“I’m ready to go when the good Lord is ready to take me,” my grandma often offered; in fact, I can remember her saying it when I was as young as twelve. I often thought: why would grandma say this? Did it mean she was giving up on life? didn’t have any pleasures? didn’t enjoy the companionship of her husband, children, grandchildren, friends and family? Was she simply going to lie down, give-up and quit? was she wanting to die? Not at all.
I vividly and peaceably understand it now. It’s not because I became an adult or I had a sudden awakening. No. It has taken me years to understand why grandma said what she did: grandma had a deep appreciation for life; she took no relationship for granted, offered kindness to all, took great care of her health and wellness, including her mental health.
For nearly ten years my passion has been helping people, not only find, but to understand, quality of life, rather that be as a hospice provider, helping physicians and providers and patients and family members find the line between quality and quantity of life; or as a respite provider, helping family members and caregivers find a balance between the care and needs of loved ones and that of their own.
Years ago, a well-liked social worker at a local hospital, whose job it was to discharge patients, including aligning them with hospice, told me, “People are afraid to talk about death, Gina.” It was true then, and unfortunately, there is still, so much work to do. People think if they avoid talking about death, they might just outlive IT.
This past weekend, while spending time with family, we began a conversation about a family member’s recent illness. I came at the conversation from the rear, as I sometimes do. “What is she afraid of? Is she afraid to die?” I got an emphatic “Yes” from one person, who tried all the while to disengage from our conversation, not wanting to mark his discomfort about the topic, but none-the-less, giving off the cues. “Why?” I asked, “Is there a relationship that needs mending? Is there still somewhere to go, something to do?” The other family member answered in an expert-like tone: “If she were to be okay with death, that would mean giving up. She enjoys life; she enjoys the things she does; she’s not ready to die.”
I’m here to tell everyone: we are not meant to live forever. The most beautiful, peaceful deaths often come when we have made peace with life, when our lives are full, our relationships are in order, when we feel good about our place in the world, mentally and physically.
Death is not a senior issue; it is a part of life. It is a mother, a child, a father, a planned child, a husband...Sadly, and unexplainably, disease is not specific to age. While disease is found less with the younger and more with advanced aging, life succumbs to other events, and sometimes, regardless of one’s age and permission.
After reading this article, try to envision how you would like to die, i.e.; where would it be? Who would be there with you? Next, try to have this conversation with a loved one. Have you gotten your advance directives done? I know not everyone can afford to run down, right now, today, and get your funeral arrangements done, but have you had this conversation with your loved one? Does he or she know what you want? Are you planning for this?
If any of this is too difficult, too uncomfortable, for you to talk about, on any given day, it’s time to do some serious reflecting about life and figure out what is still pending.
Death offers a view of the past, the present and of the future, or what was supposed to be. Death is a reflection of life. The best deaths are when the individual is involved.
Grandma went on to live more than 25 years after the first time she told me, “I’m ready to go when the good Lord is ready to take me;” she was just shy of being 95 and still living on her own. She was just as at peace with death as she was with life; in fact, her peace with life brought her peacefulness with her death.
Gina (Paradiso) Cathcart is the director of Carecorner, Ltd., Colorado Respite Care. She is a healthcare educator, passionate about service to others and quality patient care. Gina attended Regis University and Colorado State University-Pueblo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org