At one point I was told the odds of my dying were significantly better than my odds of surviving cancer. As a nurse I’d dealt with death and with dying patients for years. I’d been present with families immediately after a patient’s death and saw their grief, they’d lost someone they loved as the dying person slipped into oblivion. The families and loved ones experienced loss.

My prognosis gave me another view, though. I viewed death now from the perspective of one who is dying. There was a terrible sense of impending loss. A dying person contemplates the loss of ALL of the people he or she loves at once. I contemplated losing my children, my husband, my best friend, and my extended family along with the loss my home, my job, my belongings. A total and complete loss of all that I loved and knew. When people lose children or spouses or homes or jobs, our society considers those individual losses extremely stressful and life altering. The dying person faces all of those losses simultaneously. It is overwhelming.

I believe in an afterlife and a Heaven, and that belief offers reassurance. But still, dying is the loss of all that is known for that which is unknown.