does see things in other realms and have visions. Henk had visions and visits from spirits for two weeks or so before he died. It was NOT drug induced as he was not any heavy drugs right up to the end. He was very clear in what he saw and he did tell me when he would die. We were very fortunate and blessed to be able to talk coherently right up and including the night before he died.
I witnessed him talking with angels and spirits all that night but he was also very aware of me at his side. If I whispered to him “I love you”, he would stop his conversation with the others and say “I love you” back to me. I think the fire element can again be compared to the birthing process. I believe when you are getting ready to give birth the fire element in the body becomes stronger, supporting the body through the contractions and gives you strength beyond what you knew you even had.
As I read in some of the readings I did for this module “We are born on an “in” breath and we die on an “out” breath. So amazing that the Air Element is what gives us life and is what brings us to death, death of this earthly body. At the time when the Air Element begins to leave the body, it can be difficult to see. The loved one can be struggling to breath and can be painful for others to watch.
This was the case with me when Henk neared the very last few moments of his life. It seemed to go on forever and was unbearable to watch. That’s when I talked to him and told him it was ok to go. One of the hardest things I have ever done in my life BUT immediately after I said that to him he looked at me and took his last breath. I really believe that he was waiting for me to tell him it was ok because then his whole body relaxed and he let go. I think in some instances it would be good to be able to share that with the family of the loved one dying. You hear many stories of similar circumstances where the dying one is waiting to be told it’s ok to go.
So that seems to be it for the four elements during the dying and death process, Earth, Water, Fire, and Air.
Written by Maryann Arnold
Her 10th Module of End of Life Training