Understanding Death

Death is not an easy topic to approach, nor to understand. As humans, there is so much uncertainty regarding what happens to us when we leave this life, which is perhaps why it makes us so uncomfortable. We have no answers, which is why it is important to come to terms with the idea of not knowing what death truly means, and instead, to fully appreciate and accept the process of dying. Everyone has different encounters with death throughout their lives that change their outlook on death. Some despise it and its merciless ways, and others have a happier relationship with death, because of the way it can take someone out of their misery and hurting. The process of forming a relationship with death is personal, difficult, and ever-changing.

I personally believe that it is important to have a conscious relationship with death, especially if one wishes to go into the medical field. Death is all around us, especially in a hospital setting. There will always be the sick and dying. In this setting, I believe it is important to make the dying individual comfortable, and yourself comfortable as well. I believe that through hospice and especially this hospice program, I personally worked towards this goal.

Throughout my life, death has always made me slightly uncomfortable, due to its mysterious content. I have had personal encounters with death throughout my life, including close family friends, and my maternal grandmother. All of these deaths were sad, and even though they were expected, it did not make the grieving process any easier. While I knew that death was inevitable, I still had many unanswered questions. I wanted to know why God decided to take certain people at certain times, and where they went when they left the world that we know. I was not accepting of the fact that they would be gone forever in the way that I knew them.

Beginning this program, I was eager to get close with an individual, and learn more about them and hospice programs in general. As I learned more about the program through the orientation and modules, I grew to have a better understanding of how hospice is there to welcome death in a way that makes the patient comfortable. The goal is not to nurse them back to health, but ease them into dying. Throughout the year visiting my patient, I experienced hospice in a way that I never could have imagined. There was so much life to be celebrated in my patient, and so much that I learned about the joy filled years they had. The conversations centered on happiness and exciting things in life, which is not what I imagined. I figured the conversations would be more sad and depressing, due to the situation. It opened my eyes to see how the patient was becoming comfortable with the idea of moving on from this world, because so much had been achieved, and life felt fulfilled.

I learned in a more personal way than I thought I would. Last week, the Chaplain for our hospice meetings, Reverend R, passed away. Prior to this program I did not know him, and his sudden passing deeply affected me. He greatly contributed to better acceptance of death. In one of our final meetings, we had to describe death by picking a word from a list. I chose to describe death as a midwife. The Reverend liked my explanation that death is something that takes us gracefully and with care to something new. He agreed that death should be welcomed, even if we don’t agree with the time that it comes. Through this program, my patient, and the Reverend, I have learned so much about dying and how wonderful the hospice program is. I hope to take away from this program a comfort in the process of dying, and celebrate the beautiful life that they lived.