I have two friends who are nearing death. I stand in awe of their tremendous courage and positive outlook. They understand that death comes to us all and realize fear is a waste of time. I have always feared death as many of us do. I think it is the unknown that scares us. We have no idea what it feels like to die. We wonder “is it like sleeping”? It is my understanding when death comes, the soul knows and is ready for the next journey. Perhaps the soul leaves the body at the time of death no matter the cause. We have all read stories of the soul being present as its own funeral and watching as loved ones grieve. As a hospice nurse, I have had the pleasure of being with others as they have made that final transition. What is a normal process can become very frightening for family as they try to hold their loved ones in the here and now. I have witnessed the moments when the dying are departing. Their mind and eyes are clearly heading somewhere else. I do not know why I chose to do hospice work. One would think a fear of death would preclude that occupation. Maybe when we stare down what scares us, the fear lessens. One can only hope.
Some of us handle our impending deaths and the deaths of others with great imagination, creativity and the understanding of its normality. I had lunch with a friend whose mother had recently died. She talked of being with her mother at the moment of death. She spoke of the in depth conversations they had prior to the event. They had made closure. My friend talked of the ritual of oiling and dressing her mother’s body and how much joy she felt in the process. She was ready to let go and felt a sense of relief at how well her mother had died. As she spoke, I had a difficult time with how matter of fact it all was. I expected tears or at least a cracking voice. My friend had made her peace with it all.
It made me sad when I read my friend’s writings of his impending death. It made me sad because he knows his death is imminent and his words of wisdom touched me deeply. He tells us all to touch the ones we love and to treasure every moment as it all goes so quickly. I am blessed to have friends and loved ones but one day they too will die as will I. One day if I outlive my parents, I will be an “orphan.” I do not know what will happen to me when that happens and it is something I loathe to think about. We all survive loss. As much as it hurts, we somehow survive. I give thanks to my friends as they face their fate with such courage and dignity. They remind us to cherish and value what we have and where we are for one day we will all be someplace else.