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Posts Tagged ‘death in the family’

Is there any subtle way to ask, “If you have a choice, where would you prefer to die?”  There might be, but I can’t figure it out, so I am asking in my rustic way, “Have you thought about where you want to die?”  Assuming you’re not in a tragic accident (God forbid) you will have a choice.

The reason I ask is, my father-in-law passed away earlier this month and his choice in his advanced directive was to “go home”.  Three of us (all grown-ups)  had to read it over several times before it was clear to us.    No where did he write “I want to die at home ” but all of the sentences in his advanced directive read  “If __blank__  is happening, my preference is to go home.”  And every response to every medical situation presented was “to go home.”  Finally we got it.  We should bring him home.

Both of my parents passed away in hospitals.  Advanced directives or even conversations about how to die weren’t very vogue at the time.  I’m pretty sure dying in the hospital was what my father wanted as about 1 week before he passed, he stood up and said, “I need to go back to the hospital.”  It was the day after Christmas.  We pulled the car into the snowy front yard, right up to the front door so he wouldn’t have to walk but a few steps, and in my heart, I knew that this was the beginning of the end.   We were all still pretty young,  in our teens and 20’s and I think it would have been too difficult for him to leave surrounded by us and the amazing life he had created for us.

For my mother though, I think she might have wanted to pass away at home.  The beautiful home she had created.  It was Easter, the garden was blooming, the house was clean and ready for newness, and while she lay dying, she could not speak, so she wrote, “I want to go home” or “When can I go home” I can’t recall exactly and we weren’t sure what she meant.    Since she was a deeply spiritual person, we thought she might be implying her spiritual home.   She died very quickly, so most likely she would not have made it all the way home even if we had begun the process.  And dying en-route in a gurney or ambulance would have been dreadful.  We did the best we could at the time.

Since my experience was hospitals, that was all I knew.  I couldn’t imagine dying at home was a good thing.  I was wrong.  For my father-in-law it was perfect.   He had designed many aspects of his own house, built parts of it himself and lived there for over 50 years.  It was the keeper of his joy, his pain, his loves, his work, his life — it was the perfect place for him to pass his spirit into it’s next adventure.  Since we had discussed the art of shape shifting at different times, in some moments, I imagine his spirit simply shape shifted into the house and became the house.  He loved it so much.  I mean, really, I don’t know where his spirit is, but it sure doesn’t feel like it has gone too far.

So now I learned that bringing someone who is terminally ill home, can make death feel a little less scary —  like just another part of life.   Like many people, we moved his hospital bed into the living room so he would be a part of the daily happenings in the house.  Life moved on around him and when he was conscious he could hear us, smile at things that were funny, growl at things that hurt, and participate in life with even just his consciousness, his beingness, participating as he could until the very end.    We had a professional attendant 24/7 and daily visits by the hospice nurse, and over-care by family so he was well taken care of.  Almost every breath of his last days was witnessed by someone nearby who cared.

In those moments I became aware of the beauty of breathing. How profound it is to even take one breath.  Time slows down near the end – every second feels like a minute, every minute feels like an hour.  A lot of love slips in during those moments.   Secrets of the universe can slip in during those gaps and my recommendation is that you be there if you can.

For death, most likely we’ll need the Baby Boomers to bring a forbidden subject into the light and I am grateful again to be living in their shadow.  Boomers have a way of making anything that happens to them a big deal.  And I appreciate it.  They are great teachers.  So as they near death, I imagine they’ll again carry the torch of speaking up about the previously taboo subject.

This article in the LA Times on why end-of-life discussions are important has a lot of great things to consider:  http://ow.ly/11uH1

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We found this piece of prose when my mother died.  I think someone gave it to her when my father passed away.    Author is Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918, Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral
‘The King of Terrors’, a sermon on death delivered in St Paul’s Cathedral on Whitsunday 1910, while the body of King Edward VII was lying in state at Westminster.  Thank you to http://poeticexpressions.co.uk for letting us know who to credit for this beautiful work.

Death is nothing at all… I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I and you are you…whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone; wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.  Let  my name be ever the household word it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort, without the ghost of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was; there is absolutely unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well.

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Angels are comforting to many people, so I am posting a few here.   I can’t say for sure that angels exist, but if they don’t, I will be a little disappointed.  These are angel sculptures from Recoleta, the magnificent cemetary in Buenos Aires.  I was there last month and was amazed at the tributes people built to their loved ones.  You can see all four photos here in the gallery –


Peace to you.

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    When the parent of a friend dies, or someone else close to you dies and you want to attend the funeral or the wake, you’ll want to know what to say.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could say something that is not a cliche, or say something profound, and say “the word” that will make everyone feel better?  That’s a noble goal, but for funeral situations, I’m going to suggest you go for the simpler goal. 
     If you can’t think of anything to say — don’t worry — you don’t have to say anything. 
           Let your eyes talk.  Look softly and carefully into people’s eyes.  They’ll feel that. 
          Just tell them that you love them.  Most times that is enough. 
          Or just let them hear you breathe if you’re calling by phone.
          Hugs speak much louder than words.

People can feel you.
Just let them feel your love.
Your presence speaks volumes and is usually the best gift.  Depending on the circumstances there usually isn’t much to say – and everyone knows there isn’t much to say that won’t sound like a cliche.  It’s a touching moment of humanity.  Silence can work.  Our culture needs new scripts for funerals.
If you feel that you really, really want to say something, try these:
“I love you.”
“We love you.”
“We love our memories of your father/mother/whomever has passed.”
“Your father/mother gave us such good times – and we hold those memories very close to our hearts.”
“___insert name___ was such a good friend to us and we want you to know how much we appreciate him/her.”
“Peace to you.”
“We are here for you.”
These are enough.

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There they are…

Mother,
     On Monday we looked out the sunroom window and there was a redbird couple in the tree.
A male and a female redbird together.  Suzie saw it too, and we said, “There they are.”
     How many years I watched you watching the birds in your garden and in your trees.  From the house and while sitting outside.  I know how rare is the appearance of a red bird couple and I know your spirits are together — and I know you and Daddy are happy.
     You two belong together.  You did a great job of being strong when Daddy died – making sure we all stayed happy.  And over time, I could feel you wanting to be with him.
     Eleven years is a long time to be without the love of your life.

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