What if someone very close to you was on the fast track towards death, maybe through disease, maybe by a sudden illness, or maybe they were just dwindling away in old age. What would you do? What can anyone do when all else has failed, and the end is near?
No one gets out of here alive! That’s the fact. We all are going to die
one day or another. And as unpleasant a fact that is, one must be pre-
pared for that day to come, either sooner or later.
What if a terrible accident left you in a permanent vegetative state?
Would your family know your wishes, or would they be left arguing
over the vacant shell of a body that once housed You, the individual? It’s happened before, as we were all morbidly fascinated watching the fate of the young woman in Florida, to know who would win this last battle over her life: parents or husband.
Granted, these were extreme circumstances that the average person will not have to determine, yet still, discussion of end of life issues is a
As a Hospice patient volunteer for many years, I have witnessed the end
of life issues with a number of people. I consider it a special gift to be
admitted into a person’s life at a most vulnerable and poignant time,
a gift of being present at the edge of passing over. I am also a Reiki
practitioner, which is a form of hands-on healing that channels chi, or
life force energy into my patients. I have used this on many occasions
to ease the process of death, creating a protective, calm environment in
Although all deaths are not what could be considered “good deaths”, I
was fortunate enough to assist at the bedside of patients who died a good
death: family members present, pain managed to a level of endurance and
an attitude of acceptance of the inevitable.
No one wants to die alone.
Even patients who are medicated with large amounts of morphine or other narcotics are aware of their surroundings, hearing being the last sense that
dies. One should approach a deathbed with a sense of quiet reverence, as if a baby were asleep in a crib. When a person is preparing to leave this earth,
their senses are heightened by the feel of the energy in the room, the smell,
and the sounds. These are the last input into their bodies in this life.
As people draw nearer to their final exit, the veil that separates the “real”
world and the spiritual world becomes lighter and more transparent. I have
had patients tell me about dead relatives and angels visiting them at their
bedside, waiting for their transition. It gives great comfort to know that not
only are family members on one side looking over them, but others on the
spirit side are also watching over them.
Most people will have gone off their food for the last few days. Their breathing will become what is called the “death rattle”…a labored heavy breath. If they
are able to, some patients will curl into a fetal position on their right side, called the “sleeping lion” position, which will help the spirit to exit through the top of their head.
Patients respond, even under the cloud of drugs, to touch. Their extremities will feel cold, as if the withdrawal has already begun to pull their life force out through the center of their bodies.
I once visited the father of a friend as he lay dying in the hospital. While he was seemingly asleep, a nurse was trying unsuccessfully to draw blood, but unable to
extract enough blood due to the lack of blood pressure. He was fidgety and uncomfortable as she poked and prodded his arm. I quietly sat down beside him, and placed my hands on his head, the flow of energy began immediately to transfer into him. He turned toward me, trying to talk, but only moaned as the effects of the morphine were too strong to overcome. I believed he knew I was there to help and didn’t want any more treatment from the nurse. I asked the nurse to stop poking him with needles while I worked on him, which she was kind enough to do. The session lasted about an hour and a half. During that time, he went from an agitated state of extreme restlessness to falling into a peaceful slumber. I stayed for several more hours, watching him sleep, holding his hand.
Eventually, I left the hospital, but told the family that I would return first thing in the morning, to check on him. There was no need. I was called before 8 A.M. with the news that he had passed very peacefully at 6:30 A.M. Apparently, one son had sat up with him all night long, and when the son got up to use the bathroom, his father breathed his last breath. So aware was he of the son in the room that he didn’t want to have his son see him die. Not an uncommon thing,
by the way, for parents to protect their children until the end.
People die the way they live.
I have been witness to people suffering from final stage cancer and ALS who have been adamant about NOT receiving pain medication. These brave and exceptional patients felt that they wanted to remain coherent and present up to
the moment of their final departures. While this choice seems incomprehensible to most, I was truly amazed with their ability to remain true to their ideals. It is probably as difficult to support a person close to you while observing this
process, a dying person’s desire to maintain control over their circumstance is their one last requirement. And who are we to set a standard for their end of life? Crossing over is an intensely unique process, not unlike being born into the world.
With much advancement in medical technology today, we are blessed to be recipients in extending our lives. However, we would be wise to discuss with our loved ones the lengths that we are willing to go to extend our lives…what is the quality of the life going to be, both for ourselves and the ones committed to our care. Most people do not favor being hooked up with many tubes in a hospital
Room, but prefer to die at home, in their own familiar surroundings.
Death is not an end, but a passage. It is not a failure to survive, but a doorway to the spiritual realm. Often, death is the end of a person’s suffering and a sense of relief for those who take care of them.
I used to believe that diseases such as cancer that slowly rob the body of life
were a terrible fate. I have been witness to the gift of time that cancer can give
its patients: time to make amends, time to set things straight, time to spend together, a finite time where each and every moment counts. And that is the kind of time well spent that will carry the survivors over in the grieving days to come.
We all have just so many days here on earth to live our lives. If we could just realize how quickly that time slips away, we may live a more joy-filled life for
the precious moments of togetherness.
Life is short, be happy.
Difficult as it is to be a caretaker to a loved one on the verge of passing, it is a
Final act of love and compassion. The most simple act of being there, holding
A hand is really all that is required.