Some time back I asked if any of you had anything reassuring to offer a reader whose daughter is terminal.
Ellen, who volunteers a lot with the dying, came back with these thoughts:
“Two things occur to me It can be reassuring to someone whose life is ebbing that they will be remembered Indeed it is the most asked question of children who are dying Will you remember me, Mommy?
“It can be useful to arrange for any goodbyes that the patient may wish to make Most books and authorities remind us to allow silence, to allow folk to settle anything they may be experiencing as unfinished business.
“Hearers are there to listen and not judge or dismiss anything which the dying person wishes to express ( i.e. 'You don't need to fret about that It is not important').
“Of course, drugs and diminished senses play a part Witnessing the dying process is an honour and one that I find is often beautifully directed by the one who is dying.
“A couple more thoughts on keeping vigil with the dying Playing favourite music, reading favourite passages from books or poetry or anything that brings comfort can be a lovely way of being together.
Gauging the situation is always essential, but it can be important to assure the person who is dying that they are free to go Often people need to know that they may escape this world and that their obligations and responsibilities have been met – their life well lived and that they may take their leave knowing that all is well with family
“There is real evidence to indicate that some people prefer to die while alone and may wait until family slip out for a coffee or home to shower Family should not beat themselves up should the person die alone. I am of the opinion that there is no right time to die. If there is time to prepare there are some best practices and one can work through the process, but given the sadness and emotions involved it is not always easy to follow the text book.”
I wish I had read her words before my mother died. Because I, and I am sure most of us, had no experience, had not read up on it and felt woefully, helplessly lost as to what would bring the most comfort. The one thing I did learn from it was not to judge, my or others' feelings or reactions. Just go into neutral. Be kind to yourself and observe whatever kaleidoscopic mixture of feelings emerges.
I have heard, though, of death being beautiful and the room filled with light. I did see cascades of butterflies.
A wonderful book – The Grace in Dying: a Message of Hope, Comfort and Spiritual Transformation by Kathleen Dowling Singh.