Archive for Death

Do You Want to Die?

From HBO’s Band of Brothers

In the opening moments of our weekly hospice team meetings we report on recent patient deaths. How is the family doing? Who was with the person when she died? Was the mortuary and physician informed of his death? If a patient fell during her hospice stay, was the coroner contacted (even the most benign of stumbles requires legal notification)? Did she have a peaceful death? The final words on the medical chart summarizing patients’ deaths are intentionally brief and accurate, not much longer than this paragraph.

As we finished the report on a patient, a nurse spontaneously added, “She died quickly, which is what she wanted because she didn’t want a long, drawn-out death.”

The nurse’s final comment wasn’t necessary for the sparse report. I recollect the patient died comfortably, with family at the bedside. All went as well as possible. But I caught myself wondering: Don’t we all hope to die quickly?

Would anyone want to have a “long, drawn-out death?”

Indeed, who wants to die? I don’t. Read More →

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12 Suggestions for Talking to Kids about Death

A patient asked his hospice nurse, “How can I tell my kid that I’m dying?”

And the nurse later asked me.

It’s a scary question for parents and grandparents when they enter hospice care and have “six months or less to live.”

Before attempting answers, there are several good reasons to question my responses.

First, I don’t have children. I’ll never tell my own kid that I am dying. Second, I’m not an expert, but do have experience. A minister, I’ve supported families during the time of dying and grieving. Right now, in hospice, I work in bereavement support.

Now you’re aware of my advice-giver flaws! However, with conversations involving parents, kids, and dying, being open about your weaknesses (and not forgetting your strengths) is important. Read More →

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On the Wings of a Dove

Where do you want to be buried?

Please, bury me in a wild place. Scatter my ashes so that a wandering human or animal won’t notice any differences in the place where my remains have mixed with the earth.

I recall thinking those wild musings while searching for graves at a local cemetery. This cemetery saunter was a few years ago, when I was serving as a church’s pastor.

Why was I exploring a “stone garden?” Back in the 1930s, a certain Jane Q. Smith (not her real name) had given three cemetery plots to her church. Since the transfer of ownership occurred in the Great Depression, was it a valiant effort by the dearly departed Ms. Smith to boost church finances? Or was she dumping all of her rotten husband’s assets during a humiliating divorce? Who knew? Read More →

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