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?