With the passing of another year I remembered childhood images of old Father Time turning to fade out as the baby New Year crawled onto the scene. It reminded me of the fleeting nature of all things. Then a 1976 song called The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult played in my head.
“Seasons don’t fear the reaper Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain, we can be like they are…take my hand… we’ll be able to fly”
Working so closely with death has changed my perspective. I have contemplated my own death and witnessed so many deaths that I feel comfortable talking with others about their own. I mentioned to someone that I have “befriended” death and they were stunned at my choice of words. How could I “befriend” death?
I befriended death the same way one comes to accept most things they cannot change. By letting go. Accepting that death comes at any given minute has enabled me to live more freely, to speak more from the heart, to appreciate the little things that I cherish and delight in them while I can.
The loss of a loved one stings a bit less knowing I fully appreciated the time, the conversations, the relationship, the person in all their good and bad, and I can let them go, I had a gift. I encourage you to think about your own life and death and ask yourself:
• What is most important or meaningful in your life?
• What effect would serious illness have on you and your family?
• Can you imagine health situations that would make your life not worth living?
• Where and how would you like to live your final days?
• What is a good death?
Have you taken the time to reflect on how you would like the end of your life to go? Do you realize the relief you would provide yourself and your family knowing what to do at the end of your life?
My dear friend Erica was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She knew that at the end of her life, spending time with her family, friends and her pet was most important. She knew when she wanted to stop life-sustaining treatments and shift the focus to comfort care. She talked with us about her day-to-day needs. She sat with me and clearly described what she did and didn’t want, in detail, for when she was dying. Based on my professional experience, I was able to ask her questions and clarify her wishes and be her voice when she could no longer speak. This allowed her to die peacefully and allowed us to feel relieved that we did what she wanted.
“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” – Haruki Murakami