Seeing Death Clearly

End-of-2023 Reflections and Our Personal Journey with Stephen Wilson

December 03, 2023 Jill McClennen Episode 46
End-of-2023 Reflections and Our Personal Journey with Stephen Wilson
Seeing Death Clearly
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Seeing Death Clearly
End-of-2023 Reflections and Our Personal Journey with Stephen Wilson
Dec 03, 2023 Episode 46
Jill McClennen

In this end-of-2023 episode, my husband Stephen Wilson takes on the role of interviewer, leading a conversation where we explore our intertwined paths and how they've led us to appreciate life's impermanence. Drawing parallels with our careers in food service, we find beauty in life's temporary nature.

The conversation turns personal as we discuss our polyamorous lifestyle and the complexities of navigating aging and end-of-life discussions with multiple partners, prompting introspection on relationships and priorities.

I ask Stephen questions about life, death, and the impact of our discussions on his perspective. The dialogue delves into the intricacies of relationships and the uncharted territory of discussing end-of-life matters with partners.

I am taking a break for the rest of December 2023, I'll return with a new episode on January 7th, 2024. 

Don't miss the upcoming announcements for 2024 offerings by signing up for my newsletter. The link is in the show notes, where you can also grab a copy of my free workbook Living a Better Life.

If you are looking for a small business to support this holiday season, you can subscribe to the paid subscription feature or make a one-time donation to me using Venmo.  

I hope everyone has a safe holiday season and I will be back in 2024!  

Support the Show.

Support the show financially by doing a paid monthly subscription, any amount large or small help to keep the podcast advertisement free.

Subscribe to Seeing Death Clearly and leave a 5-star review if you are enjoying the podcast.

I appreciate the support and it helps get the word out to more people that could benefit from hearing the podcast.

Don’t forget to check out my free workbook Living a Better Life.

You can connect with me on my website, as well as all major social media platforms.

Facebook group End of Life Clarity Circle

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Show Notes Transcript

In this end-of-2023 episode, my husband Stephen Wilson takes on the role of interviewer, leading a conversation where we explore our intertwined paths and how they've led us to appreciate life's impermanence. Drawing parallels with our careers in food service, we find beauty in life's temporary nature.

The conversation turns personal as we discuss our polyamorous lifestyle and the complexities of navigating aging and end-of-life discussions with multiple partners, prompting introspection on relationships and priorities.

I ask Stephen questions about life, death, and the impact of our discussions on his perspective. The dialogue delves into the intricacies of relationships and the uncharted territory of discussing end-of-life matters with partners.

I am taking a break for the rest of December 2023, I'll return with a new episode on January 7th, 2024. 

Don't miss the upcoming announcements for 2024 offerings by signing up for my newsletter. The link is in the show notes, where you can also grab a copy of my free workbook Living a Better Life.

If you are looking for a small business to support this holiday season, you can subscribe to the paid subscription feature or make a one-time donation to me using Venmo.  

I hope everyone has a safe holiday season and I will be back in 2024!  

Support the Show.

Support the show financially by doing a paid monthly subscription, any amount large or small help to keep the podcast advertisement free.

Subscribe to Seeing Death Clearly and leave a 5-star review if you are enjoying the podcast.

I appreciate the support and it helps get the word out to more people that could benefit from hearing the podcast.

Don’t forget to check out my free workbook Living a Better Life.

You can connect with me on my website, as well as all major social media platforms.

Facebook group End of Life Clarity Circle

Jill: Welcome back to "Seeing Death Clearly." I'm your host Jill McClennen, a death doula and end-of-life coach.

Here on my show, I have conversations with guests, that explore the topics of death, dying, grief, and life itself.

My goal is to create an inviting space where you can challenge the ideas you might already have about these subjects. 

I want to encourage you to open your mind and consider perspectives beyond what you may currently believe to be true. PRE-RECORDED IN GARAGEBAND

In this episode, my guest is my husband Stephen Wilson but honestly, I ended up doing most of the talking, he basically interviewed me.

Stick around for the end of the episode to hear more about what I am doing in 2024 and if I had any guests on the podcast this year that you would love to hear more from, send me an email and let me know who you would like back on the show.

Thank you for joining us for this conversation.

Jill: You ready? I'm ready. Awesome. Well, thank you for coming back on with me. I know this is like a little awkward because like we know each other so well, but yet I wanted to kind of wrap up. I was going to say my first season, but I'm not going to call them seasons. I'm just going to go by year. So I wanted to wrap up my first year of podcasting because it was just about this time last year.

And I was like, I really, I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it this year in January. I'm starting a pod. And now look, it's a year later and you were my first guest. So now you get to be my last guest. When did we record the first episode? I think we must've recorded it in December because it was the first one to come out, but I was not that far ahead originally.

And then I got really far ahead of myself. So I actually was putting out podcasts in this month, right? So this is still November 2023. I was putting out podcast in November that I recorded in like July. Next year, I'm going to try to get a little bit more timely, I guess. It was hard though, because really when I first started talking about this and thinking about this, I'm like, who's going to want to talk to me about death?

And who's going to want to listen to conversations about death and here we are a year later and a few people that listen regularly, which is awesome. Thank you, everybody that listens regularly. And I've had more than enough people willing to talk to me about that. So that's really exciting. 

Stephen: I'm very proud of you for all the work you put in this year and your success with all the guests that you've had on your pod.

Jill: Well, thank you. I definitely could not do it without you. I've had some really awesome guests. And that was exciting to have people reach out to me that are authors of books and want to be on my podcast. I was like, wow, this is kind of cool. And not just like in the ego sense of like, wow, look at me, I'm doing this and people want to talk to me.

It's more that It shows that people are recognizing the amount of effort that I'm putting into making this be something that people can use as a resource to help them understand death and dying a little bit better, help them be able to have the conversations with their family and their loved ones a little bit better.

I really couldn't do it without all of your support. You're definitely the main breadwinner right now in the family while I do a lot of things that are not necessarily bringing me in income, but they're making an impact in the world around me. And I appreciate that. I love you very much. So thank you so much for your support.

I'm glad you're doing something you love. I really do love it. It's An interesting space to be in now, because it really is a topic that a lot of people don't want to talk about. And I was over at a friend's house during our little Thanksgiving break we just had. And I was talking with him and his wife and said, you know, it's interesting because I think of things that are considered taboo, like talking about sex, talking about your money, talking about death.

But the difference with sex and money is Even if people don't admit it, they want it, right? They want to do it. They want more of it. They want it to be better than what it was. Where with death, even somebody like me, that's pretty comfortable now with the fact that I'm going to die one day and that you're going to die one day.

I still don't want it. I don't want you to die, even though I know you're going to, and I have to be okay with that. So it's an interesting space to be in talking about a topic that Most people don't want to visit them, even though it's going to right, 

Stephen: But you don't want me to be immortal either. So like in a way you do want me to die.

Jill: No, that's true. That's an interesting way of looking at it is I don't want either of us to be immortal. Oh, it sounds terrible. I have this Facebook group where some of you are probably in it, and I ask different questions. It's called End of Life Clarity Circle, and it's different questions about death and dying and living life and all these other things.

A couple times I've asked questions, something along the line of, would you be immortal if you could choose to? And I'm still surprised by people that are like, yeah, 100 percent I would totally, I would cryo freeze my body or whatever it's called, like. It'll like be brought back at some point like no, I absolutely have no interest in living longer than my natural lifespan, but I guess I'm still just wanting to control my natural lifespan a little bit because I don't want you to live forever, but I don't want you to die at 40.

Something I don't want you to die at 50 something. I keep saying, and in my head, we're going to be in our nineties and we're going to like die together within a few days of each other. And that might be how it works, but it might not be. And we can't control it.

Stephen: Right. We can try and control it as much as we can. Ultimately it's out of our hands.

Jill: Yes, and I know you've been walking now every morning. I've been trying to join you. And that's one of the things that I know is important is that we care for our bodies and we care for our health so that we could hopefully be healthy as long as possible and live as long as possible.

And I've been enjoying spending that time together because now with life being. the way that it is. It's just busy. And so we don't spend as much time together. Like for anybody that doesn't know, Stephen and I met in culinary school many, many, many years ago. What was that? 2000? Was it just 2000, right?

Yeah. Wow. I was like, wait, 2001 that I was like, no, it wasn't 2008. So in May of 2000, we met. So that's almost 24 years of my life that I've spent with Steven. We were in class together. So we spent a lot of time together. And then when we moved to California, we didn't spend a lot of time together because we were both working in kitchens and we were working really opposite hours.

It was important to us to be together. So. We made some changes and we opened a bakery and then we were together all the time, like 24 hours a day. We were basically together for quite a few years. And then we had kids and the reality in our country right now is that you can't really do mom and pop businesses anymore.

And so both of us couldn't work together and have kids and have bills and have health insurance and all these things. So life just got a little crazy, but now we're at that point where I know for me that Thinking about death and dying so much has really shifted my priorities in life. That being with you and the kids more is the thing that I really care about versus making a lot of money.

Because I know that this is the important stuff and these are the things that I can't get back. And so my focus really has shifted a lot. Especially over the last year, because I have talked to guests that have lost their children, that have lost their spouses. Even for me, I'm still saying lost, right?

They have died, normalizing, saying, like, people didn't get lost. It's not like they put them down somewhere and can't remember where they are. I mean, they've had children die. They've had their spouses die. And I really want to make sure that I'm focusing on what's important to me. And what's important to me is being with all of you and really trying to be as fully present as possible when we are together.

And it was actually one of the things that I did want to ask you about is even though this isn't your work, even though this isn't your job, you Obviously are being taken along for the ride Thanksgiving Eve at our house. The conversation automatically goes to death and dying and you know, like, yeah, it's, it's in your face a lot.

So like, has it changed the way that you've thought about life at all since we've started talking so much about death and dying and grief and living life and all of those things? 

Stephen: Yeah, I mean, I guess the path that I've always been on has kind of been, it's like a natural progression that we're here. I was thinking about it the other day, how we both got into professions that are very temporary in nature, the culinary arts, especially when we had the bakery.

I like to think of the wedding cakes as like our mandalas, right? We spend all this time and all these resources and all this energy on making these beautiful, beautiful cakes. For these people's special day, right? It's a one-time thing and we create this beautiful piece of art and then by the end of the night, it's gone.

It's not only gone, it's been consumed. And Jill and I are both gardeners. We have beautiful gardens out front and every year the gardens are beautiful and every year the gardens die and turn brown and decay back into the earth. So like, I feel like it's uh, not surprising that we came here where we are understanding the temporary nature of things and have an appreciation for it. And I guess obviously since you've been talking about it and been on your death duel path that it's more in our faces. I've been into stoicism for a couple years now and it's a lot of the same sort of ideas of memento mori and making sure you're aware of your mortality because it is all temporary in nature.

So when we talk about death and dying at parties, I think it's interesting because I like talking about the fun stuff. The fun stuff is like you mentioned earlier, sex and. Money and death and politics and all the things you're not supposed to talk to. But those are the fun conversations. That's interesting because yeah, most people don't want to talk about it, but it is interesting to talk about.

It's certainly helped me try to be more present. Like you said, with the kids, especially being present with them and trying to understand that our time with them is fleeting. Next month we're gonna have a teenager and a tween and you know, eight years our youngest will be out of the house, presumably. And then they'll go live their own lives. You won't see them as much. 

Jill: Yeah, it's true too that they're going to be grown up and out of the house before we know it. And there's definitely some grieving involved with those changes in life. Like part of me is like, well, you know, it'll be, it'll be fine. It's the natural progression in a human's life.

I understand that. And then the other part of me is like, but man, I'm really going to miss them. I know. It can be tough, like there's definitely days when it's really difficult to be parents. And especially to be parents in a society right now that there's not a lot of support, and it's exhausting, and it's stressful, and there's the stressors of like, the outside world, but I'm definitely going to miss them.

And there's going to be part of me that will need to grieve that change in life, but that's okay. Right? Like we, we fear these things. 

Stephen: Are you grieving them now though, about that? I think that's important. Like to understand that you're going to grieve it, but don't grieve it now because it hasn't happened yet.

Our, our daughter and I had a conversation. We went, I think it was, it wasn't Thanksgiving. It was the day after we went down to Cape May. And you were like stressing out because you were concerned your mom was going to stress out. And I left and she's like, why is your mom stressing out about Grammy stressing out?

It hasn't even happened yet. I was like, you're, you're not wrong at all. Like your mom's stressing out about something in the future that hasn't even happened yet. And maybe it won't even happen. So like, be present. It was funny that she 

Jill: picked up on that. No, and she's not wrong. And you're not wrong. And I think, I'm not grieving the future of like that they're going to leave.

I think part of me, it's like, again, as morbid as this will sound to some people, like, honestly, our children might not even make it to 18 and leave the house. I mean, it happens to somebody every day where their child dies before then. There is that little part of me that's like, we will be lucky if our children make it to 18, right?

I feel very grateful for every day that we have with them, that they're happy and they're healthy. And I try to be very present. 

Stephen: Very low probability of that happening. It's like if you proportionate in your stressing or your grieving or something that hasn't happened because it's likely then, you know, you put proportionally more thought into it, but like, in all likelihood, there'll be fine circumstances that we live in say that it's very, very unlikely that anything bad is going to happen to them before they turn 18.

So you just need to make sure you're putting a proportionate amount of stress on them. No point in staying up late at night thinking about them possibly dying in the near future because it's likely it's not going to happen. Yeah. 

Jill: And I don't think I stay up at night thinking about it. No. Yeah. I wouldn't say that like it stresses me out and that I stay up at night worrying that something's going to happen.

At least not any more. Cause when the kids were younger, I mean, I'm sure you probably remember this. I was like really anxious. about one of them just like getting into drugs when they became a teenager and like dying of an overdose or ending up homeless on the street. And I was so stressed out. And I remember you saying to me once like, just stop thinking about it.

Like you of all people, if you're going to think about it, you're going to make it happen. So like, don't, don't worry about it. Don't stress out about it. And it's hard to find that fine line of like, Making sure that you guide them into making good decisions, right, having those conversations about drugs and even having a conversation with our almost 13 year old of like, when you get a little older, I will probably give you Narcan to take with you so that if you're at a party and any of your friends overdose, and he was like, really?

And I'm like, look, man, like, I want you to be that kid that is well informed and is prepared for things. It sounds crazy, but also, again, it's happening. So I would actually doesn't sound crazy at all. Nowadays with the teenagers, early 20 year olds, it's it is an issue for sure. I'm not trying to scare him.

But I also want to be realistic with him about the fact that some of his friends, people that he knows, are going to start doing drugs. I think back to high school, when I was in high school in the 90s, right? There was people doing like legit hard drugs when I was in high school. It's not like it was just like, oh, we're drinking some alcohol out in the woods, but we were doing that too.

There was some things going on that I observed I did not participate in because I was terrified of drugs. But I want to be realistic. We try to have those conversations with our children, and do the best that we can, and I don't know. It's hard. Parenting's hard. 

Stephen: Like guns. We talked about gun safety too.

We wear seatbelts in the car. We don't ignore all these threats to the kids. We have honest conversations with them. And our therapist say something like that last week. She's like, you guys talk to your kids about the stuff more than this. 

Jill: Yeah, she did. And we've kind of always talked to the children in an adult way, again, age-appropriate topics.

But we never talked to our children in like baby talk. It's just not us. It's just not the way that Stephen and I do anything really. That's one that I've that I still struggle with a little bit because The way that I was raised, the culture that I was raised in, it was more like, we're just not going to talk about anything.

So if it's uncomfortable, we're just not going to talk about it. And so I'm working on getting over the discomfort and having uncomfortable conversations with our children, especially, but even with adults, there's been times when you and I have had to talk about things and it is a little difficult to get over some of the old.

The old way of doing things for me, which is shutting down a little bit and not wanting to talk. But that's part of why we've been together so long. And really like a big part of why I love you so much. And I'm so happy to have you as my life partner is because We tend to find a way to work on things together.

It's not shaming or blaming or anything like that. It's like, we're just going to work on it together and we're going to make it happen. And we always do, which is pretty awesome. I hope we can continue this. I feel 

Stephen: like we're in the arc of our relationship. We've probably gone through the most difficult times. Assuming there's no tragedies that happen, which is a possibility. 

Jill: It is, of course. It is always a 

Stephen: possibility. Owning a business and the great recession and having young kids and now the kids are a little older. We have a house. We're comfortable. I feel like the hardest part 

Jill: is behind us. I think so too, but you're right.

Unless like there's some tragedy that happens or one of us gets something like crazy. illness diagnosis, which again could happen, but for right now, yeah, exactly. If it happens, we will work through it for right now. We're all happy and healthy. I do try to make sure that I'm just fully present nails for what's going on right now.

Not perfect. Obviously, I still stress out when I'm worried about my mom stressing out. As long as I'm heading in the right direction, I feel like that makes me really proud that my life has definitely changed. I've gone through a lot of different experiences that I've been like healing from and working through.

And I feel like I'm definitely heading in the right direction. And I'm really glad that I'm doing it with you. And again, I'm just very grateful for all of your love and support over all these years. My mom's goddaughter was over yesterday. So, you know, I've known her her entire life, right? So a very long time.

And Christina said to me when I was talking about my business, she was like, I feel like everything that you do, you're always like a little bit ahead of everybody. So you just have to like work harder when I'm just Like, yeah, I would say that's pretty accurate. We kind of did that with our bakery. We moved to like a small town, South Jersey, and we were like, we're going to open a bakery where we make everything from scratch.

And it's going to be in a downtown area that's really struggling, but we want to help bring it back. And we did, we did all of that, but it was, it was not easy. It was definitely a struggle. And now I look at bakeries that are doing things that we were doing. When did we open? 2007? 2008? Somewhere in that area.

Things that we were doing then, it's like people are doing it now and it's like, wow, look at this. And I'm like, yeah, dude, we were doing that like almost 20 years ago. And it was like pulling teeth sometimes to get people to come support us. But Again, it's okay. So we, we, but me in particular as well, I definitely tend to be in spaces that I know it's needed.

And I know that I could help make the changes culturally, but it makes it harder for us, especially when it comes to financial stuff. So thank you. I appreciate all of your Support in cheering me on and telling me that you're proud of me. For some people, you probably know this and you probably have figured it out, even if you don't really know it, that Stephen and I are polyamorous.

And so we definitely do things a little bit different than a lot of people. And I've been trying to be a little bit more open about that because I want to be open and honest about my life and me and what matters to me. And so I'm still struggling a little bit with some of the feeling like I don't want to be judged for things.

I don't want it to affect our children. But I also do think that it's important for people just to understand that this is the way that people live their lives, right? Like it doesn't make us bad people. It's just different than what some people do. And when it comes to end of life, I've been thinking about this like more and more is it's going to be interesting navigating aging and end of life with partners already.

Me and my partner have been together for five years and you and page have been together for four. Is that right? I think. Okay. Yeah. So like these are people that are in our lives and in some cases there's like other partners and there's children involved and then there's our children involved and it's going to be one of those things where I didn't really think about it when we kind of first started down this journey, which we started really 20 something years ago, very early on in our relationship.

And now I'm like, wow, like this is going to be interesting. Have you and Paige really ever talked about any end of life stuff at all? Or do you guys kind of avoid all of that conversation? 

Stephen: I don't think we've had end of life conversations. I'm not sure if that will seem so often in the future. Well, and with my partner, she's married and she's got a husband and kids and I wonder if they have their own end of life conversations.

Jill: I'm not sure. I don't know. I mean, I know Paige had her mother in law die this summer. And so you weren't around. I don't remember where you were for the Shiva. So I actually went to their house to represent the family and be like, all right, here we are, even though Steven can't be there. It was interesting being in that space where it wasn't.

Anybody that we were related to, but we're obviously very close with their family. And so this was a big deal for her husband losing his mother. And we have a lot of parents that potentially we're going to have to take care of, right? It's like between my mom, your parents, Paige's parents, my partner's parents, there's going to be a lot of navigating all of that.

And It's okay. I mean, I think if anything, it could actually be really good in that we have our own little kind of support network. Exactly. We have our own support network. We have our chosen family support network. I don't know. It's interesting, though, my partner and I, we have talked a little bit about it.

And I know where all of his paperwork is and We at least have a baseline of like what, what we would do if something were to happen to him, especially if something happened to me, obviously he would be able to turn to you and the two of you can navigate it together. But I don't know. And again, I like to think it's really far in the future, but who knows? We don't know. We don't know for sure. 

Stephen: You would miss working at Cathedral Kitchen? I mean, at Harvest recently. 

Jill: I really do miss working at Cathedral Kitchen, but I also really don't miss working at Cathedral Kitchen. I fall in a very interesting space. I think it's that I really don't miss working in kitchens.

I loved the work. I don't even know if I, I don't know. It's weird because I have people and I've always had people that'll ask me like, well, what's your favorite thing to bake? Or what's your favorite thing to cook? And I'm like, honestly, nothing. Like I just cook what I have to cook. I make what I need to make.

It's not like I'm like at home making brownies. Cause I'm like, Ooh, I love brownies. So I'm going to make a batch of brownies. Like when we bake, we're baking. massive quantities. And we're actually not baking massive quantities at once. We're making, you know, 60 quarts of cupcake batter. And then we're baking it off over time, freezing some of it, like it's a whole different beast.

And I love working with my students at Cathedral Kitchen. That's why I'm really glad I still get to teach Serve Safe, because I really love being with the students. And I really love my coworkers at Cathedral Kitchen. I really miss seeing all of them on a regular basis. But I really don't miss kitchens.

There's just like part of me that I think kitchens are a tough place to work and you know looking back on it especially just some of the behaviors that have been ignored in kitchens for a very long time now I look back and I'm like oh gosh like what the How? How did I, how did I work in that and not, but I guess that's the thing.

How did I work in it and not burn out? But I think I was burning out. So I do have like this weird space of, I really miss working at Cathedral Kitchen and I also really don't miss it, but I'm really happy that I'm able to still be there part time that it's not completely gone. But this really feels like this work at end of life, when I kind of like look back on my life, thinking about to being a child.

What did I want to do when I was a child? I wanted to be a brain surgeon. And then I had the thought planted in my head that I was too stupid to be a brain surgeon. So that was never going to happen. And then I was like, well, maybe I could be a psychologist or a psychiatrist because I want to figure out people's brains and why people feel certain ways.

And I was having my own issues. And so then I was like, no, I can't do that either. Because again, it was like, I could barely get through high school in a lot of ways, but now. I know it's not that I was too stupid. I just didn't really learn the right way that they were teaching. And I also had some trauma that I was dealing with in my head, so I was overwhelmed.

And so that's a whole different thing, right? And then it kind of was like, well, maybe I'll go to culinary school because I like cooking shows, and I liked cooking with my grandmother, and I'd gotten a job at a bakery, and I thought it was kind of cool, and so I went to culinary school, and then I ended up switching schools, and I met you my first day of CIA.

Not even the first day of CIA, the day we moved into the dorm, right? And I really do think, and I know sometimes you think I'm a little, I'm a little woo with some of this stuff, but I do think That part of my path was really just so that I could find you. It's not that I was super, like, passionate about baking or culinary.

I think I just needed to find you. And so I found you. And I definitely went through some tough times right after I met you. And yet you were just always this, you were just always this presence in my life from the moment that I met you, where like, I just knew I couldn't live without you, whatever that meant.

And I didn't think it was going to be that we would get married and have kids at the time. That was definitely not what I thought was going to happen. And so I think in some ways, culinary and baking and even the bakery, that was just like our path together. That was our journey together. That was like our thing to experience together, but I feel like the end of life work is my calling. I feel like this is what I was put on this planet to do. If that is a real thing, that we were put here to do a certain thing, being a mother to our children and working in the end of life space and helping to change the culture around it and helping to support people through it, like this feels like my calling.

But I do miss my people at Cathedral Kitchen. 

Stephen: Some of the highlights from your first year of podcasting. Favorites on any particular guests, but no, of course memorable moments,

Jill: The first time I got an email from somebody that was a publicist for an author and they were like, Hey, would you be interested in interviewing this person?

I was like, Oh my gosh, somebody actually reached out to me. That was really a big deal. That was really exciting. The first time that I ran into somebody out in public. And we know them through town and they were like, I love your podcast so much. It's so amazing. And I didn't even know people were listening to it.

So that was really neat. And listening to myself get more comfortable over time. getting better at, you know, cause I didn't know how to do any of this stuff where I was like, I am going to learn it as I go and figuring out a system of how to edit all of the episodes because I do edit every episode. I have a very particular way that I do it now.

I've got it down to this is the way I like to do it. And so getting better at. The actual podcasting itself feels really good. Again, for somebody that went through most of their life feeling like they were too stupid to learn things, to take on something like this and feel like I'm doing it well, feels really good.

And I've had so many really amazing conversations. I've talked to people that wouldn't talk to me. If I didn't have a podcast, so that's really neat. Cause it it's yes. I want to get this information out to the public, but really a lot of it is for me. It's to have these conversations to listen to my guests, to learn from my guests, to be able to show up for my client.

I'm learning so much from other people because I definitely had some imposter syndrome where I went into end of life work. from a completely different career. I wasn't a nurse. I wasn't a hostage chaplain. Like I wasn't a lot of what I was seeing other death doulas coming into the space. I didn't have this background, but I actually, so for next year, I already recorded my Super exciting podcast episode with Barbara Karnes and it's funny because every time if like Barbara likes any of my posts on Instagram, I get really excited and I'll be like, Stephen.

Oh my God, Barbara Karnes liked my post. I'm like such a little fangirl. So when I got a chance to speak with Barbara, it was definitely like The highlight of my whole year of like, Okay, this is really cool. So that one is coming out in January. But when I was talking with Barbara, I actually realized something that I hadn't realized before.

And it was really that me coming into this space. Completely fresh, completely new, not having any experience in the medical field is actually a good thing because I'm able to see more clearly some of the spots that really need to change. I came into this thinking that doctors and nurses were really good with death and dying because they have to be.

I thought that doctors and nurses would be really good at talking to families about death and dying and terminal illnesses, even hospice, the insides and the outsides of hospice and palliative care. I had all these assumptions in my head of what was going on in this sphere. And now. being from the outside, actually spending the last year.

So right about this time, last year in 2022, I'd started volunteering at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital with their palliative care team and hospice team. And so I've been able to see a lot and learn a lot and hear a lot and spend a lot of time with people that are navigating terminal illnesses and that are actually dying.

I was able to really, view it from a different place because I am an outsider. And so now actually I think that coming in from something completely different was really a good thing. And I get to use all of your wonderful Ritz Carlton hospitality service experience that Stephen taught me and all of the people that work for us at our bakery.

He was Background came from Ritz Carlton. Ritz Carlton has amazing service. And so he really taught me and all of our employees how to provide just the best service possible. And I do carry over into my business. And so that's kind of what I've started saying to people when I network in person, when we talk about is between hospice and debt dollars.

It's still a challenge to get any in person clients. I mean, honestly, not even just in person. This is a challenging business because, again, people avoid it. But one of the things that I keep saying is, I am the Ritz Carlton of end of life care because I know that that is the service that I provide. It is the best end of life care that you could get.

And yes, you can get a lot of amazing services from hospice. I love hospice. I will never say anything negative about hospice itself. I think it's an amazing service and it is free for people. But if you have the extra money and you want that extra care, if you are caring for a loved one that is dying and you want extra support, that's when somebody like me could really help out.

I'm bringing my service experience into my death stool of service. , but it is a challenge and it's okay. Yes. Yeah. I don't, I don't mind challenges. I've never been afraid of challenges. 

Stephen: Now we always turn our own path. 

Jill: It's not the easiest. I really do try to remind myself sometimes that I would honestly be very bored if everything in life was easy.

I'm one of those people. I don't mind challenges. I don't mind working hard. I don't mind going above and beyond what. People expect of me, and if everything in life was easy, I probably would be really bored, and I would just get myself into trouble. So we're trying, trying to avoid that as much as we can.

Any last stuff? It's hard because I feel like we had so much we could talk about. We also talk all 

Stephen: the time. We talk on our walk every morning. 

Jill: We do. We do. And when we walk by older couples, 40s. He's early 40s. I'm mid 40s. But like we'll walk by older couples and we're like, Oh, that's going to be us one day.

And hopefully we'll both make it that long. And hopefully that will be us one day. One of the things that I don't miss about Cathedral Kitchen is having to be there from nine to five every day, Monday to Friday. Now I do have a little bit more freedom with my time. So I'm able to go on that walk with Stephen.

Because I know that when I'm on my deathbed and I'm dying. Those are going to be the things that I'm going to think back to is like our walks together in the morning or the kids come home from school around three o'clock. I was never home until probably five thirty six o'clock and Now we have those experiences where I'll take the kids to the library or Berkeley and I for a while.

Hopefully we'll get back to it again. We were going running after school so that we can spend some time together. And those really are the important things. And I know like when my boss at Cathedral Kitchen died, it was very sudden. It was a surprise. None of us expected it. And it really made me realize.

That the important things to me because when, you know, when he was alive, he was so loved by so many people. That is one thing you have to say about him between students and staff and the community. And I mean, everybody loved him. And I just really thought to myself. What is going to be important to me?

What's important to my family? When I die, do I want to have 500 people saying how much they loved me, but my kids are thinking, well, I barely saw her. So I'm glad that you loved her, but I kind of don't. Like that just, that really hit home for me. That that's not what I wanted for my life. And that's not what I wanted for my children's life, and that's not what I wanted for you, and I knew that that was That's really kind of the path that I was going down where I gave so much of myself to my work at Cathedral Kitchen and to my students at Cathedral Kitchen.

And I know that it was appreciated. And I love my students so much, my graduates, I still keep in touch with a lot of them. The love is definitely genuine. And the respect between me and my students is definitely genuine. But that takes a lot of effort. That takes a lot of energy. And that meant that that effort and energy was not being spent on the people that mattered to me the most. In some ways, Jonathan gave me a guess. You get 

Stephen: nervous when I travel, I know Verbena gets 

Jill: nervous. Oh my god, Verbena, she, she's funny. She gets nervous whenever either of us is away from the house of like, something's gonna happen. No, I don't get nervous when you travel.

I have that realistic understanding that like, You might not come home because it happens all the time that people go away on business trips, and they don't come home. So it just makes it that when you do leave, I want to make sure that I really like say to you how much I love you and I try to connect with you as best as I can.

And I know that I'm not always the best. I'm one thing about me too, is I'm not super touchy feely. Steven is a big hugger. He hugs. Everybody and it's amazing and I love it. I think it's really great. It almost is like a joke where people will see us and they know not to hug me, but they go right for Steven and like they hug Steven.

So like, I'm not super touchy feely, but I will try to make sure that I make the effort to like really give you a hug and a kiss goodbye and tell you how much I love you. So that if you didn't come home, I would never feel that regret and that sadness that maybe I was too busy doing something else, that I didn't take that time to connect with you.

I don't worry about you when you leave. I just have this awareness now that it could always be the last time that I see you and That's okay as long as I make sure that I really connect with you and want to make sure that you had no doubt in your mind when you left the house that I loved you.

That's kind of a big deal to me. Same thing with the kids. I just want the kids to never, ever, ever have a doubt if I didn't come home one day. because something happened to me. I don't ever want them to think, I don't know, did mom really love us? Did mom really want us? I don't ever want them to think about that.

So I don't think either of them will, especially because over the last few years, I've really made some changes in the way that I show up and connect with all of you.

No, I don't worry because you've definitely been traveling more again since during COVID you stopped traveling like all together for a while and now you've been on the road again more and yeah, I don't worry but I mean, of course we miss you when you're gone. It's always interesting to have that change in dynamics when you're not here to be like just me.

It's like one of the things that I had somebody, I don't know, one time say something to me about like needing my husband and I was like, I don't need him, but I really appreciate him and I really enjoy having him in my life and I'm very grateful for the love that we share together. But I don't need him.

Like there's a difference. I love having you here. You're a great husband. You're a great father. You take really good care of me and the kids. You clean more than I do. That's for sure. But I appreciate all of that. And I think there is a difference in that I want you in my life. I'm not just with you because of some need to have you in my life.

I think the feeling's mutual. I think we really, yeah, we appreciate each other. We appreciate our time together, even though I know I am difficult sometimes. You love me in all of my weirdness, which I definitely appreciate. So it's interesting. I definitely keep things interesting. But again, you know what?

I'm not harming anybody. I'm not harming myself, you know, and so I'm just a little bit weird and that's okay. 

Stephen: What other kind of death talk do you want to hash out on the pod? 

Jill: I don't know. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I'm sure I'll have you back on again. I'm sure. 

Stephen: How do you personally manage all the chaos in the world?

The death, the destruction that's always going on, but it seems like at times there's more, right? We're more conscious of more. Yes. Especially in times of war. What's going on in Ukraine? What's going on in Middle East? Kind of in our faces more. I know a lot of people have been struggling with feelings of helplessness.

How do you manage dealing with all this death that's in our faces? Not natural deaths, right? Like unnatural, violent death.

Jill: I try not to look away. Like there's definitely times when now with the world being the way that it is. We can see the violence, we can see the death, we can see the pain, we can see the suffering, and I try not to look away.

And I also try not to get so caught up in it because I know that there's only so much that I can do. I've been pretty quiet on my social media about the whole thing. I actually have a post that I wrote a while ago that I had shown you and that I'm probably actually going to share this week. I started.

Relooking back at it about a practice that I do, I had learned it at this Buddhist meditation center that I go to in Philly, and I actually started using it first with my students at Cathedral Kitchen, because I think that's the thing too, for me, one of my friends pointed out that out of a lot of people, I actually probably have as many Jewish friends as I have Muslim friends, people of color that are friends of mine.

So like, I fall in this really interesting space where I look at the whole thing that's happening in the Middle East in particular, and like, I just can empathize so much with all sides of what's happening. And I also can understand That there are experiences in life that bring people to a point where taking another person's life is what they feel like is needed.

Whether I agree with it or not, that's different. And so I'm trying to witness the whole thing and taking it in. So that's where Tonglin really comes in for me, where again, I started using it with my students at Cathedral Kitchen, where yes, we're seeing it in our faces right now, what's happening in Ukraine and what's happening in the Middle East.

But honestly, there's violent death around us all the time. And we just are really good at tuning out what's not happening to us. And I was seeing the realities of the violent death in my students. I was seeing it. I was hearing about it. I was witnessing it. I mean, even at one point, my, my doula mentor, whose name is also Jill, one time when I was talking to her and I said, you know, we found another person had overdosed at Cathedral kitchen and we found them dead.

And she was like, you see more dead people than I do. And I was like, yeah, there's when you're working with a community in an area where there's drugs, and gun violence, like, you're going to witness it. And it can either consume you and overwhelm you because you feel so helpless and that you can't fix it, if you care at all, at least that's how you're going to feel.

You can try to figure out a way to care for yourself so that you can keep showing up. And so when I learned this meditation practice, Tonglen, I try to use that now as well because to me when I'm witnessing all of these wars as a mother, that is the thing that I'm most aware of is there's women that are witnessing their children dying.

And again, I'm not even just talking about the wars. Like these are my graduates. These are my students. These are my coworkers. There's women that are witnessing their children dying at rates that are so much higher, which again, then makes me feel silly that I worry about my kids dying when, as you pointed out, It's statistically not that likely, right, that our children will die.

I try to put myself in the place of all of these mothers that are watching their children die and also watching their children take other people's lives. Whether it's, again, gun violence in some of the cities or somebody that's fighting a war, there's still mothers that are watching their children be involved with violent death, and I try to practice Tan Lin by it's Imagine the pain and the suffering as, you can imagine it as like smoke. I've also heard of it like, imagine it like this dark, sticky, heavy, just something that you can imagine yourself taking in. And then immediately for me, my question was, well, how do I not hold it?

Because I take it in. I'm real good at taking it in, but I was not good at figuring out what to do with it. So eventually I had to shut myself down, which means that then I'm not effective, right? I can't help anybody if I have to shut down. And so one of my teachers. They kind of explained it as you're taking it in, but you're transmuting it into something else.

I try to imagine that there's in my heart this bright light that's just like love and goodness and peace and calm and all these things that the world needs, right, that I have that light within my heart. And as I breathe in this, It's sticky, dark, heavy, painful. Once it hits that light, I transmute it and change it into more of that light and that love and that peace.

And so that's what I'm breathing out and giving back into the world. And so when I am on social media. And I'm looking at these really terrible images or reading things about the experiences and all of the people that are dying and all of the children that are dying. And again, when I'm out in the world and I'm just knowing that there's so much pain and suffering, I just.

Practice Tonglen. I feel like it's something that I can do because posting on social media in the long run, it's not really going to do anything other than in my post. I am talking about the practice of Tanglin to hopefully maybe give that tool to somebody else that also feels helpless and feels like they can't do anything.

Sharing that tool that we can at least do that. We can do what seems counterintuitive, which is actually taking in the pain, but it's not taking it in to hold it. It's taking it in to transmute it into something positive and sending that positive out into the world. I like to think of myself as like a filter.

I think I'm kind of filtering it, but it's hard. It's so hard. And especially So divisive right now with you either have to be on one side or another and if you're on this side You're against the other side and it just like it feels like it's an impossible place to be because I really can't choose Sides on a lot of this stuff, even though my family is actually Ukrainian So when I think about the Ukraine war like I'm sure there's people I'm related to that are in Ukraine That are going through this experience, but I just, I can't, I don't know.

I don't know if it's like a realistic way or a healthy way to look at it, but I just empathize with all humans and this Fear, because really, in the long run, when we look at it, what is the main fear? What is the main reason that all of these things are going on? And yes, we can say, well, it's this, it's that, it's the other thing.

But when it really comes down to it, it's the fear of other. And why do we fear the other? It's because we're afraid the other's going to kill us. And in some cases, they are killing us, which then leads us to feeling like we need to protect ourselves, which means that then we are killing other people. And we have, as humans, just gotten ourselves really so stuck in this cycle.

And I don't know what to do about that. I don't know how to fix that other than if we could all stop being so afraid of dying, if we could just accept that we are going to die. And also, I heard somebody saying on a podcast the other day, If we could just look at people as in they're still just human, they're still suffering, they're still afraid of the same things, they're still just trying to be happy and healthy and take care of their children, right?

If we can look at them as in how much we have in common, not our differences, Then that would really help bring empathy and to bring understanding and to bring more compassion. But we're so focused, just the whole world, right? We're so focused on what's different and what we don't like that we can't really see clearly that we're all just trying to exist and we're all just trying to be happy and healthy.

And some of us. Have it a lot easier when it comes to the happy and the healthy Even though when you talk to a lot of people that you would think should be happy Because of all the stuff that they have access to, they're not. So again, that's a whole other thing that I don't understand, but I 

Stephen: Do you use that in your own personal practice.

Do you remember when you said you were going to go down this path of being a death deal? My, my first question, one of my first questions was like, how are you going to take care of yourself? That's  heavy.

Jill: Yes, I do use it in my own personal practice where, when I am sitting with people that are suffering, sitting with people that are dying, rather than, again, taking that in, I will practice Tonglin for them to kind of send them some peace.

And there's this idea when they talk about it, even in like shamanism or energy healing type of spaces where when we are practicing these things for other people, it's actually working on us as well. And so as I'm practicing Tonglin for other people, even my normal meditation practice, I don't necessarily practice Tonglen during my like normal sitting practice that I do in the morning.

But to me, that's my way of also just allowing myself. I meditate, I move my body to just kind of get rid of all the things that I'm holding that I don't need to hold. And with this work, one of the things too is I had to just not be afraid of being uncomfortable. I had to stop being afraid of feeling sad.

Like when I interviewed the woman whose son just didn't wake up one morning, same age as our daughter is now. And actually it was interesting because I realized that the day her son died was the day that I found out I was pregnant with our daughter, which. Doesn't mean anything necessarily but I thought that was actually just interesting when I realized it after reading her book And like yeah, it hurt, you know, it hurt to read that and it hurt to be with her pain But it also didn't kill me.

It was a little painful, but we're so afraid of feeling anything. We're so used to numbing, right? Like, how much do we numb in our society with drugs, with alcohol, with television, with shopping, with gambling, with all of these things. We just try to numb ourselves from really feeling anything. And it works to a certain extent, but I don't think that I need, cause that's actually the thing too.

I drink a lot less than I ever used to even marijuana. It is legal in New Jersey, FYI, but even marijuana, I don't use anywhere near as much as I used to. I'm not numbing myself. The more that I've been able to really stop being afraid of feeling things, the more I don't numb myself. From feeling uncomfortable things, I just kind of allow myself and I guess that's it.

In some ways, I'm almost practicing tonglen by feeling it fully and allowing it to leave my body, not being afraid. And then I close down and I shut down because I don't want to feel it. I just open myself up to feeling it and allowing it to come out. And so far. It's been okay. I think really listening to my body, not stressing quite as much about anything in life like I used to allows me to just feel better when it comes to this kind of stuff.

I think we'll see. We'll see how it goes. We'll see how it is next time I talk to you on the podcast. You know how I'm doing plans for 2024. I think just keeping it up, right? Being consistent. I did pretty well this year with being consistent. I am taking this break in December when we go for spring break and then during the summer we do a week vacation.

I'm gonna just like really kind of schedule in some time to not do the podcast. Really, already, I have some interviews that I've done, I have some interviews coming up that I'm really excited about, I have people that I'm going to reach out to and invite to be on my podcast, now that it's been a full year, I feel more comfortable reaching out to some people that I want to talk to, because, I don't know, I just feel better about it.

So, hopefully, I'll get some people on. I'm still considering trying to get them onto YouTube, right, because I have all these videos. But there's only so much I can do. And again, this is all a labor of love at this point. I'm not making money at podcasting. But that wasn't really the goal. The goal wasn't to be like, I'm going to make money as a podcaster.

The goal was to talk to people and share these conversations. So I'm going to try to get them out there. I don't know. I mean, it's just, it seems like. Just being consistent and still doing it is exciting. I noticed how many podcasts don't even make it past a year because it is a lot of work. So, you know, people start them thinking like, oh, this is going to be great.

And then they maybe don't make it that long because it's so much work. So I'm just really proud of myself for making it a full year and I have no plans of stopping. the podcast. I really plan on continuing this for hopefully many years. Then maybe eventually if my business can make some money, maybe I'll hire somebody to help me.

But I don't know. I mean, I actually enjoy the editing and I enjoy the work of doing the podcast. So who knows? Who knows what the future will really bring, but I'm not going anywhere. I love this so much. I really enjoy it. And I feel like I'm better at talking with people than I am like writing or like even like I tried doing TikTok videos and I tried doing like reels and stuff for Instagram.

I just feel like such a goober, just talking to myself. It just feels so weird. So I don't know. And honestly, I don't even know if that stuff actually works. Who knows anymore. The world has been changing so much in the last few years that even things that worked in businesses last year or this year, right?

2023. I think in 2024, it's going to be really different. So who knows what I'll be doing, but I'm committed to this path in the long term. And even though I know it's not bringing in a lot of money right now, and it might never bring in a lot of money. I mean, I'm probably not going to make millions off of being a debt stroller, but I would like to get it to a point where I am able to make it sustainable financially so that we could not stress.

It's just gonna take a little bit more time because like Christina said, I'm always ahead of everything. So, yeah, but that's all right. I'm only 45. I could do this 40 more years and I'll only be 85. So I got plenty of time. 

Stephen: What did we see on CBS Sunday morning, Ridley Scott made his first movie at 40.

Jill: 40s. Yeah. Yeah. And he's 85 now, right? Is that what he said? So, yes. I'm confident that it's all going to be okay.

Stephen: I'm confident as well. I have faith in you. 

Jill: Thank you. Appreciate it. I love you so much. Love you too. And I appreciate you coming on to talk to me today. I'll definitely have you back on again sometime next year, because I love talking with you.

Awesome. Well, enjoy the rest of your day, honey. Love you. Love you too. Bye.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Seeing Death Clearly.

I am taking off the rest of the month of December 2023 for a little break and will be back with a new episode on January 7th 2024.  

My first guest when I come back in January is Narinder Bazin.  nine keys death midwifery apprenticeship and we talk about the space we are both in of trying to make a business out of end-of-life work and what we observe happening in our community. 

Talking about that, next year I plan on offering more online workshops at a cost that I think most people can afford, as well as a new 4-week grief group program and an End of Life Caregiver online course.  

I started working on it a little this year but am looking forward to offering more support and education to people around the world.  

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