Sorry I’ve been away so long!  I like to post once weekly, but am really behind!  Too much school!

In my palliative care class, we had to interview someone different from ourselves about their thoughts on death and dying from a spiritual perspective….I interviewed my Catholic neighbor as I am unfamiliar with Catholicism.  Most people I know are pretty much like myself, I’m sorry to say!  I wished I’d had some Muslim or Buddhist friends.  I need to diversify!

One woman in my class interviewed someone from a clannish blue collar working group in the Appalachian mountains….people who lived near or at the poverty level. I thought hers was the most interesting interview.

In their culture, if someone was in hospice and expected to die, they had something similar to a wake with the dying person present.  A sort of party with music, food and dancing.  People shared their memories of the dying person,with the dying person present.  They had a video of pictures of the dying person at the party, and everyone could go tell the dying person how much they meant to them, say their final goodbyes in person.

They also had a raffle and silent auction with money raised to help for burial (as none of them could afford it) and to make the dying person’s last wishes come true….to visit a place they wanted to visit or to fly to see a distant relatives etc.  In a strange way that seemed kind of morbid, but on the other hand, it seemed kind of great!  Wouldn’t you in some ways want to hear your eulogy while you were still here?  To leave this life knowing you’d made a difference to people, to be celebrated while you were alive instead of after you were gone?

I attended recently the funeral of my friend’s daughter.  She was only 27.  My friend had lost her only other child at age 25 five years ago.  Many wonderful things were said about the daughter.  She’d been valued and loved.  I wish she could have been present to hear how much she’d been loved and appreciated.  To have seen the video of her life and photos of her life at her wake.

Are we doing it backwards?

I used to work at a hospice at a volunteer.  I worked with dying patients, and I could talk to them about their feelings and fears and thoughts as they were dying.  It was a good experience.

For my palliative care class I had to do a narrated Power Point presentation. We all chose our topics….I chose near death experiences, visions of the dying.  I’ve read lots of books about that, and the cool thing is, of those who are conscious near death, 50-67% experience near death visions of angels, of heaven, of those who have died before them coming to take them home.   My neighbor, who died of pancreatic cancer, saw her husband, who preceded her in death by 10 years, sitting in a chair in her room in the days before she died.  Another friend who had a sister died of colon cancer at age 30 said her sister saw angels in her room in the days before she died.  I’ve read several books by hospice nurses speaking of these visions…of people who at the time of their death felt that they were only crossing from one room to the next.  Who were accompanied to their next part of life.  A good book about that, written by hospice nurses, is Final Gifts.

While I am a cancer survivor of 10 years, and  feel that may mean “cured”, a word not often used in the cancer community (as most would say I am only in long-term remission), cancer has left me feeling always vulnerable.  I know of those with my particular cancer who’ve had recurrences at 14 years. I know how the bottom of my life can drop out any time.  I don’t take tomorrow for granted. I no longer assume a future (at least here).  I have gotten older..which implies vulnerability in itself. I know my days are numbered…..if not by cancer, then something else.  We are all born terminal.  We need to contemplate that and come to terms with it.  In that sense those of us with cancer are ahead of the game.