As a young woman with most of my life ahead of me, I have always viewed death as a sad thing. Because I have so many goals, dreams, and expectations, it is a terrible thought to imagine that it all be cut short with an untimely death. I do not want to die anytime soon, and there are many other people who feel similarly to me. There are many people who have reached their goals, seen out their dreams, and exceeded their expectations, and still would not be comfortable with the idea of dying anytime soon. For the most part, this is due to relationships with their loved ones and the desire to keep them safe and to be there for their accomplishments. I would think it to be generally true that people do not want to die. But there are of course always exceptions, as there are exceptions to everything in life. There are people whose desire to die comes from a place of hopelessness, despair, and depression. This is a very tragic occurrence, but it is one that I have known about for quite some time.
Through my experience with hospice, I have learned that there are also those who want to die simply because they are ready to. Now I do not know if anyone can want to die and have it not come out of a place of hopelessness, but maybe it still looks different. And maybe it is not hopeless at all. My first patient, Bob, was one of those people who wanted to die simply because he was ready. He was not a sad person, although he was never particularly enthusiastic. Whenever I visited, he would say that he did not want to talk, but as soon as he started talking he did not stop. He told me all about his life, and his family, and he let me read some essays that he had written. From those essays, I knew he was a man of strong faith, and I am sure this provided some peace to him in his last days. He had two cats in the room and a family that still called and visited. He was of course terminally ill, and in constant pain, and I am sure that was the largest contributor to his desire to pass away. How could anyone be in such excruciating pain all the time and not want to be relieved from that? He was in his 90s, and every single time I visited he would say, “I’ve had a good life, but I don’t think I would like to live much longer”. This phrase always brought up such conflicting emotions in me. On the one hand, I did not want him to be in pain any longer, but on the other, I thought of his family and the impact that a human life has. I do not know if it is a selfish desire to wish for someone in pain to live longer. Maybe it is selfish to hope that anyone lives longer. After all, I do not believe we belong to ourselves, I believe we belong to God. And I should be happy to be with Him again one day.
Over Christmas break, Bob died, and I was quite sad about it. It is upsetting to see someone you have grown to enjoy spending time with die. But I know his suffering is over, and I know he is with the Lord and he is much better off than any of us here on Earth! So I still have conflicting emotions over scenarios such as these, and I think that comes from the conflict between flesh and soul. This of course, is a never ending battle, so for now, I am ok with not knowing how to feel.