The heart of the wise is in the house
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
Continuing her moving account of the
death of her daughter, Robbie Davis Floyd points out that just as a
“doula” attends births in order to support the mother-to-be, so the
presence of a supportive friend makes all the difference in our
times of grief.
||It was a crazy thing to do,
getting on the airplane alone. I thought I could handle it.
Just before takeoff, I was still lucid enough to try one
more time to reach my sweetheart, Richard Jennings, in a
last-ditch effort to give him the terrible news in time for
him to be able to meet me at the hospital in Roanoke. I had
been calling all night, but he is a midwife and was not on
call, so he had turned his phones off to get some sleep. I
left a desperate message. Then, as the plane lifted into the
air, I leaned my head back and closed my eyes, thinking that
perhaps I could rest. That was when the universe imploded
into a black hole, filled with specks of golden light. I was
falling, choking, imploding into that black and gold
no-space. I gasped for air – I couldn’t breathe.
Almost instantly, the doulas showed up. The woman in the
seat in front of me moved back and held my hand. Her name
was Kim. She asked me to talk about my daughter, the best
thing anyone could have done at the time. A beautiful
red-haired stewardess brought me water and oxygen and
insisted I drink and breathe – again the best thing. During
Jason’s home birth, I had guzzled water and the midwives had
given me oxygen in between pushing contractions – such an
appropriate and empowering use of technology. This time it
was just as important, and worked as well to keep me
conscious and give me the strength to go on. Air and water –
the elements of life.
Just as doulas nurture you through the journey of birth, Kim
and this red-haired stewardess nurtured me through my
journey toward death. They never left me. In the airport in
Atlanta, I had to change planes but couldn’t see more than
two feet around me for the grayness everywhere. They walked
on either side of me, holding my arms, to a room where Delta
sheltered me. They brought me more water and food, and made
me eat it, though I could barely swallow through the lump in
I was given a phone and told I could make all the calls I
wanted – so many people still didn’t know. Kim had a plane
to catch but didn’t want to leave me. I made her go. The
red-haired stewardess told her not to worry because she
would stay with me, and she did. She changed her plans and
flew with me from Atlanta all the way to Roanoke, never
letting go of my hand. Did I doubt the existence of angels?
At the airport in Roanoke she handed me off to a friend who
had driven four hours from DC just to pick me up and escort
me to the hospital so that I would not be alone. Sheer love
from all of them, 100 percent support. May every doula do as
well. You don’t need to know a woman to support her in birth
or in death. I was not alone.
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means
the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of
giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our
pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.
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