What Is A âGoodâ Death?
Our innate human love for flowers is imprinted in our DNA.

What Is A ‘Good’ Death?

PURPLE SHADES - Letty Jacinto-Lopez (The Philippine Star) - December 11, 2018 - 12:00am

How do you face the natural cycle of life and death? There are some things you can control, and that includes your attitude.

When movie actress and UNICEF goodwill ambassador Audrey Hepburn was dying she asked to be taken home. She wanted to be surrounded by those she dearly loved, her pets included, and to be near her garden that she tended with love and care.

Her son Luca Dotti remarked, “To my mother, her garden is a proof of life. Our innate human love for flowers is imprinted in our DNA, because flowers become fruits. The garden with fruit trees is beauty and takes the symbol of protecting one’s family.” Audrey died as she wished — in the midst of God’s beauty, at peace with Him, and with herself. 

Fr. Domie Guzman, SSP, said, “There is a natural cycle in the universe that governs not only man but nature as well. It’s the ups and downs, it’s life and death.”

The critical question is how do you face this natural cycle? What can be considered a “good” death? You must keep the following attitudes: 

• Accept that death is unavoidable and that you have no choice, really. Human life ends with death. Death is something you must prepare for. Every night, before you sleep, say this little prayer: “Thank you God for this good day. Grant me a restful sleep, and a peaceful death.” Follow this with an Act of Contrition and a prayer to your guardian angel. You’ll sleep like a log.

• If you have to be hospitalized, stay responsive and alert to what is happening to you and around you. Pray to God to make this possible. Some are afraid of the pain that may accompany terminal illness so they ask that they be taken in their sleep. Be spiritually prepared therefore. Always be in a state of grace. What if you drift to a coma and therefore cannot verbally communicate? Take options before this hour comes. 

While you are still healthy and of sound mind, keep a death “wish list” and a living will. Make them accessible to your family. Tell your children, your best friend, your doctor, your lawyer and your trusted house staff what your final thoughts and wishes are.

• Manage your pain. Chronic pain, if any, should be alleviated through a set of minimally invasive procedures. This palliative method may give you a sense of control. Perhaps, if the pain is tolerable, you may choose to bear it and offer it as a spiritual sacrifice for suffering souls. 

• Go home. If medical and hospital interventions can no longer give you the means to maintain life that is gentle and humane, ask to be discharged and be taken home, not to the hospice. Do not postpone death in the hospital.

This brings me to another question: How do you talk or handle someone who is dying?

• Visit her. Listen. Let her talk. If she is hooked up to drips and other plastic tubes, observe her body language. Watch her hands. Is she trying to express something that she can’t express in words? 

• Stay calm. Be patient. Give her your time and full attention. Pray silently while waiting for any clue as to what else you can do for her. 

• If you are close to the person, try asking leading questions. “Do you want me to inform anyone?” Has she been keeping secrets that she wants to share now or ask forgiveness for? Be her channel or intermediary.

I sat next to my friend who was given the last rites. I don’t know what got into me, “Mare, do you owe money to anyone?” She gave me the thumb’s up. She had no outstanding debts, but she kept a list of people who borrowed money from her. She whispered, “Tear up the list.” 

At another funeral wake, my friend was jolted from her seat to learn that her husband had kept a second family. Biting her lips, she allowed his “other” children to pay their last respects. “I could kill him again,” she snarled.  

• Keep your statements short. Go direct to the point. Don’t be tempted to recall years of involvement and activities because the patient would be too weak to understand or recall. 

• Don’t fear the tears. If you can’t control your sadness, it is all right to show it. Cry.

My friend taught her sons never to cry in public. She’d look at them sternly and repeat, “Don’t cry. Fight it!” Her sons instantly would stop sobbing and steeled themselves to look unbowed. But in her deathbed, when her children heard her singing her favorite hymn, In His time, she gazed tenderly at them, nodded and closed her eyes. She finally allowed her sons to cry, with her and for her.

• Don’t think that you always need to carry a conversation. Allow lapses of silence. When my father was nearing the end, I held his hand tight until I lost his pulse. No words need to be exchanged when there is peace and you have embraced it. 

• When your mind is racing and your stress level is high, it takes time for the dying person, and for you, to express anything. Keep praying. Just remember: The dying has every right to know.

Our world has order and beauty but it is also wild and dangerous. We may not know why we suffer but that’s the time when we turn to God for solace. We give our full trust in Him.  He knows what He’s doing and what would eventually lead us back to Him. Past pain and death. 

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