Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Death | a user-friendly guide

Few months back in Singapore while waiting for bus at the bus stop, few extra ordinary advertisements caught my attention. They were no ordinary advertisement. They made my eyes moist, they inspired me, they made me decide more to do something for the betterment of this world. Singapore Hospice Council was the host of those advertisement. Few days back visitor Ginger wanted me to write something on death and dying. Ginger has a family member who is terminally ill with cancer. This post is selection from one of the advert that i saw on the bus stop. I dedicate this to the dear one of Ginger with prayers and love.

Death :: a user-friendly guide

Why are we afraid of the dark? Why do snakes and spiders frighten us? If we were to trace all ourfears down to their very root, we would inevitably come face to face with the Spectre of Death. To be no longer numbered amongst the living haunts us like no other demon. The knowledge that one day we will all cease to be has turned some of us into philosophers and others into priests. Mostly, though, death has made cowards of us all. We pop vitamins, eat fibre, run three times a week: all the while looking warily over our shoulder to be sure that death’s long shadow isn’t gaining on us.

Our vigilance & all the advances in medical science make no difference. The statistics on death are still a hundred per cent, just as they used to be ten thousand years ago. Whoever is born, dies. A birth and a death, in fact, are the two only requirementsfor a life. Once we accept our demise as a certainty and a part of the cosmic deal; death becomes a friend who sits on our shoulder to remind us that, as we are only here for a short visit, shouldn’t we be smelling the flowers along the way?

At the Singapore Hospice Council, we believeit is neither morbid nor fatalistic to contemplateour own death. As Morrie so wisely puts it in Tuesdays with Morrie, ‘Once we learn how to die,we’ll learn how to live.’ So to help us mull over our mortality, we have assembled some useful information and friendly advice on the subject.

The best place to die. Given a choice, most of us would rather spend our final moments in the comfort of our own home, and certainly not in our least favourite place: the hospital. While we want to die at home, the fact is only one-quarter of us will end up doing so.

Quick exits. When asked how we’d like to go, most of us would hide behind dark humour. ‘I want to live to be a hundred and ten, and be shot in the back by a jealous husband.’ While sudden deaths might seem appealing, in reality they leave a great many things undone, and they are very often the hardest deaths for families to accept. In contrast to an abrupt, easy death; dying of a progressive illness offers time and opportunities to put ‘our house in order’, which includes the healing of strained or severed relationships, perhaps between previous spouses, or a parent and an estranged adult child. When two people end well, the story of their lives will be fondly remembered.

So long ‘I forgive you.’ ‘Forgive me.’ ‘Thankyou.’ ‘I love you.’ ‘Goodbye.’ Those are the five steps of relationship closure. Under hospice care, we are encouraged to mend our relationships with the most important people in our life. After we’ve resolved feelings of hatred or love with others, there is nothing left but peace. We may never be happy to move on, but at least we’ll be prepared.

Never walk alone.
We all pass away alone. Unless we die in a car accident with others, we are the only one dying at that moment in time. Death is, by its very nature, the loneliest experience man was ordained to endure. It is a loneliness that’s compounded by the fact that we isolate the dying at this crucial time. We isolate the dying by no longer talking to them. We isolate them by no longer listening to them. Sometimes we’re not with them physically; but more often, we’re no longer with them emotionally. The widely held notion that the dying do not want to talk about death is a myth. Of course, they want to talk about it; they are about to enter the great unknown and talking can be therapeutic.

Listen to them. Love them. Care for them. Having a loved and near one sitting beside may give them comfort which are beyond words.

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