John’s dad was recently admitted to the hospital. He fell, yet again, and was eventually moved to rehab to evaluate and strengthen his ailing 85 year old body. His father said he was tired. He has countless diagnoses and on even more medications. John was so frustrated and couldn’t believe what he was hearing. How could he not want to try? How come he didn’t care? Why wouldn’t he want to fight for his life and family? “Come on dad, you have to fight, we aren’t ready for you to be done, you can do this!”
Working with the dying and their families (as well as the many books my eyes have devoured and heart has delighted in) I have found often times we react, it’s natural. What we need to remember is our loved one is expressing, subtle or not so subtly, how they feel and what they want. This can be hard—for you AND them.
I invite you to ask your ailing loved one…
- What do you want?
- How do you feel?
As much as the thought of losing them feels unbearable or overwhelming, can you lovingly turn your attention back to them? This is a hefty request, I know, and also one that honors your beloved, their journey, and what they want.
side note: And don’t ignore what you are feeling. Those big emotions can lead to some beautiful and meaningful exchanges with your loved one. Feeling what you feel will allow you to stay more present, especially if you feel your feelings in a healthy way.
This 85-year father, husband and man feels he lived a good life. Yet his family is attached to their own discomfort around their beloved being gone. Natural. They’ve created their own stories around death and dying not realizing their cheerleading is actually not supporting their tired fathers wishes.
In Martha Jo Atkins book Sign Posts of Dying she shares…
“In my experience, and much to the chagrin of those around him or her, the person who is sick is often the one who raises the flag to stop treatment and change the course. Sometimes it’s a subtle I’m so tired and sometimes the words come across like a flashing neon billboard I’m done. Let’s go home.
For those who love this person and are so deeply invested in keeping them alive, that kind of news is tough to hear. (she shares more in her book but ultimately invites us to…)
Meet Them Where They Are.”
Death is uncomfortable for some yet it can also be mysterious and beautiful. You can create a meaningful end of life journey that honors this time, just as we create meaningful ceremony, ritual and ways of ushering new life into the world.