Sunday, October 23, 2016

Spirituality at the end of life

"Two of the great 20th-century theorists of care for the dying urged people to be on the lookout for such moments. The psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying (1969), encouraged family and medical staff to listen for the ‘implicit communications of dying patients’. The hospice care pioneer Cicely Saunders spoke about the need to attend to a person’s ‘total pain’: not just physical, but social, emotional and, yes, spiritual pain, too.
"Such broad, nuanced forms of care as these are anticipated in the Scottish government’s report ‘Strategic Framework for Action on Palliative and End-of-Life Care’ (2015). The Framework aims to create a ‘culture of openness about death, dying and bereavement’, and to find ways of incorporating people’s spiritual and psychological needs into end-of-life care. But it also prompts the question: why, a generation after Kübler-Ross and Saunders, are such things being ‘called for’ as though they were new, unusual and brave? Why is spirituality not already a routine part of end-of-life care?"
I was able to spend four nights on a cot in my father's room as he lay dying in a coma at age 94. Waking at night listening to his deep Kussmaul breathing, I stood and prayed at his bedside. I've heard that prayer is simply talking to God. I did feel a presence in the room as my father's soul began to separate from the worn out earthly body. It was so quiet and peaceful after his last breath. Was this "presence" wishful thinking? Perhaps, but just "being and not doing" helped me in the moment. Or was it the "mysterious mutuality of being and doing?"

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