We have already come so far on our journey towards death. Such an important journey. Yet there is still more to travel towards death. Luckily we have our check in posts a few weeks before death. We have our symptoms of dying. A road map. Sort of.
Because everyone's route is so different. So unique. So personal.
In these final weeks we tend to doze a lot. It must feel so comforting to drift off into that sweet land of dreams. A body resting. A mind relaxed.
Just like our children slept for weeks and months after they were born. All day and all night (if we were lucky). Only, newborns do need their food and they need it often.
Strange. These similarities. Between birth and death. Between being born and dying.
Just like our children did sleep for weeks and months after they were born. Sleeping all day long and all day night (if we were lucky). Only newborns do need their food and they need it often.
Strange. These similarities. Between birth and death. Between being newborn and dying.
In the moments where she was more awake, sometimes a curious thing would happen. Emma would point to a spot beside her bed saying: "Look, there is Nellie!" Or she would pat on a spot next to her on her bed saying: "Nellie, Nellie, come here! Sit!"
Nellie had been Emma and Arthur's small white poodle. She had been with them for over nine years, and she had been Emma's love and delight and joy.
But Nellie had died about a month ago. Of food poisoning. There was no actual dog there.
Seeing People and Animals Not in the Room
Even this strange phenomenon is normal. It actually occurs quite often. Even for people who would never ever have admitted to such poppycock.
It is one of the normal symptoms of dying to see mom across the room. Even though she died 20 years ago. It is normal for us to see a dead dog running around our bed. It is normal for us to be talking to the child that left us too soon.
It is not only normal but actually very comforting to see those people and animals. They are always loved ones. Special beings. Someone we felt very close to. Someone who loved us a lot. Someone we loved a lot.
Some of us keep picking at our bed sheets. But there is nothing obvious to be picked on. Or we might pick off invisible lint from our clothes. Our hands are restless. Busy without being busy.
Sometimes offering to fold a towel helps. Especially if our busy fingers try to pull out a catheter. Keep folding the towel. Again. And again. And again.
Some of these "so called" hallucinations put in their appearances independently from any drugs we are taking, whether legal or illegal ones. We seem to be comforted by them. They make us feel OK with this last journey. Help us cross over.
These are some of the symptoms of dying, signs that death is near. Just some signs. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to be done.
One day Emma opened her eyes and looked at me while I was washing her face. She loved having her face covered with a hot wash cloth.
Like the ones they offer you on long overnight flights to Europe or Asia. To wake you up when it is time to land. A steaming hot towel just pressed to your whole face feels so good.
All of a sudden she said: "I'll be having my freedom soon." Matter of fact like.
Another time Emma was sitting on the edge of her bed, her feet dangling off the edge. Just to get into a different position. I was sitting next to her on the bed. Scratching her back. Oh, that felt so good. Simply scratching her back. Using my nails over her pajamas. Especially between the shoulder blades. Yeah. Right there.
This time she said: "I am going home, you know."
Arthur was trying to tell her that she was already home. The home they had shared for so many years. But that is not what she was talking about.
If we listen carefully and with open ears, we can hear our loved ones telling us that they are ready to die. Even if they never talked about death before. Even if they are not the type to talk about "stuff like that". It is another one of the many symptoms of dying.
Emma was not talking about her physical home. She was talking about dying. Of going home to the vast home beyond the stars. The home of her soul. The home so close, so close, and yet so far away.
The important part for us are having open ears. Our loved ones dying will tend to use their own special language to tell us that they are ready to leave:
A soccer player might draw a playing field with an arrow pointing outside the field. Getting ready to leave the playing field.
A farmer might tell you that she has to take the cows into a different field. The one over the hill. It is very important to take them. Soon.
Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley