The Art of Checking Out

I have to confess that I think a lot about death and dying- I can’t help it. It comes with the territory. As a hospice nurse I am faced with the dying process every time I step off of the elevator into a 12 hour shift. I catch myself wondering what my own death will be like. Will I quietly step into that good night, or will I ‘rage against the dying of the light’? Will I lose every scrap of dignity in the process? Will it be death by a million small cuts or will I ‘die in the saddle’, riding out in a blaze of glory? It is not death that gives me the creeps, but rather those moments, hours, or days preceding, where pain, delerium, nausea, or shortness of breath may raise serpentine heads to strike at my weakness. It is the loss of control. The loss of being. The fear that my existence was nothing more than just a comma, a semi-colon in the novel of the universe. Great authors, musicians, scientists, and political leaders have legacies that live on in their books, music, poetry, technological advances, and history-making moments. Perhaps the only legacy I will leave is that I have tried to love. I have tried to serve. Imperfectly, humanly- but with great joy. I hope that this joy will accompany me on my last journey. I hope that I will be able to greet my death surrounded by love, sustained by grace, and supported by familiar arms. I do not want to die a stranger.

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