How do we die? why me? why now? I am frightened of dying, I am angry, how will my family cope without me? I want to see my children get married, I wanted to have children, but it is too late now. I have had a good life, I am ready to join my husband, I am ready to go now I feel at peace. I am tired off the pain, I want to consider medical assistance with dying, as I want control over my death.

These are some of the comments made to me as a registered nurse throughout my many years caring for people who were dying in the community, hospice, and acute care.

When we are living, we want love and dignity so why should it be different when we are dying? It can appear complicated and overwhelming for the person, families, and friends in how to achieve this.

We have our own personal qualities and attributes which make up who we are. We have our own values and belief systems and for as long as we are able, we have the right to choose what is important to us as a person based on those beliefs and what we truly believe is ‘dying well’. When we are unable to control what this looks, sounds, smells and feels like we all have a role to play in facilitating a death that embraces love and dignity. Is there a right and wrong way to do this? And do we all see love and dignity in the same way?

Love and dignity come in many configurations such as privacy, laughter, family, friends, lovers, pets, respect, music, singing, quietness, touch, smells, makeup, special clothes prayer, spirituality, and acceptance.

 For Jennifer it was having her family and friends ‘hang out’ with her and for her to take in and enjoy the ‘banter’ humour, story telling and ‘belly laughs’.

For George it was enjoying his honeymoon with the love of his life who he married whilst in the hospice and staff decorated the guest room into a honeymoon suite and pushed the two beds together.

For Joan it was the serenity of listening to classical music, having aromatherapy oils burning, family coming in and out and having hand massages from staff.

For Francene it was having her adult children singing together in harmony whilst sat around her bed.

As we leave this world, the gift of dying with love and dignity is the greatest gift than can be bestowed upon us.

“Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality.”

Emily Dickinson

Consultant and Trainer
MCM Canada

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