Saturday, June 12, 2010

Death isn't so scary if you believe in something greater.

I've seen two people die - my uncle and then my father - and learned a lot from both.   Neither death was horrific but peaceful; neither left me a weeping mess because I expected it.  Both situations were very different.  My father had been home for weeks gradually declining and in pain.  We moved him to the hospital to better control his pain; we knew he'd never come home.  He lasted 2 1/2 days after he was admitted and we stayed with him the whole time.  My uncle was diagnosed with terminal cancer and in a nursing home. We expected he'd have another few months but got a call one evening that he was in rapid decline for unknown causes.  We rushed to the hospital to find him unresponsive with no idea how long he would last.  I opted to stay with him and sent my Mom, father and brothers home for the night and he passed away 2 hours later as I sat with him.

My uncle died first and I was amazed just how easily it was for him to simply sleep and not wake up.   I didn't hear a last gasp, I didn't hear a thing.  The nurse came in and said his heart was barely beating and his breathing was very shallow.   He was very cold yet his internal temperature was quite high.  The nurse disconnected the monitors, the oxygen and then his chest just stopped moving.   He looked at peace for the first time in a long time.  The year before his death had been emotional due to his anger and frustration.  He refused to address the fact that he was terminal.  He refused to discuss his business affairs, to tell anyone about debts, savings accounts or anything like that.  He bought woodworking tools from HSN and QVC, wood and materials from catalogs, magazines and Christmas gifts.  He was in denial and we didn't have the heart to force him to face the truth.  After he passed, his peaceful appearance actually made me feel better; I was relieved for him.  

When my father died we were all exhausted.   My family and I had gathered at their home daily for a week or so.  We knew my father didn't have long so we wanted to make the most of it.   When it was time to go to the hospital, my nephews, my Mom and I went with him.  My brothers and sister in law were waiting there for him.  He knew we were all there and it made him feel better.  We created a plan to ensure he was not left alone and then began our "shifts".  My Mom would not leave his side so we tried to tend to her as well.  She is an epileptic and prone to grand mal seizures so we - and my father - were very concerned about how she'd handle things; we worked hard to ensure she felt loved and supported.   My father had terrible pain in his shoulders due to tumors and had to receive ever-growing doses of morphine to keep him comfortable. ( I often wonder if he didn't pass from morphine over dose but that's another blog post...) After 2 1/2 days, he would not respond when we spoke but he squeezed our hands now and then.   About noon on day 3, a nurse came to me and said his heart was beating so seldom that he would soon pass.  I did not want Mom to see his moment of death so I positioned myself between her and my dad, holding his hand. My nephew was on the other side of the bed.   After taking my dad's hand, I noticed that it slowly began to turn grey. Then the grey color quickly traveled up his arm across his shoulder and to his neck.  As it traveled up into his face, he began to gape - his mouth opened then the grey color moved from his forehead down to meet the grey color that moved up from his hand.  At that moment I felt something rise up from him and move past me.  His body exhaled deeply and his mouth closed.  

I remember this so vividly and 14 years later can still see it in my mind but it lasted only a seond or two.  My nephew who was right there didn't see it, he was focused on my mother.  I am sure I witnessed his soul passing from his body.  A week after his death, I dreamt about him each night.  In my dreams we talked about many, many things.  After the dreams I felt there was nothing left unsettled between us and I only felt disappointment that I couldn't enjoy his humor and ask his advice - for now.    This experience left me sure in my heart that this existence is temporary and that there is a spiritual world - our REAL existence - just beyond our ability to physically see, hear or feel it.    Our loved ones are all there, close by, waiting for us.  I am in no rush to leave this lifetime to get there and I would hate to have a lingering illness on the way to that place.  

The next death I witness may be completely different but I will try to approach it with love.  I will be confident that the person will soon be with other family and loved ones and that I will get there some day too.  The most important part will be to ensure my loved one feels loved and supported.   There are all kinds of ways to do that and it really depends on the person.  I've found some good advice in all kinds of places.  One place where I find great spiritual support is Hay House Radio or Hay House Publishing.

Here's a link to a Hay House Publishing online webinar that might help us understand what someone needs as they "pass over" from this physical life to the spiritual.  Though Hay House does not produce materials for any specific religion, the information found there is loving and kind, thoughtful and helpful for anyone.   I suggest that you copy and paste this link, or if it's broken go to and search for "death and dying".
Hay House seminar on death and dying
copy and pate this:

is there life after death? dealing with death, dealing with death of a parent, what happens at the moment of death, what's it like to watch someone die?
what dan i do for my dying mom, how can i help my dying parent,  what happens when we die, What should I expect as mom dad dies?