My Grandmother's Lesson
Being a companion to someone who is dying ultimately has nothing to do with responsibilities or roles. Just like being a good friend, it simply means we are willing to listen and be present to the unique experiences of a fellow human being, and how that person chooses to fill these experiences with meaning.
And yet, though it might sound simple, being present with dying people can be difficult for so many reasons. I was fortunate to learn from my grandmother how to be around a dying person. My grandfather was ninety-two years old when he died, and my grandmother and I took care of him in his final days. He died on a Sunday morning, at home, in his own bed, surrounded by his family. We sat by his side, and when the time came, we washed his body and dressed him in his best Sunday suit. All of this was done with great love and tenderness.
My grandmother asked for his body to remain at home for one more night. She slept next to his body, as she had done for the past seventy years, and I curled up next to them, like I used to when I was a child. For my grandmother, death was a natural thing. There was deep sadness, of course, but it did not have the power to take away her love.
In the way that she cared for my grandfather she taught me an ordinary, yet profound lesson: the power of a loving presence.
Excerpt from Present Through The End. A Caring Companion’s Guide To Accompanying The Dying by Kirsten DeLeo.
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