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View Diary: Brother and Sisters: Faith and Justice (105 comments)

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  •  Several years ago at Holden Village (11+ / 0-)

    the ELCA retreat in the Cascade mountains, I went to a talk by the head nurse at Shoreline CC.  His lecture was called "Someone I love is dying and I don't know what to say"

    He said that when the person you love is dying , family members gather round to give comfort.  When people die they seem to go when the family is not there-they stepped out for a moment, they fell asleep, they needed to get something to eat or talk privately with the doctors or nurses.
    He believed quite strongly that those who had reached the time to go were held and detained by the presence of their family.  When the family stepped out that implicit plea from the family to stay was gone and the dying individual could at last lay their burden down.

    I no doubt have not paraphrased his words well.  But I too believe we should not hold those we love to us past their time, just as I believe the time you have left with your mother should be as long as possible.
    May your mother go in peace when it is her time and not past her time.  I had medical power of attorney for my mother when she died of a stunningly aggressive brain cancer.  From diagnosis to her death was less than four weeks.  I could have held her with us longer or let her go in peace.  I chose the latter.   My last gift to her.
    When it is time for your mother to go, and she will know when that time has come-I pray you have the strength to let her know its OK

    "Sometimes, late at night, while I’m lying down outside of my hut, staring at stars I never knew existed,... I’m 100% sure, this is what heaven is like." Mika Bangcaya, Senegal PCV

    by Tonga 23 on Sun May 15, 2011 at 06:07:38 PM PDT

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    •  I'll argue the contrary position (6+ / 0-)

      Dying alone is something nobody should have to go through. We've so insulated ourselves from the reality that we all die, though, that it's more or less become the norm--and that shouldn't be, in my estimation. Rather than tell the family to keep away, I'd urge the family to gather--even with kids, as long as they're old enough to understand what's happening and if it won't be traumatic. Take the chance to say your farewells when your loved one is still alive and able to hear you (hearing being the last of the five senses to shut down), instead of standing over their casket at the viewing (a barbarous custom, if you ask me) when it's too late. Most importantly, the family members need to tell their loved one that it's OK for them to go. I'll illustrate with a story.

      When my grandmother died in 2006, we'd known it was coming for the better part of a year, as she became less and less communicative. About a week before she died, when she was not only not communicating but also not even making an effort to eat, we contacted the local hospice.  Then we called the relatives. Over the next week, all of her grandchildren, and most of her great-grandchildren, paid her visits. We all told her (as well as my mom and my aunt, her only two children) that it was OK for her to go.

      By the end of the week, only my one male cousin hadn't yet been able to come up for a visit, as he'd been on a sales trip. The hospice caseworker who came in to do evaluations daily said that she thought grandma had maybe 72 hours left to live, before her body would give out from not getting sustenance. (We'd opted not to have a feeding tube implanted, as she'd made it clear she didn't want that.)

      That last weekend, my mom and stepdad, my aunt and uncle, my sister and I, that male cousin and his wife and children, and two of my three other cousins all stayed with grandma, more or less in shifts. The nursing home staff graciously cleared her roommate out of the room, brought us meals, and generally saw to it that we had whatever we needed--and then kept out. By Sunday morning, it was obvious that it wouldn't be long--grandma was barely breathing. Still, we kept her company, and shared old family stories amongst ourselves. We laughed as often as we cried. People drifted in and out of the room as they felt able--but when we thought the time was getting close, we all came back. We kept telling her it was OK to go, and finally, she drew one last breath, let it out, and never breathed again. She went out surrounded by the voices of her family, telling family stories, after all of her nearest and dearest had gotten the chance to say their goodbyes. (She was the last surviving member of her own family, my great-aunt Florence having died four years previously.)

      I still maintain she was waiting for my cousin Jeff and his family to get the chance to say their farewells. And while we were all saddened at her passing, (a) it wasn't like we hadn't had time to prepare for it, and (b) we were there for each other at the toughest time. That made it easier to bear.

      •  I read a wonderful book (7+ / 0-)

        Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying that talked about that very thing, musings, when my mom was dying. I heartily recommend it to anyone facing this.

        Some people wait longer than anyone thinks possible for someone to arrive to say goodbye. Others wait for a quiet moment.

        After a week of touch-and-go, I got a call to come to the nursing home in the middle of the night. I sat with my mom and various people were in and out and there was talking and activity all day. About 3 pm all the extra people left the room and she took her last breath at 3:30 with me holding her hand.

        They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. - Andy Warhol

        by 1864 House on Sun May 15, 2011 at 07:12:26 PM PDT

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      •  I see your post as a complimentary (5+ / 0-)

        not contrary position.  As I remember the Head Nurse's talk he certainly observed that families gather around but rarely did this

        We all told her (as well as my mom and my aunt, her only two children) that it was OK for her to go

        His observation was that families are unable to bring themselves to talk about dying to the one dying, are unable to say farewell.  In no way do I say to leave the dying loved one alone.  When families are unable to says its OK for you to go, unable to say goodbye then that is when the person dying goes when they are gone.  The consequence of the title of his talk is that for families in that situation who do not know what to say, they don't say anything and that makes it harder all around.

        "Sometimes, late at night, while I’m lying down outside of my hut, staring at stars I never knew existed,... I’m 100% sure, this is what heaven is like." Mika Bangcaya, Senegal PCV

        by Tonga 23 on Sun May 15, 2011 at 07:53:47 PM PDT

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        •  We've been socialized to keep fighting and (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          commonmass, Tonga 23

          Hold on tight to those we love. In my experience, the greatest gift we can give is acceptance, grace, and clear communication that we respect and hold dear our loved one now and forever: that they can stop fighting and accept whatever comes next whenever they wish.

          It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... - C Dickens.

          by grover on Sun May 15, 2011 at 10:55:11 PM PDT

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