Dying at Home

I have firsthand experience with Home Hospice and the dignity provided a loved one by allowing them to die at home surrounded by their loved ones and the familiar world that they lived. If possible, most people who I know, would want their last days to be at home and not in the sterile environment of the hospital. My wife and I fought cancer for 8 years. She requested Hospice assistance 3 months before cancer took her from our family. I have to admit that even with all that time to prepare that I never gave the death with dignity at home much real thought. It sounded good and I knew it was the way she wanted to die. She did not want to die, at all, but this was not to be avoided. The last 4 days of her life was a blur for me. Even with the knowledge of having signed up for Hospice assistance, and having applied for the “right to die” medication prescription, I was in a fog about what was about to happen and how to deal with it.

The real reason I feel compelled to write this article is the lesson that I am, only now, becoming aware of an important lesson. When my wife came home from the hospital, for the last time, and Hospice had set up the pain management medicine, Lauren (my sister-in-law) and I were left in the house to care for my lovely wife. We worked together as a team and it was going pretty well. There was some fear involved with the responsibility but we had been through many difficult experiences in the 8 years including emergency room visits, major surgeries, chemo therapy, doctor’s visits, and endless medical procedures and testing. Our Home Hospice nurse came the next day to check up on all of us and she increased the amount of pain medication and things seemed OK. With blessings for all of us, my wife passed away the next morning. I was not really prepared. I do not know why other than the blur and the denial that I must have felt at the time. BUT, one year later, I finally a woke to the realization that my wife dying at home was much more traumatic for me (and my sister-in-law) than I had been aware of at the time.

Death with dignity at home is a good thing for the patient but I am not sure how many of the involved family and friends are really well prepared for this experience. I appreciate Home Hospice and what they do. I just never considered how difficult dealing with my ghosts related to watching my beautiful wife die in our home would be for me. A century ago, people dying at home, surrounded by their family, was more common in the United States. This is still common in other cultures around the world but death and dying has been hidden well within the culture of the US where youth and beauty are worshipped, and sickness and death are hidden in hospital and retirement homes. Dying is an inevitable part of life. We can not escape it. We can be better prepared for the death of our loved ones and our own end of life.

My main point of this blog is to report that watching a loved one pass away at home can be more significant than we might be able to imagine. Prepare yourself. Hug your loved ones and friends. Live your life with as much vigilance as possible. Honor your spiritual needs.

I KNOW that my wife is in a better place. She is in a “bigger and better place than you can imagine” I believe. My life will continue and will hopefully find ways to be of service as I live with my “ghosts.”

Accepting Death and Dying As a Buddhist

Accepting Death and Dying As a Buddhist (from thoughts regarding my wife & her passing)

In the course of blogging I want to serve people who are struggling with life’s lessons regarding aging and the final transition of dying with peace and dignity. Blessings to all of us who are on the path…

 

While confronting the challenges of mortality, I find myself engaged in emotional swings and wonder how an accomplished Buddhist might respond to the death of family member…

 

Does a practicing and accomplished Buddhist gracefully accept the death of close friend or family member? Is there a way to unemotionally accept the passing of a friend with the deeply held belief that the transition is nothing more significant than the cycle of day turning to night? Can a Buddhist clearly resolve that there is only joy in the spiritual evolving of a soul as they pass through physical death into the next incarnation?

 

Beyond the philosophical questions, can I ever truly feel the beauty that death will bring to my loving, graceful wife and not feel the despair in my loss of my close friend/wife? Should I avoid my pain by finding deep acceptance of her destiny in the tradition of a well practiced Buddhist? Will I understand the meaning of emotionally letting go of my fear, sadness, and the void of my loss?

 

There are times when I feel that I accept and understand the meaning and value of the transition of death, and times when I fight my personal despair. What is the perfect balance of these feelings???… And, will I be able to achieve the ideal balance to learn my lessons of this life?

 

Perfection and joy in the sadness of loss…

 

Feeling the release of my loved one from the pain, sorrows and limitations of this life…

 

Embrace the lightness, unconditional love, consciousness, and feeling of complete connectedness of after-life…

 

I was young and I was shocked when as a young man of my mid-twenties I received a letter from a person who knew my friend Judy who died while tubing in the snow on Mt. Shasta. The letter described in rational coolness the beauty of her passing into the next plain of consciousness to do her “work.” At the time, my loss and fear made me feel a lack of insight into the writer’s consciousness and separation from the Buddhist principle that was being shared with me… I was uncomfortable and yet attracted to this view of death and dying. Yet, sometimes I feel that I understand and emotionally connect with this insight. It is a freeing of my soul and spirit to spend moments in this consciousness…

 

How do I maintain this feeling longer? Should I recommend this state of consciousness to other people so they can be free to live without the limitations of fear, sadness, loss, anxiety, and anger regarding the process of death and dying?

 

Is my sadness a conditioned response to the accepted lack of acceptance of death and dying by my society? Has spiritual evolution and freedom of the soul been discourage by a fear based society that ignores death only to falsely celebrate youth and winning in life? Can I release my own need for drama to allow death a more normal and less emotional spot in my life?

 

My learning continues as I confront the thoughts and feelings that are so easily avoided by many members of our culture. As you can see, I take religion out of my struggles for consciousness and yet desire to embrace a philosophy born out Eastern beliefs that I do not know much about but somehow find comfort in the feelings of my exposure to this system. I know that far greater minds have contorted while examining these challenges so I accept that I may not have a final answer. There is something special in the struggle and the process engages me.

 

Please celebrate my struggle and enter into this dance yourself. Any input and feedback is appreciated.

 

 

 

Added perspective from my friend Patricia:

 

As I read your beautiful writing, something comes to mind for me that I learned from Buddhist Psychotherapist, John Welwood.

 

“According to Welwood, for the Western mind, this isn’t an either or in this situation, but rather a both/and. It is possible to feel both the beauty of a loved one’s passing, knowing that the absolute truth of the matter is that she is free from suffering and to also feel the relative suffering of your own personal loss. To do anything other than that is to by-pass your own human condition in some essential way and not listen to the wisdom that is inherent in the body. He calls this “spiritual bypassing.” Does this mean that we are conditioned to feel emotions in a certain way that our Eastern counterparts don’t? I don’t know….

 

I do know that I have moments when I understand and recognize the non-attachment Buddhism teaches, and many more moments when I do not. Mostly what I know is that when I try to force myself to think and/or feel a certain way when I don’t already, I wind up doing a small violence to myself by not acknowledging exactly where I am in any given moment, and then allowing something fresh to appear the next moment.”

 

Thank you, Patricia.