It seems everywhere you turn there’s a sign showing us the way, urging caution, providing information, enticing a purchase, warning of danger, or providing some of other kind of assistance/information. Most signs that command attention are in red or yellow providing warnings or cautions leading us to adjust preparations, choose another path or proceed cautiously. Most of these signs are blatantly obvious, in our faces and difficult to ignore. Some are downright unsafe to ignore. When you’re on the road, a detour sign forces you to change course. Caution signs alert to an upcoming challenge or danger and one must react accordingly to protect yourself and others.
There are many signs in life, however, whose meanings are not so obviously apparent or easily followed. There are subtle signs which can be misinterpreted, easily ignored, or dismissed. The signs most difficult to recognize and follow are the signs our own bodies present when the end is nearing.
Contemplating the death of a loved one is rarely without dread. Recognizing the signs of the failing health of someone we love is difficult, even to trained eyes, but they are most often present in one subtle way or another. When my Mom was admitted to Hospice care, I was presented with a booklet written by a long-time nurse. It provides a “road map” of different signs that may be present when a loved one is within months, weeks, days and hours of death. It may seem gruesome to some but this book helped me recognize when my Mom’s body was giving me signs that she was about to depart our lives. This book, called “Gone From My Sight,” provided me with insight to know when it was time to call other family members to Mom’s bedside. [Caring Choices has given this booklet to several families who have found it just as helpful.]
As I read through the booklet after Mom died, hindsight illuminated other subtle signs that Mom’s body had been showing us for the last year of her life. Fortunately, Mom knew her body well through the lifelong course of her specific disease. She recognized the signs each time she had pneumonia before the doctors and hospitals ran the necessary tests to confirm it. She wasn’t afraid to talk about the changes she felt and where those changes were leading. She talked about death because she lived with the specter of it all her life; she understood her prognosis and what would likely claim her life. This doesn’t mean she didn’t LIVE life and enjoy it. She did. We did. And on the day of her death, I knew what she wanted and didn’t want. I could recognize and interpret the signs because that booklet and my Mom had prepared me to accept the signs. It changed my grief experience because I didn’t feel guilt or remorse for making a “wrong” decision. I followed the signs.
Caring Choices is available to help you recognize the signs, talk about the signs, and follow the signs. Blatant or subtle, signs are intended to help us. Knowing what the signs mean can help us make decisions to benefit the people we love.
© 2015 Caring Choices