Today SevenPonds speaks with Alua Arthur. Alua is an end-of-life planner who founded Going with Grace to provide consulting services for those facing death and for their families. She is a former lawyer and a trained death midwife whose mission is to help those facing dying and bereavement with everything from emotional support to logistical and legal support.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Ellary Allis: Do you feel like your sense of spirituality has shifted at all since you started doing this work?
Aula: I think that being an end-of-life planner and being around dead bodies has given me the chance to see how, at the tail end of life, people seem to die with a smile. Even if the dying itself wasn’t peaceful, at the end of it, they tend to look like they’re smiling.
Ellary: That’s comforting.
Alua: It also might just be the way that I’m interpreting it, to be honest with you. Family members might think they look like they’re in pain. But I’m like, “Oh god, not only do they look peaceful, but they look like they’re smiling.” So that has reinforced my belief that, while dying may be a scary thing, it’s probably scary just because we don’t know what happens and we’re not familiar with what goes down. It’s a huge adventure.
Ellary: It’s a great unknown, for sure.
Alua: Right? You gotta leave everybody behind, there’s no guide book.
Ellary: Nobody can do it for you.
Alua: You do it alone. You do it all alone. I mean, shoot, it was scary when I was 19 to pack up and go to Thailand for four months — and I had mosquito repellent! We know nothing. And nobody that’s done it fully has ever come back to tell us what’s there. People have near death experiences, but they’re called near death experiences for a reason — they come back, they don’t go all the way. Except for Jesus, if you want to believe that story.
Ellary: In your work, what percentage of the time do you spend with the family versus the dying person? Do you spend more time with the family? More time with the person? How does that balance work out?
Alua: Well if someone’s actually nearing the end of their life, I’m spending a lot of time with the family — because at that point, dying people know what to do. The family is left dazed and confused. There are often strange family dynamics going on.
Ellary: It’s such an intimate space that you’re invited into.
Alua: And I don’t take that for granted for a minute. It’s so open, it’s so vulnerable, it’s so sacred…
Ellary: It can also be so fraught for families, because there are so many triggers that come up, whether it be financial, emotional, ideological differences that arise between family members. How do you take care of yourself when you’re in an emotional conflict zone like that?
Alua: I oftentimes ground myself and breathe before I go in. And I also check in to make sure that I’m doing my best to leave myself at the door. I do my best to remember that this isn’t for me and isn’t mine. Which means that when I reach the door, I leave it there. I cry a lot, that’s one way I handle it. I talk to my mom. And I’ve had a few partners who have been very sensitive to my work.
Ellary: It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, thank you Alua!
Please read part one of our interview here.