I met someone who once told me that she wanted to die curled up in her bed at home, an old Cary Grant movie on the TV, surrounded by chocolate. It sounded nice. There are nice ways to die – the way we imagine it happening in our head when we allow for fantasies – and sometimes there are worst case fantasies. “I NEVER want to die by drowning… or by falling off a cliff… or by being eaten by a bear.” The stuff nightmares are made of. No, a Cary Grant movie seems much more comforting.
So back to reality. Most of us these days die from disease and what we called a “prolonged death.” Not so forty or fifty years ago. Then we just had heart attacks or strokes and fell over dead. These days, we get cancer and we die over time. There are good things to that and not so good things to that. The not so good thing is that we tend to drag things out medically. Everything becomes about fixing the disease, drugs for pain, side effects, and coping with diminished strength. The good thing is that we have time. Time to think, time to be with those we love, time to just be alive.
Try making a list of what you would like to do, who you want to see, what you want around you. Do you want to go to Paris? Do you want to spend time at the beach? Do you want your children and grandchildren around you? Let people know. One of the things we have learned is that we don’t talk about this enough. Our children and grandchildren don’t KNOW what we want or don’t want.
One thing we have also learned is that, as a rule, we pretty much don’t want to die alone. That just seems too scary. We want someone to be there and hold our hand. We want someone who will wipe our forehead and brush our hair, tell us that it will be okay. That seems a good thing to me.
Some of us can do something about that. Sacred Dying is joining “No One Dies Alone” or NODA to train
volunteers in hospitals across the country. They will sit with you and hold your hand, wipe your brow, brush your hair. They will read to you. They will assure you that it will be okay. They will vigil with you until the end. It’s pretty simple, actually. If you are facing an illness that means your death will come sooner rather than later, call your local hospital and see if they have the NODA program. If they don’t, suggest that they bring it in. Sacred Dying will provide the tools for training the volunteers. We’re calling it our Vigil Training Series. It is designed specifically for NODA hospitals. Contact us if you want to know more. This is a good thing. It gives people a way to die that is honorable. And not alone.