Today I sat with a friend who is dying
I am home tonight feeling exhausted, a bit wrung out, hungry, and a little bit numb. Earlier today I wrote the passage below and wasn’t sure whether I would actually post it……looks like I went with a ‘yes’. I don’t feel the need to talk to anyone tonight. But I do feel like thinking, reflecting and putting these thoughts out there.
As I type this I am sitting in the hospital, in a chair, next to the bed of someone quite close to me who is dying. I have been here all day today and a good part of yesterday afternoon and evening.
He is in his 70’s and has been quite unwell for some time. The doctors have told us he will probably go in the next 24 hours, which is not a surprise.
He isn’t family. He is a friend and so are his children……but I find that often the line between friend and family becomes very blurry for me.
His daughters are here – reading magazines and trying to relax, and I am tapping away these thoughts to you.
How do I feel? I feel teary but calm. I feel upset but not frightened. I feel very reflective about what this period of time means. To his family. To me. To him.
What I find myself thinking about a lot over the past couple of days, as all of this unfolded, was how we see the very end of someone’s life and what it means to be by their side when they go. I hadn’t thought about this before in relation to death, but my overwhelming feeling right now is honoured to be part of this stage in his life, in such an important event.
I’m wary of sounding callous. Believe me, I don’t take this lightly. I am sad. Very sad. But this is far from the first time I have been in a situation like this and I look at death a bit differently than a lot of people do. I know that when all is said and done and when there is a need…and when I feel like it….I will be able to take the jumbled pieces of this puzzle and put them together to see something else. So I look for very different things here. Let me share what I see.
Recently a friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. We look at that as a wonderful event and as something you would be privileged to be present for – to be a witness to the beginning of someone’s life. To be there when they first open their eyes and greet the world. To be around them on their very first day. To be there before it all begins.
We treat death so incredibly differently. Naturally we do. It has a totally opposite meaning to most people. Most don’t want to think about it, even though it is inevitable. It is seen as an ending, as something painful, as a loss, as a letting go.
Personally I believe death isn’t an ending, or at least not a total ending. I believe it’s a massive change, a transformation. That when you have taught what you were here to teach, and when you have learnt what you were here to learn, you move on to the next chapter – to teach and learn the next set of things. I believe it’s an ending of the person you are now, the identity you have assumed for the last however many years you’ve been alive, but I don’t believe it is the end of the essence of you.
You might not believe the same things as me and that is perfectly fine. One thing is for sure though – death is one of the most important events or milestones of your life.
As well as events like your birth, your first day of school, your first kiss, your graduation, the first time you travelled, the day you got married, the day/s your child/children were born, and whatever other important events in your life define you, death is also on that list. It’s part of the map of who you are. It’s part of the story of your life. It’s one of the huge milestones that point out the boundaries of this version of you. It creates a frame around the mark that you have made on the world, the difference you have made, the people you have affected, the lives you have changed, the legacy you have created.
Being here I feel like a piece of his history. I feel like I am watching him create his story, and close this chapter of who he is. I do feel blessed to be here with him and his children and to be able to be part of this as he gets ready to cross this particular finish line. It matters to me that I can be here.
That is all I wrote. I said goodnight and left the hospital a couple of hours ago.
There are many different angles you can look at death from and this is one of them. It’s the one I’m using today.
Now, if you’re reading this and you’re starting to think that this means you should be (or should have been) present at the death of everyone you care about, don’t. I imagine I’ll be writing a few blogs over the next couple of weeks around this current experience and one will certainly be about why sometimes it is not right for you (or them) for you to be by their side when they pass away.
Time for me to get some sleep now.