Archive for Death

Comparing That Death to This Death

Robin Williams and Matt Damon in 1997’s Good Will Hunting.

Which death is the most difficult to death with? On the list below, which person should be in “better shape” and has probably “moved on” in their life?

  • Her child was stillborn. It’s a year since the death.
  • His grandmother died from dementia. It’s a year since the death.
  • Their teen was killed in a traffic accident. It’s a year since the death.
  • Children gather to honor a father’s birthday. It’s a year since the death.
  • She lays a Christmas wreath on her husband’s grave. It’s a year since the death.

How would you rank them? (Should you rank them?)

Unfortunately, I think many folks—including me—publicly or privately rank the severity of another’s person’s situation. We compare and contrast with other facets of life: careers, homes, our child’s achievements, cars, last year’s vacation, and so forth. Advertising relentlessly reinforces judgment, from the new solar panels on the neighbor’s roof to the newest smartphone in a classmate’s hand. The people beside you or across the street or in the pharmaceutical commercial are better off than you. (Or, whew, they are a smidgen worse than you!)

If we compare the things of life, why not compare the ways of death? Read More →

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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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