The Path to a Good Death
This weekend, EOLCCA hosted our third Client Advocate Volunteer training in California. It was a great day and we have some amazing new volunteers in our EOLCCA family. Part of the training included sharing (anonymously) client stories with the trainees, and what attending a death looked like and felt like. It is always awe-inspiring for me to revisit those experiences.
Over the ten years that I have been working with the dying, I have attended many planned deaths and each one is different. Each person’s path to that good death is unique. Factors such as how family members feel, how the client feels about dying, cultural and religious norms, support by their medical team all come into play that day; one very important day for the client.
It’s interesting to me that the path to a good death is a path we can plan for with our loved ones, choose for, hope for or be fearful of, though when we get to that final last step of dying, we do it alone. All of us will die some day as it is part of the human condition. All of us will take that last step into death, and very few people have been able to take it and return, to tell us what it is like. It is an emotional, spiritual and physical journey.
We, at EOLCCA, have been honored to be present at many of these planned deaths.
Just to mention a few: one woman died gazing out her floor-to-ceiling windows at the forest, with her young granddaughter lying next to her holding her hand; one woman who spent her childhood in Hawaii died in a temporary living situation with her sister and me by her side, holding her hands, playing Hawaiian music and singing to her; one gentleman chose to die in a hotel room overlooking the ocean with his wife and friends there, after having a last drink of his favorite bourbon and having the opportunity to say goodbye; one woman died surrounded by her three adult children telling funny stories of their childhood, rubbing her feet and reassuring her that all would be well. And then there was the family who lived far away from any of us or our volunteers, and we were only able to support them by phone. They were frightened of being the ones to prepare the medication for their father, who was very sure he was ready to die and whose physician had agreed and provided the lethal prescription for him. We were able to provide information and personal support to those grown children who found the courage to do this loving thing for their dad by providing him with his final wish for a peaceful death. They were so grateful for our support.
These are but a few of the amazing people and families who have crossed our path. It is such an honor when their path of choosing a planned death with medical aid in dying crosses our path of being able to provide information and personal support, free of charge and with no agenda, to anyone who needs our help. I am continually struck by what a gift this is for them, and for us.
As we continue to grow and train volunteers and meet the needs of more clients, we realize as an organization that we need help and cannot do it alone. We know there is great need in the world for help for all kinds of situations and organizations, and we also know there is an important election happening this year. However, if you have a few dollars to spare, and wish to support us in our work, we would be grateful to receive them so we can continue. And so that we can be there for you and your family when it is your time to walk that path and take that final step.
End of Life Choices California offers information and non-judgemental personal support to anyone seeking help managing end-of-life care planning or decision-making in California. Please visit www.endoflifechoicesca.org to answer a variety of questions. To speak with one of our volunteers, please call 760-636-8009. All our services are free of charge.
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