The mood in the room was so calm no one even noticed her breathing had stopped. Minutes later, the room filled with a sense of peace that can only be felt with the understanding that a soul’s journey had just taken a new turn. With no struggle, no screams and no regrets, a beloved wife, sister, mother, grandmother, friend and nursing professor had continued along her quest for true spirituality with nothing holding her back and all the love in the world propelling her forward.
Diane Manahan touched hundreds of lives along her journey with cancer and used her final days to convince people that death can-and should-be as simple as the day we were born. And thanks to two women who were on hand to bear witness to that final lesson, Diane’s search for true spirituality unfolds in an award-winning story of love.
Written by Becky Bohan and Manahan’s sister-in-law, Nancy Manahan, “Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey with Cancer and Beyond,” published by Beaver’s Pond Press, showcases Diane Manahan’s integrity and spiritual approach to illness while guiding people who are looking for meaning in their own life and death.
“When we first started collecting stories of Diane’s journey with cancer, we didn’t think we would have enough to fill a book,” Bohan told the Minnesota Women’s Press. “But her stories are so uplifting and soulful and her voice so real and eloquent, we honestly found that her words could tell the story themselves.
“It wasn’t long before we realized that this book had grown into quite a large plant from a little seed,” she said. “And after looking through Diane’s journals, correspondence and medical records, we realized that on some unconscious level she probably hoped that someday her story would be told.”
The book encourages readers to look at death not as a medical emergency or a tragedy, but as a natural family experience. “This book offers an inspiring story of a woman who shows us how to approach the dying process in ways that bring comfort, peace and even joy,” Nancy Manahan said. “Readers will have a stronger knowledge that you can take the wheel at the end of your journey. It is deeply reassuring that dying can be so beautiful-not to be feared. My fear of dying evaporated while I was with Diane when she died,” she said.
“There is a hunger out there for people wanting to do death differently,” Bohan said. “As in birth, death has become too institutionalized rather than embracing the true natural step where family can share in the transition together. The spiritual depth that comes with the act of dying has been stripped away, but that is starting to change.”
Realizing that death is not the final goodbye can help quell those fears. “Several people who knew Diane have had communications with her since her death nearly seven years ago,” Bohan said. “By putting these after-death stories in our book, we encourage people to talk about similar experiences. Unfortunately, these occurrences are not widely accepted in today’s culture but they are real, profound and spiritually charged experiences that give relief and reassurance about our journey’s last days.”
“Our loved ones are still here and our book helps people know that it is OK,” Manahan said. “They surround us in smells, sounds, feelings, music and if we miss these spiritual relationships it is a huge loss. We lose that spiritual connection.
“We are all just drops from one vast energetic ocean and one day we will return to that ocean. Spirituality is our connection to that universal energy.”
But in the end, Manahan and Bohan’s book is about a woman who radiated love and delight. A woman who supported their longtime partnership and who was “fully human, so accepting and who embraced all of herself, even her cancer,” they both said. “She was our role model through it all and we’re glad to know that her droplet has once again merged with the infinite ocean where she can be more joyous. She can start her next adventure with energy and filled with peace and love.”