The Art of Dying


We are born in to this world to learn how to live, and in so doing to learn how to die. The lessons learned in between birth and death determine the manner, so to speak, of how we approach that inevitability. As a palliative care nurse working in an active hospice unit, I daily witness and marvel at the uniqueness of each encounter with Mystery and the final moments of those who pass over. Some do so quietly. Like one incredibly private woman who informed her family that she “wished to die alone”. Nightly vigils by her husband, sons, and friends only served to prolong the time that she spent in this world. When those who loved her best realized this, they acquiesced and left her to slip away in the sanctuary of her solitude. Others ‘rage against the dying of the light’- and the possession or dispossession of faith does not always guarantee who will and who will not experience a stormy passage. I have seen staunch believers paralyzed with fear- not necessarily of death and the afterlife- but with the process of getting from “A” to “B”. I have also seen individuals who, having lived the most wretched of lives by ‘our standards’, die in a way that could only have been dreamed of in a fictional ‘happy ending’. The ‘rules’ become fuzzy here. What does this teach me? Perhaps once again that ‘the secret things belong to the Lord’- that God sees the end from the beginning, and that the end of a matter is always open to supernatural revision. Even our fears will be swallowed up by Forgiveness in the end. And thus endeth another 12 hours.

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