Whenever I visit a terminally ill patient, the inevitable question that is asked is: “Doc, how long will it take before I die?”. I must admit that this is not an easy question to answer, because even if there is some scientific evidence for prognosis which I can cite, I cannot act like The Creator and provide the accurate answer. One thing I can see beyond this question, however, is fear of the unknown – what happens after death? What will become of me?
The usual response to questions about death and suffering are the usual spiritual responses. We cite biblical passages, and for some, it helps to ease the apprehensions. But what if a person is not religious? What must the approach be?
For me, there is a universal principle, whatever religion you may have, that during suffering and death the source of satisfaction rests upon the presence of friends and family. I have yet to see someone who longs to die with strangers. When the time to die comes, the people you shared your life with are the ones you will long to show love and care.
So must we fear pain and suffering? My answer is, as long as the people you love and care for are around you, death becomes easier to face. It is also of great help to hear words such as, “You can rest now.”; “You’ve done a good job”; ” We will never forget you”; ” We forgive you”; “We love you very much”. These closure phrases make it so much easier to bear the burden, and it even opens up the dying patient to make amends and utter unforgettable words for the benefit of their loved ones.
So the next time a dying patient asks the inevitable query about death, just remember that the question is not a direct one that needs to be answered. More often than not, it may be a question of longing and need – and in these cases, the right response and resolution may be something that all loving persons in this world can easily provide. No matter what a physician may say, when the end is near, it is reassurance and kind words from significant others that will matter the most.
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- “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”-FDR (kjbandjoda.wordpress.com)