Death Is Beautiful
You often hear people say they are not afraid of death itself, but are concerned about how they will die.
But drawing upon the experience of her late aunt, Samantha Rennie suggests that perhaps being unafraid and accepting of our mortality, can dispel fear and actually help us face death with courage and dignity.
We all die. It’s a simple reality, and yet despite this many people still don’t get the chance to do it well. I was privileged to be present at a beautiful death.
On 11th November 2013 my aunt was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer and given only a few weeks to live. In my Aunt’s mind despite the imminence of her passing, there was no time for denial, no time to fight it, and she quickly accepted her fate. There were things to be done and there was still a life to live!
In fact she was so busy ‘living’ the Palliative Care team had trouble booking in for an appointment! Even though she was told she only had a few weeks she had decided she would live to see Christmas; she decided she would die at home in her room with a view looking over her garden and the bay. She decided she would die in a state of peace and acceptance with all she had done and achieved. She decided she would organise a wonderful celebration of her life and memorial service. And she would die being supported by her family and friends in a loving positive manner - and all of these decisions came true.
There was little room for our grief in these decisions. We all remained positive though at times it wasn’t easy. Our grief would have to wait. We celebrated her choices and the beautiful loving way she transitioned from life to death. She felt some of those last days were the happiest of her life. It was a rare time for her to just say what she wanted and have a whole community and family ready to grant her wishes. It is a shame that it takes death or illness to give us the strength to ask for what we want.
It was a truly enviable death. It left me little to grieve for other than my own loss and that of my families. I had no grief or regrets, for Aunt Stepha or her life, as she had none, even though she was only 66.
To walk into the arms of death with an open heart is a truly amazing achievement. To know you are going to die, to make it a big celebration so that your life can be the best and your death can be beautiful, leaves others with no doubts that they did enough.
One thing my nursing background and current role with Tobin Brothers Funerals has taught me is that we should not wait for a diagnosis to accept that we are going to die. We know the moment we are born. We should live life to the fullest leaving those we care about free of regrets, doubts or anything unsaid. Even write your own eulogy regularly so you know you are living the life you would be proud of.
My Aunt’s death reminded me again of the power of deciding not only how you want to live…but also about how you want to die.