My lovely Grandfather, James Cook, died 18 months ago. He was a tall, proud, hardworking Cook. After the war, he worked hard enough to buy a large plot of land and built “Beevers Farm” where he and my Grandma ran a very successful B&B and had a string of famous guests. Visiting them as a child was great fun as we got to play all over the expansive “Land.”
He was a beautiful man. His piercing, bright, blue eyes were softened by the years and were sometimes misty, like he was looking back on his memories, not focusing on our inane banter around him and Grandma 🙂 ! We called him”Bud” because that’s what he called us as children, Buds, like flowers not yet blooming. He kept bees and which made delicious honey, he once got stung by a whopping 200 hundred bees, but amazingly survived! He gave rib crunching hugs.
We are really lucky that after Bud’s final hospital stint, there was just enough time to bring him home so that he could die in his own bed. I wish I could have been there, holding his hand. But, he was nevertheless, surrounded by close family and he died to the sound of his wife’s loving voice.
Contemplating My Own Death
I would love to die in my sleep, perhaps (mostly) unaware that I am dying, at the ripe old age of one hundred. The weeks leading up to my death would be rose tinted with extensive family time, quiet gardening activities perhaps, light, healthy tasty meals and dappled sunlight on the veranda.
I don’t like gardening and I don’t have a veranda but maybe I will when I’m one hundred..
But what if I’m diagnosed with a terminal illness before then? Cancer? Some horrid super-bug? Or be victim to the end stages of a chronic diease like oestoporosis with bones that crumble even as I turn over in bed? How would I want to spend my final weeks then?
What would my Palliative Care be like?
Firstly, I would want my pain managed. There’s no shying away from it, some illnesses are very painful in their final stages, I have no intention of being stoic and would want the strongest pain relief there is.
I would want to remain at home for as long as possible but if it is too difficult for me, my family or Nursing team, I’ve no objection (at least right now) to dying in a small, personal hospice with a beautiful Nursing team.
If I am in great discomfort and feel ready to go, I would rather there be no life preserving measures like Naso-Gastric Feeding or antibiotics if a new infection has developed. If I’m ready to go, then I want to be allowed to ‘go’ without the onslaught of medicine fighting against my body, trying to stop it from doing what it is ready to do.
In my final days I’d like my family with me all the time, with one person staying with me at night. They could be sitting around my bed, they could talk amongst themselves if I’m too tired to talk, or maybe just sit in silence if that’s what everyone feels like.
Talking About Death and Grief
I was contacted by someone from Palliative Care Australia last week, wondering if I’d like to blog about National Palliative Care Week 19th-25th May, which is this week. Of course I responded with a resounding yes…as you know from previous posts of mine, I’m always pro-talking about death. (See: Let’s Talk about Death, Baby and Mummy, what does Dying look like? A conversation about Death with my Daughter).A survey conducted by Palliative Care Australia showed that only 15% of those who participated had planned for their final weeks of life. The knock on effect of that is the higher probability of a loved one dying after processes, interventions and in environments they might not have chosen. This week, Palliative Care Australia wants everyone to start talking about Palliative Care and about what end of life wishes we may all have.
Coincidentally last week, I was also speeding through Virginia Lloyd’s personal story of love, death and grief in her Young Widow’s Book of Home Improvement. Her book is a brutally raw, honest, non-dramatised account of falling in love with a terminally ill man at 32, married at 33 then widowed by 34. I finished the book in three nights but the themes – dying, acceptance of death, death and the white hot agony of grief – have stayed with me since, a reminder to not take what few days of fragile life we (all) have left, for granted.
Pay Tribute and…Start Talking
My Tribute is a website set up by Palliative Care Australia for loved ones to pay tribute to those they have loved and lost. It also contains a wealth of resources for those experiencing or embarking on a journey of palliative care. I think it’ a great site to get people talking about death, not only about their loved ones but to also start thinking about how they want to spend their end of days.
There’s no beating about the bush, death is tremendously hard to talk about. I’m terrified of losing someone and experiecing paralysing, agonising grief. And I’m terrified of dying young and my daughters bearing that grief far too early! But this week my husband and I, although not terminally ill, have still decided to talk about the possibility of our deaths occurring early or suddenly; we are going to start doing something we will both find very hard, we will start writing our Will, taking an active step towards formulating our End of Life Requests for both the dying period and the period after our deaths.