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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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http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fdoyoustilllaughdoyoustillsing.wordpress.com%2F&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&sl=en&tl=es

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Take your time with the belongings of the deceased. do not pressure yourself to “handle things” and do not let anyone else pressure you to “handle things”.
Touch everything you want to touch.
Acknowledge everything you want to acknowledge.
Remember everything you want to remember.
Treat it all with love and respect.
You are not just cleaning out a house, or a closet. You are being given the opportunity to walk through a life. Treat it with respect and love.
One friend of mine has yet to clean out her mother’s clothing and belongings a couple of years after-the-fact. She said she’ll go visit her dad and see a scarf or sweater or something else of her mother’s and take it home with her. She said she can feel her mother’s energy when she wears those things and it’s a little piece of her mother with her.
How beautiful.
Taking home little pieces like that has made the change smoother and a little easier for her.

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The hard-copy of “Do You Still Laugh? Do You Still Sing?” is currently being re-designed for e-book distribution and new hard copy.

If you would like to receive notification of publication, leave a comment in the comments section below. Or you can contact the author by email and she will put you on the list for advance notification. Email address: melindaaugustina AT yahoo DOT com

Thanks for your interest – we wish you peace in all of your relationships. 🙂
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Elisabeth Kubler Ross gave the world a great gift in her life’s work.
I will repeat her five stages of grief here and I recommend you purchase her classic book
“On Death and Dying”
The Stages:
1) Denial – This isn’t happening.
2) Anger –  Why me/us?  It’s not fair.
3) Bargaining – Just a little more time.
4) Depression – Why bother with anything?
5) Acceptance – It’s going to be OK.
You may experience only 2 of these, or you may experience all 5.  They may go in order, and they may not.  You can read more about Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ work here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model
And you can purchase seriously discounted versions of the book here:
http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=Elizabeth+kubler+ross&sts=t&tn=on+death+and+dying&x=82&y=6
Or on Amazon her books are listed here:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=elisabeth+kubler+ross&x=0&y=0

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When someone dies, stories and vignettes become very important. 
Tell stories and listen to the family tell stories.  If you recall an experience you shared with the person who has passed away and that experience warms your heart – share that story.
    When my father passed away, one of the neighbors from our grade school years, Mrs. Vogrin, told us a story of an Easter Sunday.   That Easter Sunday, my father proudly showed her his 5 little girls and said, “Come look at my little flowers!”  That is one of my favorite stories now and we never would have known that about my father if Mrs. Vogrin had not told that story.  
     Telling of stories is very important to lay down memory tracks in the brain.
     If you cannot speak it — write it. 
     If you cannot write it — ask someone else to write it for you.
     Every card and note works.  The hand written expression carries the love and energy of the person who sent it and there is magic in that. 
     We received a note from a man who had known my mother in high school.  He wrote the story that when he was feeling a little out of place in their huge high school she made friends with him, remembered his name and made him feel esteemed.  OVER FIFTY YEARS ater the fact, he remembered this.  That was a fabulous letter.   From that letter I know that none of our acts of kindness go unnoticed in the big picture.

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