How to handle the journey to the end of life by francy Dickinson
Dear Francy; I am 47, I live alone and work in a doctor’s office. I have an adult son that is now in France with his own family and his dad. I am alone, no one in my family is left but me and a distant cousin. I have not been well for quite some time so I have very few friends and no one that checks on me or is a close confidant. When the doctor told me – my time was close…I just came home and sat down on my patio and wanted it to end right there and then. I was given your name by a friend, she said you ‘knew about things’. I wish I knew about things…I was wondering what you think I should be doing? I just don’t have the energy to think lately…and yet, I want the end of my life to be joyful. Do you have any ideas for me?
Yes! First, a Friend told me one day…that you should think of death as the beginning of a new life. Think how happy everyone is here…when a new baby is born into our family or community…we all give showers and gifts and stand in line to hold the child with great hope. What if your death here…is like a new child’s birth on the other side? What if when you enter that realm or dimension…you are the star…you are the one everyone is waiting for? Your family that has passed on, dear old friends…anipals that have passed – all standing in line for hugs. What if you are the center of attention? Just a thought to throw around in your mind.
I sent you a personal note and asked if I could share some information on the blog and you granted me that right. So, I will talk about the idea of death that bursts forth when anyone is faced with it. The recent tragic news about people dying in terrible fires and storms, children being shot in their schools and cars dropping off of bridges without any notice. You can be faced with end of life situations at any age…but for you and many, its health issues that take over the body and cause an end to life. You are still young, but a person’s age does not matter, death is death.
I was faced with 4th stage cancer in my twenties. So I know the pain and trials of thinking about death. I know the feeling that just making it through a day to day situation seems overwhelming. But the truth, as I know it…is that life enfolds and I lived on. I lived through the procedures, the pain, the confusion, the trauma and thirty years later — I am still here. So timing of our death can be very tricky and I would not get caught up in dates, times or places of your own demise…it may be tomorrow…or it may be a very long way, away.
Since you are alone, you have the privacy to be emotional when you need to be. You don’t have to be brave or polite for your family or older parents…you can just be who you are and that is a gift. That means that you have the ability to sit on your patio and enjoy the air, the noise of life and the sunshine….its a good place to be. I happen to be a great believer in trees. My family has a history of staring at the beauty of trees, as they made the last part of their life’s journey. It gave them all a feeling of calm, peace and they often talked about things they saw in the trees after hours of staring at the limbs swaying and leaves shimmering. Being with nature when you are tense and worried…is always a great calming effect. You get into the feelings of the day…the noise of the morning, afternoon and evening…and the quiet of the night. Some times…you just need to connect to that and I think its a good thing.
I know your son seems like a lifetime away. But one day he, his children or grandchildren will want to know about you. Its time to prepare for that. When you are fresh in the morning…start to pack a box for your son. Put everything in protective sleeves or ziplock bags and add notes to them. Example: Your wedding ring…tuck in a note about when you got it and how much you loved to wear it. I did this with my sister when she was passing with cancer…those little gifts and notes to family and a few friends…were held like gold when they received them.
Go to Ancestry.com and do a simple search and get your immediate family members in place. Then scan in a few pictures and things..so when someone does research on your family…they will find your smiling face and a small outline of your life. They will read a few things about your own father and mother and maybe you knew your grand parents. That is like a gift to your great, great grandchildren…please give it to them.
Call Hospice. They will come and talk to you and talk you through what has to be done to keep you safe and well and at home, if you choose to be at home… through your end days. They are trained for all sorts of situations…so you will be surprised at how much they will do for you. They will clean your home, help you with a pet, find a home for your gold fish…they do what you need to make a life transition without worry. Its a wonderful group and is free to all of us.
Ask someone you know, to be your health care directorship. Maybe it will be a friend at work, or the doctor you work with or anyone that you enjoy talking to and understands your true voice. When you fill out the paperwork, you will see it will ask you what you want to do about your decisions…like would you want to be on prolonged life support? Think on it and then answer. Do you want to be buried or cremated? These questions are not there to upset you…they are there for you to make the decisions before you get so ill that someone else makes those decisions for you.
Let people know you are on a limited time frame. My husband has long talked about an incident that happened in his life. He was married with children and his father was suffering with Parkinson’s. His dad went into the hospital and his mother called and gave him an upbeat talk about it and told him not to worry to come and visit the next day. My husband was going to do just that and he had in mind what he was going to bring to his dad and some special treats he was going to include in his gift. Then early that morning a call came that his dad had passed. My husband was so upset that he never forgot about the missed chance to see his dad…and he has always been stuck on why his mother did that to him?
Give your son a call and let him know the situation. If he wants to come and see you…let him. If he is fine with it and just wants to chat and send you love over the phone…then you can deal with that too. But do not take away the choice of your son to express his feelings for you before you are no longer there. Gift him, the choice. Being brave and not wanting to rock a boat, is really being selfish and taking the power away from your loved ones – to give to you.
Ask what or how the end will come. A lot of people do not want to know this..but Hospice will explain to you what is ahead. When I have worked with them…I have found that this information takes the worry and fright out of what is happening to you when your body is weak and you are no longer able to understand or do for yourself.
Do what pleases you. If you like hamburgers eat them…if you like chocolate eat it, if you like to drink martinis ~ this is your moment. No diet is going to change your health when you are in the final stages of health decline. Be good to yourself…do as you please…if you want to take off your bra…or wear your hair on top of your head. Do it!
Do not spend energy on things that have no meaning. I try to explain to anyone in your place…that your body only has so much energy…so how you use it each day is very important. Think of your body as a laptop on a plane trip. You have an hour or two of battery time, before it has to be recharged…so what are you going to do with that laptop?
Say NO…if you are asked to do something that you do not want to do…you now say, NO.
Do not push away people. You know I have gone through a strange life of care giving. Not because I wanted to…I am not a nurse type person, but because I was in the right spot at the right time to help a few of my family members, friends and others. I could have said NO. I could have gotten someone else to do the care giving..but somehow I was put there to learn and to do. Its just how life unfolds. But from caring for my dad in his last days…he shared some stories and ideas with me, that I would never have known. Being with my sister in her last days gave me a clear appreciation for her helping my mother to raise me. When I took mom into our home, in her last days…showed me that I was strong and could keep my mind working even in crisis. All of those actions and care giving…now allowed me to be here for my dear Georgie, as I am now caring for him during his Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s journey. It has not been a bad thing, or a sad thing, but a journey and a gift that they gave to me. I always was a very self-centered person that only worried about my own life…I have now been shown how important it is to do for others and to give them your love when they really need it. I have learned that my sense of humor has as much power as my care giving…because nasty health issues are not fun…and if you can not laugh in the midst of chaos…there is a big problem in your world. The care giving was not a burden, but an awakening for me as a person. The care giving turned out to be how I was meant to give back and I am pleased that my family members gave me the chance to learn that…I am not mad about being ‘put out’ over the work. I am honored. So do not think that you are asking to much when you ask care givers to help you…they are there to be next to you during this time. Maybe something you say or do, will enrich their lives in a way that never would have happened without you.
If it is true that giving is blessed…then you have to remember than someone has to be the receiver in that process. So you have given all through your life…now, its time to be the receiver and let others be blessed on their kindness and giving to you.
Last…there is nothing to be afraid of — if the end of life has nothing. I mean if those that believe in an after life of some kind…are wrong…so what? Nothing is nothing, you don’t have to worry over nothing. But if we are right about the end of life being a beginning of another experience…then being prepared and thinking of what you would want in that new experience is worth your energy. Pushing through the fear…and knowing that you will be swept up into love…is so important.
There is no being with someone when you die. We are all going to be alone. Even if we have a big family around us…the experience is ours alone. All you have done will stand for its own value. Today, think and do what feels right. You said you like to do watercolor…so paint! Do not care what it looks like, if it’s shaky or the colors are not perfect…just open up and paint. Feel the inner you coming out and allow it to talk to you. Maybe it will be sad and dark…or maybe it will be beautiful and light colors, or maybe it will be joyous and just shine. .Allow that inside of you…to spill out. There are no more rules…you are on your own ride.
Know that you and your life had meaning as all lives do. I think of my sweet little wire haired fox terrier, Annie. She passed years ago. She gave me so much joy and love and I still think of her as being by my side. She is dead, she is gone…and yet I feel her close. I remember how she expressed her love to me and it still makes me feel special. She was with me only nine years, such a short time on earth and yet…she gave me a lasting feeling of love and being a good dog mom. Since I have not had any children of my own…those feelings of motherhood were expressed with her and she – in return, left her love behind.
You are loved…and I am honored to have met you and that you have shared your feelings with me. Blessings, francy