The Grass is always Greener….
This phrase is one of many old adages expressing how the reality of something is really quite different than what you may have initially expected. A list of examples is unnecessary in this case as I am sure most everyone can come up with quite a few on their own.
The point, however, is expressly different.
Imagine what you think your death will be like. Will it be at home? Will you be surrounded by loving family, friends and cherished memories of your long and prosperous life? Will you be at peace with yourself? Will you be warm and comfortable in a soft cozy bed? Will there be the sweet fragrant aroma of incense permeating the air and tranquil melodies floating between hushed whispers of thanks and gratitude? Will you feel a growing excitement at joining the billions of other souls who have made this unique journey to a better place?
What wonderful ideas, right?
The reality of death is not quite so pretty for many people. Far from the above descriptions of how things could be are the actual ways many people face their last moments on earth.
My life experience including 10 plus years working Hospice (23 total years in nursing) have led me to this place today. A place where I am trying to help everyone understand that the above desires for end-of-life experiences are only possible with conscientious effort, planning and above all else CONVERSATIONS with others.
Too many people suffer needlessly at the hands of a system designed to keep people alive “no matter what.” Mechanical interventions replace natural processes. Legal checklists become substitutes for conversations and making real choices. Heathcare algorithm “clickfests” take the place of tender touch and genuine human interaction. These “interventions” are manipulating dying and death into becoming situations of cold, sterile, expensive states of suspended animation in order to wring every last breath out of a body long overdue for its final “resting place.”
Does this sound too harsh? Maybe an acronym to lessen the intensity of suffering? What could we call a system focused on longevity and not quality of life? What could be appropriate in our acronym-infested healthcare system? I know! Let’s call it,
S-ervices, A-gainst, D-eath … and what it really is: SAD!
Do not misinterpret my compassion for minimizing suffering as a fatalistic wish to end all happiness by “killing” everyone before their time. Such an assumption could possibly give strength to what pushes death even further into the abyss of denial.
There are wonders of technology and dedicated people everywhere that can save lives. The resources are almost limitless in both material effort and will when saving lives. When there is an opportunity, we almost all rush to the aide of anyone in distress.
But isn’t dying simply just life at its most amplified state? Isn’t everyone’s emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual culmination of lifetime energy at its most powerful when people are dying? Why is it that the one moment in life – that we get no other chance at repeating – is stripped of resources when they are most needed?
What I support is a preservation of that kindness and love we seek. While still capable and healthy, there is still time to offer a greater acceptance of dying and recognize it as the catalyst from which all appreciation of life began. When we can accept our limited existence, it intensifies each moment and delivers the “spirit” of living as no other act can. We can then set aside our fears and embrace the loss of a loved one with a renewed understanding of how important this end time is.
We have tossed death into the cold, damp corner of our minds where we hope we will never need to go again. We label our relief at not having been struck by lightning as good luck or the Grace of God, and some say we have “survivor’s guilt.” We feel even more relief to be alive.
We can learn to die better in this world. There are exceptions, for sure: trauma, sudden onset of disease, and the hateful violence of some people. But for the majority of human existence, there is a natural compassion and concern to help one another. Consider the shape of our life to look more like an hour glass instead of a funnel. Instead of narrowing options and resources as we circle nearer the tapered end there is an acceptance and an expansion of personal options once we pass through that point where quality of life reigns over quantity of days. We are embraced and comforted approaching the natural end of our life. Please have meaningful conversations with your family friends and loved ones about how you would want to die. Do not look across the fence of death and think that the grass will be any greener, less complicated or less problematic than the reality you live in here.