Guide Your Well Finished Life: Find Comfort and Peace on Your Terms, When Facing the End of Your Life

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She shone with happiness at having all her daughters there with her and Dad. She was full of her usual curiosity and humour. She didn't look like someone who was ready to die, and this frightened me — what if somehow stopping eating and drinking didn't work, and Mum lingered on in pain? What if the process didn't take a matter of days but a matter of weeks?

Part of me knew how much she would hate to be thwarted in her intent; part of me longed to keep her with us for longer, and hoped that, even now, some sort of miracle might happen. Although Mum was unable to walk unsupported and her hands were very shaky, she was alert and lucid, chatting to us as she always had. Her appetite was small, but she was still enjoying food: Juliet's cake was the last thing Mum ate, on Wednesday 28 March, when her brother visited to say goodbye, and she had a last chat with her sister in the UK.

The Book: Your Well Finished Life

We were all in tears that morning, except for Mum, who stayed calm and cheerful. I didn't see Mum leave her home for the last time. It's fortunate that Mum was surrounded by people who supported her decision. The management of the nursing home hold the same view. Her GP gave them written instructions explaining Mum's decision and outlining the care she would need.

The five of us sisters rallied behind Mum and Dad; we were a team. As I write this, it's difficult to isolate my own feelings and experiences from those of my sisters — who said what, who made decisions, who cried. This isn't always the case. It was only after intervention by the couple's family, the local press and medical and legal experts that the attempt was stopped.

We laughed a lot over the next few days. We teased Juliet about developing late-onset colour-blindness when she kept putting bottles of red wine in the fridge, while the white stayed warm on the kitchen counter. Jassy and I speculated macabrely about what would happen if the nurses forgot to take down the "Nil by Mouth" sign over Mum's bed after she died — we imagined some poor old dear being moved into her cubicle and waving plaintively as the tea trolley rattled unheedingly past.

Emma and Juliet still haven't let me forget the nightmare mile walk I dragged them on around the suburbs of Johannesburg, possibly the world's least pedestrian-friendly city. One night after dinner, Emma and Juliet went to visit Mum, and the three of them chatted and reminisced until eventually my sisters were asked to leave — their laughter was keeping the other old ladies awake.

In the midst of Mum's death, our normal lives went on. But she was too drowsy, although she loved being read to. We planned each day as it came: Often, it felt just as if she was there with us, as she always had been when the family was together. There were hard parts, too.

Four Things to Say to Someone Who Is Dying

She wasn't the only one. Being a spectator at the death of someone you love is bitterly hard. We expect medical science to intervene to relieve suffering, and to a great extent it does. But the journey is a lonely one. Even surrounded by the people who loved her most, and professionals who gave her the very best palliative care, Mum fought her battle for death alone. How much more lonely, and how much more frightening, the process must be for people who aren't supported by their family, or aren't able to communicate their wishes, I can only imagine.

She also enjoyed having her hands massaged with her favourite body lotion as her skin began to get dryer, and the scent greeted us when we came into the ward to see her. Dad was his usual self: He spent a lot of time at Mum's bedside, sitting with her while she slept. On Sunday, Mum began to slip away. In the morning she was still alert, asking for ice to suck and chatting to us almost normally, but by the evening she was no longer able to speak easily.

I felt embarrassed by my tears in the face of Mum's courage — absurdly, I didn't want to worry her. There wasn't anything else to say. That was the last time she spoke. The morphine patches she had been prescribed relieved any symptoms her advancing cancer might have caused, and the sedatives kept her calm and drowsy. However, it's not known whether such palliative care actually removes the dying person's experience of hunger and thirst, even once they have lost consciousness.

A paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics in concluded that "continuous deep sedation may blunt the wakefulness component of human consciousness without eradicating internal affective awareness of thirst and hunger". On Monday morning, Mum was moved from the main ward where she had spent the past five nights. The curtains around her bed had remained closed while she was there — Mum would have wanted the privacy, we knew, but still we speculated darkly about whether the staff had kept her hidden in case the other ladies got ideas and decided to emulate her.

Her new bed was in a private room. She barely woke when she was lifted, and she was losing the ability to swallow. In the afternoon, the vicar came to say the last rites, with all five of us sisters and Dad there, perching on her bed and chairs around it.

Finding Comfort and Peace on Your Terms, as You Face the End of Your Life - Your Well Finished Life

Mum seemed to be aware of the words of the service — perhaps owing to the vicar's maximum-decibel delivery, which we all laughed about afterwards — but she was sliding deeper and deeper into unconsciousness. I carried on with my writing — the cheese product descriptions were complete and I'd moved on to fish, and it was comforting to escape into work. Dad did a crossword puzzle; Vicky made a batch of chicken soup, using Mum's recipe.

Over dinner we talked about the practical things that would soon need to be done, and decided that Vicky would be the one to phone the undertaker, and that she would remove and take care of Mum's rings and watch. I went back to Jassy's house that night and wrote about Mum's death. Apart from anything else, she loathed travelling. I suspect she would also have regarded the cost as a wanton extravagance. Perhaps she wouldn't have wanted anyone else to bear the responsibility of having ended her life. Also, I think part of her relished the challenge, the control and the independence of doing it the hard way.

The day after that he drifted into a coma until he died a few days later. He felt fine until the very end.

Preparing to Say Goodbye to a Loved One

It would have been horrible for me to have forced information on him that I discovered because it really should be up to the patient on what they want to know… and there is so much misinformation on the internet that I could have been telling him horrible information that was inaccurate. It could be that he is very frightened combined with the illness affecting his mental status. And yes, now IS the time. The difference between someone trying to convince me there is nothing is that it is a LIE and most certainly should be exposed as such.

My advice, avoid reading any of the posted comments. The article shared here is more than sufficient. I am a male, 64 years old and my 89 year old mother lives with me. Death is small and very insignificant compared to eternity. The most loving and peaceful thing you can do for someone dying is to let them know that Jesus is waiting for them with open arms.

'It was a good death, the kind most people would choose'

God will not deal with it later. You are either a believer when you die, or you are not. After death, it is too late. How would you feel if you were dying and someone was trying to convince you there is nothing , no afterlife? Respect their belief and leave it to God to deal with. Death needs to be a loving peaceful time. It is his choice, not yours. I want to share what my pastor told me after my mom reacted with anger about dying.

For both senarios there is no consequence really for wanting to stay and play. Parents open their arms, and welcome home their child. It is warm and the child is cared for. My boyfriend has sickle cell anemia, a heart condition, and in February, was diagnosed with testicular cancer and unfortunately was given 6 months to live. The Dr told him that he had until the 17th of this month. I have not been able to give up hope for a miracle. I see a steady decline in his health daily and the realization that he may not be around much longer is sinking in.

The whole situation is heartbreaking. Since he was diagnosed, and found out that he would not have a high chance of survival, many people in his life turn their backs on him because they no longer knew how to treat him. He has been very angry, which is not in his nature at all. The past two days have been extremely hard. He has been taking that anger out on me. He has never before been anything but a sweetheart to me. In fact, had never even been truly mad at me before. He had said things to me that hurts down to my soul.

I feel like a horrible person because his anger is making me mad. I try not to get upset with him when he speaks to me like this, but I struggle with it. I have never before heard about someone experiencing so much anger in their final days. Then again, this is the first time that I have ever been this up close and personal to cancer or watching someone die. Is this anger normal? Is there anything I can do to help him move past the anger? He has always said that life is too short to spend a moment of it upset and angry. They forget who people are, they might even forget their own name and conversations, however brief become fewer and far between.

End stage dementia patients forget how to walk, have problems toileting and eating. They will probably forget how to feed themselves and eventually often have to be reminded to swallow their food. The dying spend a good deal of time sleeping. Or they may be restless. Food is usually not very important, but if they ask for something, by all means get it for them. Breathing may be erratic when death is imminent. We will be in touch with you soon.

Talk About How They are Feeling and Listen Listening to your loved one is the first step to understanding what they truly need most. Encourage Them to Share Memories and End-of-Life Goals Everyone is going to approach their mortality differently; some will find it most important to mend relationships with friends or family, while others will prefer to focus on remembering accomplishments or airing old regrets.

Our local advisors can help your family make a confident decision about senior living. About the Author Sarah J. Stevenson is a writer, artist, editor and graphic designer living in Northern California. Her visual art has been exhibited around California, and her writing has appeared in a variety of web sites and print publications.


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