Marvin is 55 years old and he has a brain tumour. He is getting physically weaker by the day and is now having difficulty in breathing. However, he is still mentally very alert.
Although Marvin knows that death is imminent, he does not seem to fear death, at least not outwardly. As he is not talking very much about his impending death, I take it as a sign that he or those around him have not fully accepted the reality of his situation. I personally feel if this hurdle is overcome, it would make a tremendous change for all. Read more
While I was having my lunch two days ago, a patient of mine approached me and made a request that I go to her house to see her husband who is dying of cancer.
Her husband has been suffering of a cancer of the neck which has spread to the liver and other parts of his body for many months. He was growing weaker by the day and his body was getting thinner and more cachexic each time I saw him. I have been visiting him at his home once in a while to help change his urinary cathether.
When we reached her house, I went in and upon looking at her husband, I realised that he had died. To make sure, I checked his carotid pulse, a major pulse at the neck, and found that it was absent. There was no more spontaneous breathing and his pupils were fully dilated and not reactive to lights. I therefore pronounced him dead. Read more
As a doctor and a hospice volunteer, one of the most common fears that I encounter in my job is the fear of dying. In fact, this fear is so common that we have come to accept it as part and parcel of our life. In our fear-driven world where a lot of our actions are motivated by fear, the fear of dying seems like just another fear we need to live with.
However, I have had the good fortune to come across people who are able to die with courage, dignity and peace. During their final days and even up to the moment of death, they remained in peace and without a trace of fear. It almost looked as if they welcome death.
Regardless of the kind of illnesses they may be suffering from, each of these people have some common traits. Read more
Why We Fear Death
“Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark.” – Bacon
There may be a thousand reasons why we fear death, but most of all we fear death because we fear the unknown, and death is an unknown entity to most people. We fear that dying may be painful and we do not know what will happen to us at the point of death.
Some people fear death because they imagine the dying process to be very painful. Death is not painful. In fact, death is often very peaceful and silent even for those suffering from cancers or other terminal illness. Read more
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
Bronnie Ware is a writer, singer/songwriter, songwriting teacher and speaker from Australia. She has lived nomadically for most of her adult life. Bronnie shares her inspiring observations and the insights gained along the way through the diversity of her work. To read more of her articles and learn about her other work, please visit Inspiration and Chai at http://www.inspirationandchai.com.
Three books that I highly recommend for anyone interested in the subject of death and dying are:
1. Home with God, by Neale Donald Walsch
2. Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom
3. On Death and Dying, by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross
Home with God is another of the Conversations with God series. It is the final public conversation that the author has with God, and is full of new revelations and insights into the mechanics of death and our true nature.
Tuesdays with Morrie is about an old man, a young man and life’s greatest lesson on death. It takes an intimate look at a dying man’s life and the new insights he gained as life is gradually ending for him.
On Death and Dying is the classic work of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, a psychiatrist who pioneered the study and understanding of death and its processes, and the various stages of grief and bereavement that a dying person experiences.
These books can offer great comfort and relief to anyone who is facing death or needs to come to term with it. They provide new understandings and perspectives to this often difficult and taboo subject.
In Neale Donald Walsch’s Home with God, a book that talks about death and dying and how understanding the gift of death could change the way we live our lives, God gave us 18 things to “re-member”.
First Remembrance – Dying is something you do for you.
Second Remembrance – You are the cause of your own death. This is always true, no matter where, or how, you die.
Third Remembrance – You cannot die against your will.
Fourth Remembrance – No path back home is better than any other path.
Fifth Remembrance – Death is never a tragedy. It is always a gift.
Sixth Remembrance – You and God are one. There is no separation between you.
Seventh Remembrance – Death does not exist.
Eight Remembrance – You cannot change Ultimate Reality, but you can change your experience of it.
Ninth Remembrance – It is the desire of All That Is to Know Itself in Its Own Experience. This is the reason for all of Life.
Tenth Remembrance – Life is eternal.
Eleventh Remembrance – The timing and the circumstances of death are always perfect.
Twelfth Remembrance – The death of every person always serves the agenda of every other person who is aware of it. That is why they are aware of it. Therefore, no death (and no life) is ever “wasted”. No one ever dies “in vain”.
Thirteenth Remembrance – Birth and death are the same thing.
Fourteenth Remembrance – You are continually in the act of creation, in life and in death.
Fifteenth Remembrance – There is no such thing as the end of evolution.
Sixteenth Remembrance – Death is reversible.
Seventeenth Remembrance – In death you will be greeted by all of your loved ones – those who have died before you and those who will die after you.
Eighteenth Remembrance – Free choice is the act of pure creation, the signature of God, and your gift, your glory, and your power forever and ever.