Friday, September 30, 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016

Finding Purpose in Death

"You can die purposefully, in much the same way as you can live purposefully."

Spirituality may be key to 'dying well,' even in a less-religious age | Deseret News National:

A Matter of Life and Death: 60 Voices Share their Wisdom: Rosalind Bradley, Desmond Tutu

A Holocaust survivor whose mother collapsed and died only moments after they both registered as survivors, a death row inmate who has reclaimed his life through Buddhism, and a mother whose daughter was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer two days before her thirtieth birthday, among others, offer their perspectives on death and dying in this thought-provoking volume. Contributors from all walks of life share their thoughts on carefully selected writings, images and artwork that most accurately express death to them. Describing their unique experiences, they reveal that, beyond the heartache and the mystery, death teaches us all invaluable lessons about how we live our lives.
Offering comfort, reassurance and varied insights into death, loss and its impact on life, this collection is for anyone who might be coming to terms with this inevitable destination. Royalty proceeds from the book will be donated to Ashgate Hospicecare, North Derbyshire, UK.

A Matter of Life and Death: 60 Voices Share their Wisdom: Rosalind Bradley, Desmond Tutu:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The coffin club: elderly New Zealanders building their own caskets | World news | The Guardian

"Quilting, lawn bowls and bridge it is not. Elderly people in New Zealand are enthusiastically embracing a new pastime: coffin construction. Scores of retirees across the country have formed clubs so they can get together and build their own coffins. They say the activity is cost-saving and helps to combat loneliness."

The coffin club: elderly New Zealanders building their own caskets | World news | The Guardian:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dying: A Book of Comfort by Pat McNees

I highly recommend Pat McNees' book, Dying: A Book of Comfort, and her website. Both are exceptional resources for those who are caring for terminally ill patients or loved ones, and for all of us who must consider what it means to come to the end of our lives.  McNees has sympathetic, wise, and comforting counsel from the most practical to the most existential questions.  

Nobody teaches us how to die, or how to help someone die; nor how to grieve, or how best to help the grieving. My emphasis in collecting material for this anthology was on the emotional, not the practical, aspects of death and grieving. I looked for selections that offer meaningful insights and experiences, comforting words and stories, some guidance, much reassurance.
This is not a how-to book, but I chose selections around several basic themes: the intensity with which life is experienced by people who are dying (and those who help them die), what it is like (emotionally) to die, how to help someone die, how to say good-bye,what to expect from grief, and how to console the bereaved. There are special sections on mourning the death of a parent, the death of a child, a death by suicide, or a violent, unexpected death. There are selections about near-death experiences, about life after death, and about life and death. There are prayers from many faiths as well as selections to comfort those with no religious faith. There are also selections suitable for reading at funerals and memorial services. All of the selections are short, because people who are grieving (including people who are dying) are often unable to concentrate on anything long.

The Last Words of My English Grandmother

The Last Words of My English Grandmother
by William Carlos Williams

There were some dirty plates
and a glass of milk
beside her on a small table
near the rank, disheveled bed—

Wrinkled and nearly blind
she lay and snored
rousing with anger in her tones
to cry for food,

Gimme something to eat—
They’re starving me—
I’m all right I won’t go
to the hospital. No, no, no

Give me something to eat
Let me take you
to the hospital, I said
and after you are well

you can do as you please.
She smiled, Yes
you do what you please first
then I can do what I please—

Oh, oh, oh! she cried
as the ambulance men lifted
her to the stretcher—
Is this what you call

making me comfortable?
By now her mind was clear—
Oh you think you’re smart
you young people,

she said, but I’ll tell you
you don’t know anything.
Then we started.
On the way

we passed a long row
of elms. She looked at them
awhile out of
the ambulance window and said,

What are all those
fuzzy-looking things out there?
Trees? Well, I’m tired
of them and rolled her head away.

Friday, September 16, 2016

How Quakers Cope with Death | SevenPonds Blog

"Honoring the dead brings solace to the grieving."  The quiet beauty of Quaker rituals and beliefs.

How Quakers Cope with Death | SevenPonds Blog:


"Extremis," on Netflix, shows the wrenching emotions that accompany end-of-life decisions as doctors, patients and families in a hospital ICU face harrowing choices.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Palliative Care and the Science of What It Feels Like to Die - The Atlantic

"Until about 100 years ago, almost all dying happened quickly. But modern medicine has radically changed how long the end of life can be stretched. Now, Americans who have access to medical care often die gradually, of lingering diseases like most terminal cancers or complications from diabetes or dementia, rather than quickly from, say, a farm accident or the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s most recent figures, Americans are most likely to die of heart disease, cancer, or chronic pulmonary lung disease.

For those who do die gradually, there’s often a final, rapid slide that happens in roughly the last few days of life—a phase known as “active dying.” During this time, Hallenbeck writes in Palliative Care Perspectives, his guide to palliative care for physicians, people tend to lose their senses and desires in a certain order. “First hunger and then thirst are lost. Speech is lost next, followed by vision. The last senses to go are usually hearing and touch.”

Whether dying is physically painful, or how painful it is, appears to vary. “There are some kinds of conditions where pain is inevitable,” Campbell says. “There are some patients that just get really, really old and just fade away, and there’s no distress.” Having a disease associated with pain doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily endure a difficult death, either. Most people dying of cancer need pain medication to keep them comfortable, Campbell notes—and the medicine usually works. “If they’re getting a good, comprehensive pain regimen, they can die peacefully,” she says."

Palliative Care and the Science of What It Feels Like to Die - The Atlantic

Friday, September 9, 2016

One man turned nursing home design on its head when he created this stunning facility.

92-year-old Norma had a strange and heartbreaking routine. Every night around 5:30 p.m., she stood up and told the staff at her Ohio nursing home that she needed to leave. When they asked why, she said she needed to go home to take care of her mother. Her mom, of course, had long since passed away. 
Behavior like Norma's is quite common for older folks suffering from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Walter, another man in the same assisted living facility, demanded breakfast from the staff every night around 7:30.  
 Jean Makesh, CEO of Lantern assisted living facilities, says he meets folks with stories like these every day. It's their stories that inspired him to make some changes at Lantern. "I thought I knew a lot about elderly care. The more and more time I was spending with my clients, that's when I realized, 'Oh my god, I have no clue.'" Confusion is common in Alzheimer's patients, but Makesh knew there had to be some way to minimize these conflicts. A big believer in the idea that our environment has an enormous effect on us, he started thinking big — and way outside the box.  
"What if we design an environment that looks like outside?" he said. "What if I can have a sunrise and sunset inside the building? What if I'm able to have the moon and stars come out? What if I build a unit that takes residents back to the '30s and '40s?"  
And that was just the beginning. He also researched sound therapy. And aromatherapy. And carpet that looked like grass. No idea was off-limits. What he came up with was a truly unique memory-care facility. 
And after testing the concept in Lantern's Madison, Ohio, facility, Makesh is opening two new locations this year. Instead of rooms or units, each resident gets a "home" on a quiet little indoor street reminiscent of the neighborhoods many of them grew up in."

One man turned nursing home design on its head when he created this stunning facility.:

I do not care what you say. I have to try.

“If we feed you, we feed the cancer. Better nutrition, stronger cancer.”
“I have to try.”
“It is too late.”
“I have to try.”
A man who did nothing to care for his health while he could insists on fruitless and counterproductive treatment at the end.

I do not care what you say. I have to try.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Grief Does Not Feel Normal

When something evolves as clumsily and slowly as grief, it can be really hard to visualize progress.  On a day-to-day basis you don’t feel any different, “better”, or “normal” and this perceived lack of improvement can feel very frustrating and defeating. But could it be that you aren’t giving yourself enough credit for the strides you’ve made?

What's your grief?:

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Rabbi’s Experience By A Deathbed – The Wisdom Daily

My rabbinate has given me the sad and sacred privilege of sitting with people in their final hours of life. I call it a privilege because as much as the time is sad, it is filled also with the kind of beauty that defines the line between earth and heaven. A soul getting ready to pass is open and vulnerable and dripping with brave wisdom....I told him what he meant to me and how precious of a human being he was to the world and to me. We held hands and cried. I asked him what he was feeling and he said he was at peace. He wanted more years, but he had no regrets and he was not scared at all. He had always loved his family and friends thoroughly. He embraced every day and did everything he wanted to do. I wondered what his life’s message was and without missing a beat, he said, “Don’t ever look back, and always look forward. Be filled with hope and optimism. Life is the best.”

A Rabbi’s Experience By A Deathbed – The Wisdom Daily

The Powerful Message About A Mother's Love

I was my husband’s caregiver as he was dying of cancer. It was the best seven months of my life. - The Washington Post

"Over the course of seven months, Bill went from beating me silly on the tennis court to needing my help to go to the bathroom and bathe. It was the best seven months of my life. Maybe I don’t actually mean that. But it was certainly the time when I felt most alive. I had lived 42 years before I heard the phrases “we have a problem … multiple metastases … on the brain … probably in the lung as well.” I had become a respected professional, a responsible and, I hope, loved parent, but I had yet to discover the reason I was put on this earth. During those seven months, I came to understand that whatever else I did in my life, nothing would matter more than this. Even though I really didn’t know how this would end. For me, there were no bad days. I discovered that the petty day-in, day-out grievances of an irksome co-worker, a child with the sniffles or a flat tire pale in comparison to the beauty of spontaneous laughter, the night sky, the smells of a bakery. Some days were more difficult than others, but there were moments of joy, laughter, tenderness in every day — if I was willing to look hard enough. I found I could train myself to see more beauty than bother, to set my internal barometer to be more compassionate than callous. But I also discovered that with each day, my heart and soul grew more open to seeing this beauty than at any other time in my life."

I was my husband’s caregiver as he was dying of cancer. It was the best seven months of my life. - The Washington Post

How to Tell a Mother Her Child Is Dead -

First you get your coat. I don’t care if you don’t remember where you left it, you find it. If there was a lot of blood you ask someone to go quickly to the basement to get you a new set of scrubs. You put on your coat and you go into the bathroom. You look in the mirror and you say it. You use the mother’s name and you use her child’s name. You may not adjust this part in any way. I will show you: If it were my mother you would say, “Mrs. Rosenberg. I have terrible, terrible news. Naomi died today.” You say it out loud until you can say it clearly and loudly. How loudly? Loudly enough. If it takes you fewer than five tries you are rushing it and you will not do it right. You take your time.
When you leave the room, do not yell at the medical student who has a question. When you get home, do not yell at your husband. If he left his socks on the floor again today, it is all right.

How to Tell a Mother Her Child Is Dead -

Friday, September 2, 2016

Can Trauma Help You Grow? - The New Yorker

"Psychologists have long studied resilience—the ability to bounce back and move on. But post-traumatic growth, which has been documented in hundreds of studies, is different; it’s what happens when trauma changes and deepens life’s meaning."

Can Trauma Help You Grow? - The New Yorker'

Molly Shannon Plays a Mom with Cancer in "Other People"

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Poet Mary Oliver Mourns Her Wife, Photographer Molly Malone Cook

When Cook died in 2005 at the age of eighty, Oliver looked for a light, however faint, to shine through the thickness of bereavement. She spent a year making her way through thousands of her spouse’s photographs and unprinted negatives, mostly from around the time they met, which Oliver then enveloped in her own reflections to bring to life Our World (public library) — part memoir, part deeply moving eulogy to a departed soul mate, part celebration of their love for one another through their individual creative loves. Embraced in Oliver’s poetry and prose, Cook’s photographs reveal the intimate thread that brought these two extraordinary women together — a shared sense of deep aliveness and attention to the world, a devotion to making life’s invisibles visible, and above all a profound kindness to everything that exists, within and without.

Oliver — who refers to Cook simply as M. in most of her writings — reflects in the opening essay:

"Though you have known someone for more than forty years, though you have worked with them and lived with them, you do not know everything. I do not know everything — but a few things, which I will tell. M. had will and wit and probably too much empathy for others; she was quick in speech and she did not suffer fools. When you knew her she was unconditionally kind. But also, as our friend the Bishop Tom Shaw said at her memorial service, you had to be brave to get to know her."

Mary Oliver on What Attention Really Means and Her Moving Elegy for Her Soul Mate

Our World by Molly Malone Cook and Mary Oliver