CARE OF THE DYING PART 4: ENCOURAGING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT DEATH
by Linda J. Austin
IV. I will help you die. Community conversations about dying.
When the dying person is finally communicating his or her most private feelings, do not interrupt, deny, or diminish what the person is saying. Footnote 25
It is a common notion that remaining emotionally stable and taking care of all of your own needs is a virtue. Reaching out to others for emotional support may be seen as a sign of weakness or imperfection. But consider for a moment how good you felt the last time you were able to help a friend or a family member by lending emotional support. That interaction could not have happened without the other person's willingness to share his or her emotional instability, or vulnerability, with you.
Our ability to help each other is one of the most joy inspiring gifts that we can share. Take a moment to think about how you might be able to provide that gift for your loved ones by allowing them help you.
I, Patricia Williams, was greatly inspired by my mother (who is also Erin's grandmother), Grace. She treated everyone, old and young, sick and well, with love and dignity and delight. At the bedside of my dying grandfather, my mother gave him a reason for living by recording his stories of his childhood for his descendants. My mother's lessons have enriched my life, and even helped to guide me into my current profession.
In 1994, near the end of my mother's life, an octogenarian friend of mine named Dorothy became incapacitated, she had no living family members to help her. She confided, "I can't see very well, I can't hear very well, and I can hardly walk. What good am I! I think society would just put me in the garbage heap."
My friendship with Dorothy and my experience with my mother soon led me to realize that many eight-two year olds need the same love and attention Dorothy craved and my mother gave so generously. It is not fair that our way of life scatters people and leaves them alone and lonely. I needed to do something to change that.
In 1995, in order to help care for our precious seniors I established Graceful Care, Inc. in Reston, Virginia. I took my inspiration from the model displayed lovingly for me by my mother, the business' namesake. GraceFul Care's goal is to provide loving assistance and companionship for all our elders and the mission of awakening society to the needs of our elders. As a part of our service, we facilitate personal conversations about the dying process with our clients and their families. We help them to address their fears, and to discover and respect the wishes of the dying.
In April 2001, one client who's mother just passed away wrote us the following note. The client's sentiments are representative of many people served by GraceFul Care.
Dear Folks at Graceful Care: I just wanted to again thank you for sending Millie [a caregiver] to us. Millie cared formy mother with gentleness and respect.