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Hospice nurses, Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley, share with us, through moving personal stories, how individuals near the end of their lives communicate in often cryptic ways. When we learn how to listen more closely, and through the filter of what has held meaning for that individual, we may enter into the grace and beauty of the Final Gifts they are offering us.
I can understand if you are sitting here wondering why anyone would want to read about death and dying. It's not as depressing as you might imagine. I've found it to be quite the opposite when you find compassionate authors who want to offer their readers the kinds of gifts that make it possible to be what a dying person needs them to be.
What Callanan and Kelley have learned over the years is that their patients enter a stage they call Nearing Death Awareness. While in this critical phase, it is not unusual for people to know exactly when they will die. We see from their stories that clues are being given to family members to help them get ready for an impending transition.
For instance, someone who always enjoyed traveling with her partner expressed the following: It's time to get in line. This was the indication that she was soon to depart on her final journey. One thing was holding her back, though. She needed to know that the husband who had depended so greatly on her was going to be alright after she was gone.
The patient who always celebrated his July 4th anniversary with a sparkler cake confused his family in June by saying it's time to get the cake. He knew he was going to miss his anniversary, so he wanted everyone to celebrate early. These pronouncements are important, but easily missed when chalked up to the stupor of pain medications, or the confusion of being deathly ill.
By becoming more aware of how the dying communicate their needs and desires, we can better support leave-taking on their terms. By doing so, we are opening up the gifts they have lovingly chosen for us. And, we are offering up the gift of honoring the wishes that help bring peace at the end of life.
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