Saturday, September 02, 2006

Since the day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking toward me, without hurrying. Jean Cocteau

This week one of my patients made an active decision to die. She has multiple medical problems and has relied on dialysis for a number of years to live. She is tired...she is getting weaker...she is ready to die and is refusing her medical treatments.

As a young graduate, I was afraid of my dying patients. I preferred working in ICU with unconscious patients on life support, because I didn't have to talk to them. I simply could not bring myself to discuss death with people who were alert and aware of their condition.

This is the tombstone of my husband's grandparents. (click photo to enlarge) They lost four of eight children in infancy. In the pre-antibiotic era, life and death were entwined. Now, we often view death as a medical failure, or worse, as a failure of faith.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross states, "It is difficult to accept death in this society because it is unfamiliar. In spite of the fact that it happens all the time, we never see it. "

Our western society has removed itself from the cycles of nature. Our meat comes in tubes and packages, far removed from the slaughterhouse and carcasses of animals. Our dying are given treatments to prolong life and give false hope. We often deny people the right to prepare and accept death with dignity.

I am learning to be comfortable with the dying and can now talk to them about their life and impending death. You may read their stories in future postings as they have much to teach us.

I think we all fear dying more than death. This quote by an unknown person sums it up well.
When I die, I want to go peacefully like my Grandfather did...in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car.

Sept 5/06...the patient I mentioned above passed away peacefully on September 2/06, about the time I wrote this post. She had a strong faith, and I know she is now pain free and with God. I will remember you, Nancy...

6 comments:

  1. "...I think we all fear dying more than death. This quote by an unknown person sums it up well.
    When I die, I want to go peacefully like my Grandfather did -- in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car."

    I would prefer that too.

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  2. Quite dark, even the "humour". Now I know where some of the inherited traits of your daughter and niece come from.

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  3. Yes, dark...and light. You cannot work with sick and dying people without contemplating the meaning of life. Often a sense of humour and peace is present at the end as well. I am not morbid...nor are our offspring.

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  4. 'the oma'1:39 pm GMT-4

    Excellent comments. Not enough discussion on the suject of death and dying. As one who has had a near death experience take my word - there is another dimension

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  5. In my spiritual path we have something called "midwifing death" - your post reminded me of it, because sometimes all those who are coming close to the veil of death want is someone to prepare them for the passage and listen to their final thoughts.

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  6. There are a lot of things I do not know about "the Oma"...perhaps she can fill me in by email.
    Jaspenelle...I am sure both birth and death can be painful and "midwifery" at both times would be helpful. Final words are important to pass on. More important is the destiny of the soul.

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