It’s been a topsy turvy week with highs, lows and little or no time in blogland. I apologise for being so lax and for not interacting much at all.
The major high of the week was a delightful swim yesterday with the sun beaming down.
The major low was the death of a dear, dear friend who was a part of my life since I was born and who was a treasured link to both my parents.
It’s hard to say ‘goodbye’ but it is so good to see a person with such a heart of gold being given the chance to die at home in the loving care of devoted grown-up children and supportive home care medical professionals.
A very high percentage of people want to die at home but by no means all are afforded this opportunity.
I sincerely hope that we can work towards enabling everyone to have a choice about where they live out the final years, months, weeks, days and hours of their lives because it matters hugely to both the dying person and his/her family.
The trees are coming into leaf like something almost being said.
There’s so many sides to almostness and I seem to have been witnessing a good few of them lately. The trees coming into leaf are one of the blissful examples while spending time with a very dear friend who is breathing her last has been highlighting another side of this ubiquitous aspect of life.
Somehow, it seems to me, as I think about these opposite ends of the spectrum, that there are times when words don’t feel quite right. Rather, there is the shared knowing, the being at one, the companionable silence. The time for words will unfold in its own natural way and shouldn’t be forced.
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
This poem speaks more directly to me than any other about the importance of identifying, pursuing and never letting go of dreams.
My dream for many, many years now has been to make a difference to the lives of the most vulnerable people in our society, especially those who have serious health issues or are nearing the end of life.
This is a dream I have been able to fulfill to a considerable extent at different periods and in different ways over the years. But there is still a lot more to do and the dream lives on just as strongly as ever.
How do you feel about YOUR dreams and would you be happy to share what it is you really want to achieve in this life?
There has been quite a surge of search terms relating to ‘losing elderly parents’ over the last few weeks and I’m more than conscious that many grown-up children may well be ‘going home’ for Christmas to visit parents who are close to death.
A question that someone wrote that brought him/her to this blog was: What to say to an elderly parent who is dying?’
I’ve been thinking a good deal about this over the last day or two and from my reading of the literature, as well as from personal experience, it would seem best to take one’s lead from the parent who is dying.
There is quite a large literature about ‘awareness contexts’ in relation to dying ~ a phrase coined by Anselm Strauss and Barney Glaser in 1965. I was fortunate to study under Anselm Strauss in the University of California in San Francisco and I was very struck by the complexities which he identified in relation to interaction with people who are dying. For example, some people may know they are dying and be happy to talk about it while others may know they are dying but want to carry on as if death was not on their agenda. There are lots of different permutations.
Much more recently, I attended a workshop given by Kenneth Doka, who has written extensively about death and dying. He made the point, that resonated very strongly with my own personal experience, that people who are dying can shift from wanting, to not wanting, to talk about their mortality. These changes can occur even within a single conversation.
So overall, I think that we have to respect the wishes of the parent who is dying . It is important to: 1. Seek clarification from the medical team if the elderly person has been told their prognosis; 2. Listen carefully to what the elderly person has to say and be receptive to cues that they wish to talk/or not talk about dying; 3. Be cognisant that everyone is different in how they deal with dying. For example, some people may find it easier to talk to a stranger than to a loved one while others may want to confide only in loved ones; and others may not wish to talk about dying to anyone at any stage.
Arguably, it is easier if there is openness all round but I think that such openness may be more the exception than the norm.
Marie Flemming, an Irish woman with heart, soul, courage and conviction, died this morning.
It is seldom that I get one of those ‘Stop all the clocks …’ feelings but when I heard about Marie Flemming’s passing, as I drove home from Waterford around 11am, I felt, and still feel that we owe this woman so much for her efforts to bring greater humanity to this country of ours.
In short, Marie, who had Multiple Sclerosis, fought an immense legal battle for the right to die. Even though she lost her cases in both the High Court and the Supreme Court, she has undoubtedly paved the way for greater debate and hopefully eventual resolution of this highly sensitive matter. http://iti.ms/1jouzLS
Today, my heart goes out to her beloved partner, Tom Curran, and all her family and friends.
Rest in Peace, Marie, and thanks for your strength and mammoth efforts.
I don’t think I drew breath from one end of this post to the other. Beautifully written and highlighting the uniqueness of each individual and this/her history right to the end of life.
There are lessons here for us all!
This post on ‘End-of-Life Choices: Holding on and Letting Go’ addresses many of the key questions that so many of us have faced in relation to caring for people we love as they neared the end of their lives and I have no doubt that thousands and thousands are grappling with them right now.
It offers us all a timely reminder to remember that death is inevitable for us all and that we need, though may not want, to talk about it.