END OF LIFE DIALOGUES — When Dying Is Healing

Readers of my blog know by now that I believe it is incredibly important that we be open to discussing all aspects of the inevitable fate that awaits all living beings–death.  Painful, repugnant, upsetting, frightening…..any and all of these reactions to the notion of death are common and understandable.  But, I believe, by opening Pandora’s Box, we will come to deal with death and learn to accept what we cannot change.

 End of life dialogues (EOLD) willl allow us to understand what death truly is and perhaps find solace in coming to the realization what it is not–namely the end of existence.  More to come regarding that aspect of death.  But this particular posting concerns the notion of death as healing.  Does that sound particularly bizarre or contradictory to you?  It shouldn’t.

 Case in point.  Sadly I received news that my 70 year old first cousin succumbed to multiple sclerosis.  Although we were not particularly close over the past decades I knew him to be an amazingly kind, loving and compassionate human being.  He was a social worker whose devotion to his profession as well as his family were deeply felt.  Unfortunately, his form of MS was unrelenting and progressive.  He suffered from debilitating form which ultimately left him virtually paralyzed and speechless.  When he died his daughter remarked, “At least he doesn’t have MS anymore.”

 The truth of that statement is my point.  In the face of unremitting suffering, from whatever cause, from terminal cancer, dementia, or any organ failure, when there is no quality of life anymore, when there is no hope of improvement, then dying becomes healing. In my cousin’s particular case, his beloved wife had passed several years ago.  His amazing children brought him into their home to live out his remainng days.  Sadly his mother who is nearly 104 remains alive to witness his passing.  But, in truth, dying under such circumstances becomes healing for one’s loved -ones as well.  Witnessing the suffering of those we love is unconsolable suffering for us as well.  So it may well be that under such scenarios, dying  may be the only process that allows the healing process for loved-ones left behind to begin.

 And for the individual who is suffering, the angel of death becomes an angel of mercy.

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