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...