Is there a “good death”?

The Memorial Foundation has nurtured Hospice services in Yakima, all the while my own life has shaped my personal understanding of death.

Despite a career in health care philanthropy and administration and a personal interest in wellness, when death came into my life it was sudden, pervasive and wholly unexpected. It was first sparked by the seizure that ended the life of my brother, my only sibling. My mother died two years later, after 6 arduous and conflicted weeks in a nursing home, after sharing plainly that she wanted to die. We thought to call hospice 24 hours before her death, too late to be of any comfort to her, or to us. My Dad, bereft, faced the balance of his life with resolve and studied optimism. When told he was terminally ill I was ready to call hospice.

They arrived, and immediately helped me ready for his death. The threat of the end came and went so many times over the course of months that I grew numb to its threat. Dad and I talked and talked. We waited. It didn’t seem prudent to hope for a different outcome.

Little did I know that those months, even steeped in fatigue and confusion as they were, would prove to be the most precious of all the time I ever had with him. The days colored with a quality of unvarnished candor, deep sentimental reflection fueled by the shared pain of imminent loss.

When he died, he had resolved all issues of personal regret, faith, and family and had visibly reached a place of deep spirituality. He had what I have come to call a "good death", ably assisted by Hospice chaplains, volunteers and caregivers who kept him completely without pain for the duration of his life. I am convinced that Hospice gave him, and me, the time we needed to bring his life to a beautiful conclusion.

In the Yakima Valley Hospice is a loving choice for families who have a loved one in the last six months of life. It is a choice marked by gentleness and love. For more information visit Memorial Hospice. For details regarding the forthcoming Open House for Memorial’s hospice care facility, Cottage in the Meadow please visit http://2701.memfound.org/cottage-meadow-celebrates-community-open-house

7 thoughts on “Is there a “good death”?

  • Beautifully written, Anne. Hospice helps us get over that reluctance to talk about death. Why is our society so afraid to have that conversation? I hope when my time comes I’m not afraid to face it, make decisions, and discuss with all my family and friends.

  • Your article touched me. I spent four precious months with my Mom before she passed over. We would get our nails done, go out to lunch and play with my cat. I’m so glad you are writing!

  • I enjoyed this article, thank you. I’ve observed many “good deaths” being a hospital oncology nurse, and they all happen because family comes together, and are supported by Hospice. Our Hospice team constantly impresses me… they set a standard of care that goes above and beyond.

  • Jamin, you make such profound point about the family’s participation and unity. It is the final gift to the one who is leaving. I think it really makes leaving possible. And the Hospice caregiver know how to help us do that. Thank you so much for your comment and the important work you do,

    Anne

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