Yesterday as I drove to work I saw a huge beige speckled owl sitting on a tree branch. It was midmorning and I was surprised to see the owl calmly looking over the comings and goings of the hospital. I instinctively knew it was a sign, but I didn’t know at the time what an owl symbolized.
Hospice, like many vocations, is a calling of the heart as well as the spirit. I recently read the book by Terri Daniel a hospice volunteer, “Embracing Death” where she speaks of a need for the job description in hospice of Spiritual Midwifery, essentially someone who helps souls birth into their transition of death. I often tell my families that death is very much like birth, it is the transition from one world to the next and it can be laborious. This analogy seems to resonate with many people. Often times I feel as though I am not unlike a labor and delivery nurse, awaiting the opening, supporting the passage from our world to the next, an usher of sorts. The idea of a spiritual midwife sounds about right. I love the spiritual aspects of my job, and have to confess that had I known that nursing was basically about bodily fluids and orifices I think I would have chosen something else. However in hospice I am blessed to entwine the beauty of the spiritual world with the physical.
When I finally got a chance to Google OWL this is what I found:
“In ancient Egyptian, Celtic, and Hindu cultures the symbolic meaning of owl revolved around guardianship of the underworlds, and a protection of the dead.
In this light the owl was ruler of the night and seer of souls. A misunderstanding of this necessary relationship gave the owl some negative associations with death.
It should be clear that the owl was honored as the keeper of spirits who had passed from one plane to another. Often myth indicates the owl accompanying a spirit to the underworld – winging its newly freed soul from the physical world into the realm of spirit.”
What an amazing gift from Spirit! In the ancient world the owl is symbolic of the winged midwife of the Afterlife. I envision the owl unfolding its wingspan and transforming into a lovely divine winged being of angelic nature.
I know that our loved ones never die alone; they are escorted and protected by Angels and those who went before us. Death is a doorway with a farewell party on one side and greeting part on the other.