A Glimpse into Death and Dying:

In our culture, talking about death is unusual, yet it is part of everyone’s life. There are other subjects that are taboo, such as: religion, politics and sex. I shall leave those alone today, but would like to write a little about death.

Visiting a dying friend yesterday made me ponder on differences. J.is dying of cancer and has come to the stage where he is wanting to die. His wife is distraught and wants him to fight it.         J. wants to die at home. Z. wants him to go back to hospital where he’ll get further physiotherapy. All he wants is to give up and die at home. I can see how exhausting it is for Z. but am sad that she can’t accept that J.’s time has come.

This weekend the children will return home for a family conference. Z. wants them to encourage J. to return to hospital. There are services that can be organized to help Z. at home, but they are expensive. They are financially comfortable and this would be possible.

If I put myself in her shoes, would it be selfish to expect my partner to prolong his agony? One can’t step in another’s shoes. I just hope that I have the courage to face such a situation, if it were to happen, more selflessly, and vice versa.

Watching my mother die, I remember how tiring it was. I think it was the uncertainty of not knowing how long it would take, that I found most difficult. I loved her dearly, but didn’t want to see her suffer. I left the room when she talked to the doctor. I respected her decision to take control of how she ended her life, and she had a doctor who respected her wishes. I just wish Z. could find the courage to accept J.’s wishes too, and not fight to the bitter end.

I’m sure there are many of you who have had to deal with death in your own families. Never an easy thing. I’d be glad to hear from you  with your beliefs, experiences, if you want to share.

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27 thoughts on “A Glimpse into Death and Dying:

  1. Master of Something Yet

    When we knew there was nothing more we could do for my father, we began to make plans to bring him home because he had been adamant he would not die in hospital. Unfortunately it was the weekend and we couldn’t arrange services until the Monday. He obviously decided he’d had enough and died Monday morning before we got to the hospital. My mother was distraught, feeling she had failed him. I had to point out to her that the nurses had told us that Dad asked to get out of bed and sit in the chair. They helped him into the chair, turned to do something else and he slipped away. So he didn’t de in a hospital bed. His choosing. It made it a little easier for my mother accept that she didn’t manage to bring him home.

    I’m sorry you are going through this with your friends.

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      Heather, that sounded so sad about your Father’s death. He must have been a proud man, not to want to die in bed. Thanks for your wishes, it’s hard watching others go through their down spots and feeling inadequate to help.

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  2. hilarycustancegreen

    Brave subject to tackle. I have been there too, more than once. I found the family member who understood and accepted the end was coming (as did all relatives), was able to come home with support. This was better for all concerned (but did depend on me being available for an unspecified length of time – months) a peaceful and fulfilling end. The other was a hospital death that still fills me with misery because it went on for a very long time, was shrouded in pretence, and we could not make it easier. I just hope assisted dying is legal when my time comes.

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      Hilary, thanks for sharing your experiences. It is a massive subject. I agree with you about assisted dying, I too hope it is legal when my turn comes.

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    2. Outlier Babe

      I think it is the height of cruelty to make an animal or person suffer needlessly. Second to that is to take away their freedom–prime among these, the right to make choices when they still have control of their faculties.

      During our deaths, both family members and the typical members of the medical establishment act cruelly in both of these areas. I have to so cruelly and evilly as well. I honesty don’t care one whit that the loved ones are suffering emotionally. It is not they who are dying. They are being the ultimate in selfish. How DARE they put their needs and wants ahead of the dying person’s at a time when that latter person is losing all choices but one–the manner of their death?

      When it is a regular occurrence that even when a dying person has a Living Will, doctors feel free to override the expressly stated instructions of these in favor of contrary wishes of patients’ relatives–eg. ignoring DNR’s–I feel apoplectic with rage. Particularly when hospitals can make more money off the dying by prolonging their deaths…

      An ugly situation. Just as we need more midwives/husbands for safe, supportive home births, so we need them for safe, supportive home deaths.

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      1. bkpyett Post author

        I agree with you whole heartedly, O. Babe. It is a very sensitive subject in Australia, but there are a few doctors who are willing to assist the dying. It is worth having a Good family doctor, who knows you well and will be there to help when the time comes.

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  3. fatericsmum

    Thank you for talking about this difficult topic Barbara! I don’t think there’s a ‘right’ answer to how to handle it. I hope your friends manage to come to some understanding which works for all of them – while I really feel for your friend who simply wants to die at home, it may be that his wife just can’t cope with that …

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      You are right Pauline, there’s no right and wrong way. It is just hard observing the complex situation. At least the children will be there this weekend which will please both parents. ❤

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  4. Aunt Beulah

    Barbara, I so appreciate your taking on this difficult topic. You’re right: we don’t talk about death enough. Both of my parents died fairly quickly, Dad at home and Mom after two days in the hospital, so I haven’t had to face the issues your friends are.In fact, so far, all the loved ones I’ve lost have gone quickly, so I worry about how I will deal with it when someone doesn’t. I also worry about how I will handle my own death and that of my husband. Worry might be too strong a word, but I am concerned which is why I so appreciated this post. Thank you.

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      Dear Janet, I hope you, like your parents, are not faced with prolonged inabilities and pass peacefully when your turn, and your husband’s time comes. We can be blessed when this happens. ❤

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  5. sistasertraline

    Both of my parents died painfully, inch by inch. When my mum died I was very young and was in denial so it was a shock and felt like my heart had been ripped out. We thought in hindsight that the hospital ‘fast tracked’ her death and I would have selfishly fought that had I known. 20 years later, when my Dad died (after numerous nerve wracking ‘false starts’) I was there to help him transition, and all I could think was ‘Thank God!’. Anger and denial won’t keep him there if his body is packing up. I hope he has the courage to let go ASAP regardless. Feel for your friend though x

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      Dear Sista, what a painful experience for you losing your mother at such tender age. That must have altered your life! Losing anyone at any age isn’t easy, but at least when your Dad died you were more able to reason. Thank you for your kind words. ❤

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  6. bkpyett Post author

    Thanks Helen, no I don’t think you’re a weirdo at all! I am fine though, even though I’d like to see things change. You never know, maybe one day our paths will cross! Would be great to meet you in person!! 🙂

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  7. sallykj

    I hope I would be able to let my partner go when the time arrives. Very important to have these conversations when you and your children are all alive and well.when my husband was facing brain surgery a couple of years ago, the surgeon advised against a living will but talked to us about what he would want if something went wrong. Maybe oncologists should do this too.

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  8. helen meikle's scribblefest

    I watched my father die, and later my husband, so like you, I know the almost overwhelming emotional conflict involved. But I do so respect J’s wishes to simply let go: why continue to exist when ‘life’ is so obviously over? I also respect his wish to die at home, but remember my son’s experience with his father-in-law:caring for him at home was a trauma too far, and fortunately for the rest of the family, f-in-l finally saw it and agreed to go to hospital, where the practicalities of dying could be better managed.
    When the end is inevitable, extra time doesn’t really help, and letting someone go is perhaps the final gift you can give them.
    I really, really hestitate to suggest this – sounds as if I’ve got tickets on myself, and I really haven’t – but if it would help to talk to someone who’s been there, you’ll find me in the phone book: Meikle H, South West Rocks.

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      That is a very generous offer, Helen. I appreciate your response, but feel my friend isn’t in the right space at present for such a suggestion. She’s still angry with him for dying. I guess this will pass.

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