The process of preparing for death


My beautiful baby girl
My beautiful baby girl

A while ago I read the following “When you, a friend, or a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, a process is begun: the process of preparing for death. For many, this time of preparation can be transformed into a rewarding, comforting ending, giving meaning to life, and dignity to death.” Terminal Illness – Preparing for Death – Dealing with Illness

Today a mere 24 days after my child stopped breathing I re-examined this statement.

“When you, a friend, or a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, a process is begun: the process of preparing for death.”  This is so true.  In one foul sweep everything changes!  The way one approach every day; every birthday, Christmas and New Year… One sets small goals.  You learn to appreciate the small things in life – having a cup of coffee with a friend, celebrating another Mother’s Day, living long enough to see the newborn of a loved one…

Last will and testament … setting up trusts for the children; sorting out photos; tidying up cupboards; making decisions whether to have a funeral or cremation….Just close your eyes and feel the terror of planning your own memorial service….  Feel the terror of knowing that your organs are shutting down….feel the terror of knowing that you will have to say goodbye to your loved ones – that they will walk out of your room and you will never see them again, feel the touch of their gentle hands, never hold your sons again…..  Imagine knowing that your life is running out.  Knowing that soon you will breathe your last breath!

This is what my Vic experienced.  She kept asking her BFF, Angela, “How do I say goodbye?”  Vic would cry  and hold onto Angela.  “Don’t go!  Please stay”.

Imagine being on death row with the execution date set.  The process has begun…. The condemned gets to make a will, meet his family for the last time, write his last letters, order his last meal and wonder what death will feel like…

Vic was scared.  She feared death.  She feared not knowing how death would feel….she feared closing her eyes and not ever seeing her loved ones again.

“For many, this time of preparation can be transformed into a rewarding, comforting ending, giving meaning to life, and dignity to death”….  What a load of hogwash!  No matter how much love surrounds the dying person there is no dignity in death.  How can death be rewarding?

It is however an amazing experience to witness the transition of the body when the soul leaves!

This time of preparation is a time filled with trepidation and fear.  Nobody KNOWS what lies beyond your final breath.  What is the Catholics are correct and you head for purgatory?  No one is sin free….What if Islam is correct and you are a Christian?  Then you are doomed to hell!  Hopefully the Christian faith will allow us entry into Heaven…. We will only know when we die!

Comforting time?  What comfort can there be in dying?  No more pain? Sure!  That is certainly comforting but what about the terrible, terrible knowledge that one will be separated from your loved ones?  The love that enshrouded you all your life will be plucked from your existence!  The love will continue but there is a divide between life and death that cannot be crossed!

Meaning to life?  Yes that is true I suppose if you are distant and removed from your family or loved ones or if you had a “purposeless” life.  Dying does give an opportunity to live each day, not waste time procrastinating or living in anger.

Dignity in death?  There is no dignity in a lingering death.  Bit by bit the terminally ill lose their dignity.  Every day there is some new loss to mourn.  The final days, if they are lucky, they will be sedated.  If not they will writhe in pain, choking on their own phlegm and gasping for breath, their hearts racing and delusional from fever.

People around the dying become scared and start praying for their deaths…I know because I did!  People stop visiting because they want to remember the dying person as a healthy, happy person….The terminally ill cease to exist to most of the world long before they die.

Stepping Stone Hospice has 26 patients.  We have had 12 deaths to date – Vic being the first.  Stepping Stone has allowed the dying to die pain-free.  Maybe the rewarding ending is for the living?

 

 

 

 

 

16 thoughts on “The process of preparing for death

  1. Tersia, I don’t know if you saw the coda to the ‘chestnuts’ message that I had, which I left as a comment on the ‘live like you are dying’ post. I don’t know if those general phrases about location means anything to you; I hope it does; for sure, the phrases were repeated in my mind until I agreed to send them to you rather like someone repeating something to someone who doesn’t hear them.

    I hope that is the last message of that sort I receive, for the selfish reason that it is highly embarrassing to type them in here, which must arise suspicions in some that I am one of those people who pretend to be clairvoyant and prey unscrupulously on the vulnerabilities of the newly bereaved.

    I don’t believe in accidents in this world, so I tend to believe that is why I was brought into contact with you (ironically through Thomas Cotterill, a determined atheist, awarding me the Silver Quill blog award, which made me look about wordpress for worthwhile blogs to award in turn). I have felt presumptuous in being on this blog at all, as my experiences of bereavement are not
    of the same order… However, my gut feeling was that my remaining was for a reason, and I hope it was.
    I think in passing on that message(and maybe that odd coda about the drawer) I have now served my function (as a loud speaker, or telephone, you might say) and don’t feel that I can be helpful to you what so many of these people on this blog who have suffered similar bereavements, can.

    So, I’m now signing off, I will, of course, remain in touch as I do with all my cyber friends, but I do feel that I have served my purpose on here. I would like to express again my admiration for the courage and integrity of Vic, of yourself and your family, and to hope that in time the anguish of the loss of you all will be more bearable.

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    1. Lucinda, Just so you know – I don’t see your messages as “unscrupulous” in the least! I think of you as someone who is offering comfort. And I definitely believe there was a purpose to your finding Tersia’s blog to do that. You are great! If you feel more comfortable, Tersia has an email that is direct if you click on her Gravatar. :)

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  2. In your words, Tersia, I recognize much of the trauma I also felt when my son died. Death is ugly, shocking and indescribable. But you experienced so much suffering – far too much with all of the years that Vicky struggled with her illness. Even though you realize that it gave you appreciation, with death and absence our mind tends to play out those horrors. You might even find you have post-traumatic stress disorder. You were never able to fully feel anything while you were coping with keeping Vicky alive.
    I imagine you are swamped with your emotions now and it must be overwhelming! I described my life as living an opera of my son’s death. Over and over it tormented me. I understand and am crying as I write this!
    Your post articulates well your confusion and anger over common statements about death. The truth is that no one really knows what happens. As you move through your grief journey, you will find your own beliefs that will comfort you.
    Vicky is going to bless you with clarity; she has not left you. It just feels as if she’s gone, but she isn’t. Keep listening and looking. She might even come to you in a dream. Tersia, just know that many people are weeping with you even though they cannot possibly know your agony.

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  3. Tersia, I am crying. I am crying for you and all the little things you have lost. I lost my husband in 1995. He was not ill. He had a massive heart attack. I came home from work and found heim dead in the study. So, while I don’t know what this has been like for you, I can relate to the pain in your heart and the hole that has been left in your soul. I wish I had words to make it better. Even now I do not. The only thing I can say is that time does heal to a degree. Hang on. Blessings, Barbara

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      1. Yes, but I confess that I write him a letter in my journal on our wedding anniversary and the anniversary of his death. I tell him everything happening. I let the tears fall. But then I dry my eyes and do what he would want me to do. That is to go on embracing life. I did go into therapy after he died and it was the best thing I could do. Grief is a long journey but you will make it because it isn’t our time.
        Anytime you need to talk, I am hear to listen.Hugs, Barbara

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  4. Judy: Thanks for your kind comments. I have found out since that the second part of the
    message meant something particular to Tersia too (see under the ‘Live Like you are Dying’ comments) so am relieved. it was amusing as Vic repeatedg the phrases to me again and again (just like someone in this world trying to get through to someone who won’t hear)until I said that I would pass them on to Tersia.
    I now take my leave as a daily contributor, but will come back now and again to cheer Tersia on.

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