Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Are You Ready to Die? Bella Was.
Are you ready to die? Many people assume that nobody really wants to die, but I have known several non-suicidal hospice patients who looked forward to death. Bella comes to mind first. She said she was ready to go to heaven, and, at a personal level, she was. But Bella kept pushing death back because she wanted her death ritual and other plans to be just right, the way she wanted them.
“I won’t be here when you come next week. I’ll be in heaven. You can call ahead if you want to be sure I’m not here. That way you won’t make a trip for nothing,” she warned me, her weekly hospice volunteer.
“Thanks for telling me, Bella. I’ll just come anyway and see for myself,” I responded like it was the most normal thing in the world. In recent weeks, whenever I left from visiting her, Bella said it was the last time I would see her. She said she would be dead before I returned the following week.
When I returned and she was still alive, I’d say, “Well, I guess you changed your mind about dying this week.” Bella always had a good excuse. A few times, she didn’t want to miss some festive activity like the annual Christmas party at the nursing home. Most times, it was for practical reasons like getting funeral, burial, and other after-death plans in order with the help of her family. She wanted her children to clean her house thoroughly, so relatives and friends could go there to fellowship after her funeral. Cleaning entailed sorting and packing clothes for charity. There were several other tasks beyond actual dust removal. Her various excuses for not dying continued for months while she finalized arrangements from her nursing home room.
Bella even invited me to join her on her after-death journey. She said it might be more fun if we went to heaven together. I declined this invitation by explaining it just wasn’t my time. Besides, she already had a bunch of people there waiting for her.
One day, Bella’s warning came true. I received the hospice phone call saying she had died. I smiled to myself and said, “Good for you, Bella! You finally did it!"
(Story above is excerpt from Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes.)
What about you? Are you ready to die? Do you think about what death really means to you and how you want your wishes implemented? Have you had death conversations that will help you and others prepare for death physically, financially, and regarding your property? Like Bella, is your “house” in order?
Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.