Let's Talk About What's Real!
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Being in the later phases of life allows us the liberty to speak freely about death & dying, life & love, what we've learned and hope for, what it all means. Why are so many old people scared into just making small talk, playing Bingo, or making "follow the leader" (religion or family) okay when we're talking about our own life -- just one -- to live? Let's ask the Big Questions and talk about the mysteries, since nobody knows the answers anyway. It's fun to ask!
Dear Editors: I would be happy to discuss topics or make this a lively discussion section. No religious persuasions to push, please, but 'spiritual' is an open-minded topic, I hope.
Good idea, SalElite, a lively discussion can be very stimulating, and we all need to keep our "upstairs" wheels turning -- so go ahead and ask one of those Big Questions.
"speak freely about death and dying" Great topic, and you are right people are scared to talk about the inevitable.
The greatest gift my husband gave me is his dying. He was sick for two years, paralyzed the last 6 months of his life and only 69 when he died, 7 years ago next week.
When the doctors gave up on him after trying surgery, radiation and chemo we faced the future together. He built his own coffin, determined to be in control to the end. No hospital, no funeral home. We have 4 children, two of my daughters lived nearby and took a hand on role in making his last wishes a possibility. One daughter researched and obtained the various permits required. One for the cemetery, one to drive the body on the road (coffin in our van) one to cross the lake on the ferry. I may forget others. Our doctor became a friend and made house visits during the 6 months my husband was bedridden. Once palliative he was able to have a nurse visit once a week to monitor our care. We transformed the living room of our tiny house into a hospital room with equipment supplied by the Red Cross, bed, lift, commode, wheelchair.. ... as the needs developed. My two daughters took turns with care and massage and relieved me of the constant stress so I could remain strong to carry the family through the difficult stages. I slept beside him on the sofa and we continued day by day to be the couple we had been for 45 years. We talked about everything, finances, fears, life after death. He called everyone he could think about to leave no unfinished business with anyone, even reaching to friends left in France so many years ago. He had a one-on-one talk with each child, adults now but we know that parenting with the best of intention is not always enough and some healing had to take place.
I can say we lived his dying together, I was very aware that what strength I could maintain was helping him for what he had to do alone. I was most moved by his "permission to find someone else for the years left to me" coming from a very controlling, jealous personality it was totally unexpected...and unnecessary.
The doctor had just left when he died of internal hemorrhage caused by a benign tumour on his spine. I was holding his hand and FELT his life force leaving his body. One moment he was there, the next he was gone. I could look at his body as an empty shell of the personality he had been, sensing that personality still existed on the outside.
The three days that followed were too busy to worry about me. We washed and dressed the body, laid it on the bed, and kept vigil 3 nights and 2 days until it was time to put it in the coffin he had prepared. We have 10 grand children from a year old to 19 they were invited to gather around the body, one son-in-law was horrified that we could consider exposing his sons to this, but relented when he saw that his family would be the only one not present. As it turned out my 16 year old grand son commented to his parents on the drive back to Vancouver "I will never be afraid of death anymore"
The grave is in a treed part of the mountain, everyone helped lower the coffin and the young boys took turn with the shovel to fill up the hole, prompting one person to say, "Gaston would be proud" knowing what a man of action he had been in life.
Yes, my husband gave me a great gift, I learned that we die as we lived and i am very conscious of the way I live the last days I have.
Thank you for the opportunity.
What a moving story, Monique, and how courageous of you and your family to support your husband and his wishes to the end. You must have loved him very much. Thank you for sharing.
I read this book recently, and it appears to fit in this group. Much of the book was very funny, but at 86 I can also appreciate the serious side.
From THE VET IN THE VESTRY, Alexander Cameron
But for others - like Silver and the cat - I knew that, repugnant though it was, to hasten death was an act of mercy and kindness.
I have since then, over many years and almost weekly, stood beside a bed and watched someone fight a brave but losing battle, and I've pondered deeply. It is my view that in such cases, assuming everything is being done to ease the patient's suffering, to take life would be, very often, to deprive a husband or wife of experiences and moments that are very precious and forged only in the fires of suffering, shared together. But there are other cases where I've wondered ... I have gone into an enormous ward of geriatric patients, the beds close together, scarcely allowing passage between them, beds containing people who have lost all awareness of surroundings and all control of their actions; I have seen folks lose all dignity, privacy, individuality, and become increasingly distressing for their loved ones to behold week by week. Cabbages! That's how society has labelled such poor beings. I know all the arguments against any form of euthanasia, at any time, and respect deeply the views of all who hold them. 1 have the highest regard for the sanctity of human life, and a deep love of old folks. As a minister of the Gospel, 1 have no doubts of the reality of that other world, nor of our basic belief that man is an eternal spirit. 1 know all the questions regarding any form of euthanasia - 1 give no answers. I only know that many times I've come away from a scene of I
extreme weakness or debility, and with indignation and concern have said to myself, I .
wouldn't treat a dog like that! I have, conscious (oh, so conscious) of my own helplessness, wondered what He, who was and is far from helpless, and whose hands in Galilee were tender to soothe and to save, would do in our day, in a ward of folks weary, longing, sighing, yes! and asking to be released to 'go home' - and I've heard an echo as of old, saying, 'Blessed are the merciful - for they shall obtain Mercy"
And, from THE EVENING GULL, by Derek Tangye, after the death of his beloved wife:-
It is natural to feel sad for the one who is left.
Sadness is there, will always be there, but there is compensation for this sadness. If you are the one who is left, for instance, you have spared the other the burden of loneliness, you have spared the other the complexity of clearing up personal affairs, you yourself are freed from the desperate worry of what might happen to the other if you had gone first. How would the other live? What about their financial survival? You have too the comfort of knowing that you were there during the closing days, and that you, instead of the other, will, in a similar time, be alone. It is for such reasons that I have long held the belief that the survivor is the favoured one. The survivor can gain inner strength by being able to prove the depth of his love. He faces all the readjustments, copes with the sorrow and the loneliness, eased by the knowledge he has spared the one he loved the agony.
What is death? Yes, the "dead" person appears to be gone but to where we don't know. There are still numerous reports that the living have communicated with the dead. Maybe death is the wrong word to use for those who have made a transition to some other place. Death doesn't exclude memories we have of te person gone. How real is a memory? We humans are still evolving and we are aware nothing is imposssible. There amy be a time when we realize when moving from one reality to another is commonplace.
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