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Today I sat with a friend who is dying

Today I sat with a friend who is dying

I am home tonight feeling exhausted, a bit wrung out, hungry, and a little bit numb.  Earlier today I wrote the passage below and wasn’t sure whether I would actually post it……looks like I went with a ‘yes’.  I don’t feel the need to talk to anyone tonight.  But I do feel like thinking, reflecting and putting these thoughts out there.

As I type this I am sitting in the hospital, in a chair, next to the bed of someone quite close to me who is dying.  I have been here all day today and a good part of yesterday afternoon and evening.

He is in his 70’s and has been quite unwell for some time.  The doctors have told us he will probably go in the next 24 hours, which is not a surprise.

He isn’t family.  He is a friend and so are his children……but I find that often the line between friend and family becomes very blurry for me.

His daughters are here – reading magazines and trying to relax, and I am tapping away these thoughts to you.

How do I feel?  I feel teary but calm.  I feel upset but not frightened. I feel very reflective about what this period of time means.  To his family.  To me.  To him.

What I find myself thinking about a lot over the past couple of days, as all of this unfolded,  was how we see the very end of someone’s life and what it means to be by their side when they go. I hadn’t thought about this before in relation to death, but my overwhelming feeling right now is honoured to be part of this stage in his life, in such an important event.

I’m wary of sounding callous.  Believe me, I don’t take this lightly.   I am sad.  Very sad.  But this is far from the first time I have been in a situation like this and I look at death a bit differently than a lot of people do.  I know that when all is said and done and when there is a need…and when I feel like it….I will be able to take the jumbled pieces of this puzzle and put them together to see something else.  So I look for very different things here.  Let me share what I see.

Recently a friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  We look at that as a wonderful event and as something you would be privileged to be present for – to be a witness to the beginning of someone’s life.  To be there when they first open their eyes and greet the world.  To be around them on their very first day.  To be there before it all begins.

We treat death so incredibly differently.  Naturally we do.  It has a totally opposite meaning to most people.  Most don’t want to think about it, even though it is inevitable.  It is seen as an ending, as something painful, as a loss, as a letting go.

Personally I believe death isn’t an ending, or at least not a total ending.  I believe it’s a massive change, a transformation.  That when you have taught what you were here to teach, and when you have learnt what you were here to learn, you move on to the next chapter – to teach and learn the next set of things.  I believe it’s an ending of the person you are now, the identity you have assumed for the last however many years you’ve been alive, but I don’t believe it is the end of the essence of you.

You might not believe the same things as me and that is perfectly fine. One thing is for sure though – death is one of the most important events or milestones of your life.

As well as events like your birth, your first day of school, your first kiss, your graduation, the first time you travelled, the day you got married, the day/s your child/children were born, and whatever other important events in your life define you, death is also on that list.  It’s part of the map of who you are.  It’s part of the story of your life.  It’s one of the huge milestones that point out the boundaries of this version of you.  It creates a frame around the mark that you have made on the world, the difference you have made, the people you have affected, the lives you have changed, the legacy you have created.

Being here I feel like a piece of his history.  I feel like I am watching him create his story, and close this chapter of who he is.  I do feel blessed to be here with him and his children and to be able to be part of this as he gets ready to cross this particular finish line.  It matters to me that I can be here.

That is all I wrote.  I said goodnight and left the hospital a couple of hours ago.

There are many different angles you can look at death from and this is one of them. It’s the one I’m using today.

Now, if you’re reading this and you’re starting to think that this means you should be (or should have been) present at the death of everyone you care about, don’t.  I imagine I’ll be writing a few blogs over the next couple of weeks around this current experience and one will certainly be about why sometimes it is not right for you (or them) for you to be by their side when they pass away.

Time for me to get some sleep now.

Goodnight all,

xx

{ 11 comments }

Jo January 22, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Kristie,

that is such a beautiful blog. I just read that and thought about someone very close to me who’s death I was present for and I never ever thought about being there as being a gift to me and in turn me being able to say to him that it was ok to go was the greatest gift I could give him.

thank you for sharing this most intimate wonderful moment with us all…. and thank you for the gift that you just gave to me x

Kristie West January 23, 2011 at 8:09 am

Hi Jo,
Having written this right then and there in the hospital, something about posting it felt a little raw and I wondered after whether I should have……so thank you so much for this.

And you’re right about the gift of being able to tell someone that you are ok for them to go. Sometimes that’s what they are waiting for. I have a feeling that’s what this friend of mine might be doing.
xxx

Grace January 23, 2011 at 8:32 am

Kristie,
Thank You for sharing, beautifully written from the heart and very authentic.
I would like to know what you mean when you say we transform at death, does this mean that we come back to learn more lessons eventually…..i know that no-one can know the real answer to this(not even out own mentor), what is your belief?
Grace xx
ps be gentle with yourself today

Mica January 23, 2011 at 10:51 am

Kristie

This is beautiful, heartfelt and genuine.
Thank you for your compassion and openness.

Mica
x

Nicola Masters January 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Thank you Kristie for being so open x

Hildi January 25, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Utterly beautiful words Kristie. Thank you so much for sharing your “raw” experience of being there with your friend. Being there with my family just before my fathers passing is one of the most grateful experiences of my life. There is something very special about the connection I felt with him during that time. He “didn’t want” us there in the final minutes, I feel he had to do that last bit without us, but that was how he was and possibly the only way we could let go of each other. Thank you for the reminder of that day. Big hugs to you Kristie and lots of love.

Kristie West February 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Thanks Grace. My own personal belief around this is that just having one lifetime seems a great waste of a soul (and I’m pretty sure we aren’t learning all we need to learn in that time!). I do believe that we come back to learn and teach more lessons. xxx

Kristie West February 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Thanks Mica. xx

Kristie West February 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Thanks for reading Nicola. xx

Kristie West February 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Thanks Hildi. Your comment about needing to do the last bit without you is so true sometimes…inspires me to write the blog I said I would around that topic… xx

Bobbie February 28, 2014 at 2:09 am

Kristie,
Thank you for this blog. I just recently lost my father and I was there when he passed. It had been almost a year since I had been able to see him and he was not in good health even then. He had been in the hospital about a week when he called and asked me to come as I believe he knew the end was near. I was able to get a flight and was there in two days, which was on Thursday. I know it meant the world to him to see me. I gave him a big hug then had to leave the room as I could not stop the tears. I knew it was bad but did not expect what I saw. I guess in my mind, I needed to believe that my daddy was going to be okay. He was taken to hospice the following evening. I had a little bit of time with my father before he died where he was able to coherently talk with me and he let me know how glad he was to see me. I am so thankful to God for that. I stayed with him until he passed that Sunday morning. I do believe he knew I was there, holding his hand and telling him how much I loved him. It has been just under two months since his passing and I am really having a rough time of it. I miss him so! I was on here looking for some relief and your story has helped. Thank you so much.

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