by Linda J. Austin


V. Final thoughts on finality. Conclusions.

People will die as they have lived, as themselves. Footnote 35



Personalization Exercise:

Read this story, and imagine how you might incorporate its lesson into your care for a loved one.

One day when I arrived, she greeted me sadly. "Well, he's out of it now, she said. He doesn't make any sense at all." I asked why she thought that. "He keeps asking me to get his papers, his passport, and his ticket," Joan said . . .

I mentioned that talk of travel is often a way that dying people talk of death; I asked if she thought that might be so with George. "No, no," Joan said. "His mind is wandering, he's thinking about all those trips he's taken over the years."

When I went into George's room, he seemed anxious. . ."I can't find my passport. Do you know where my ticket is?"

"It sounds like you're planning to go somewhere," I answered.

George nodded.

"Are you going on a journey? . . . Maybe about leaving here? Maybe about dying?". . .

He nodded . . .

"If you're talking about that journey, you don't need a passport and tickets," I said. "Are you wondering what you do need? Are you asking me what it will be like?"

This time he nodded more vigorously. He smiled and said, "Yes, I have to get ready."

I sat beside him and explained what he'd probably experience. . .He lived ten more days . . . without distress.


Communities, cultures, and people vary with geography and experience, and our needs and desires related to dying may be as unique as we are. The subtle differences among us may prevent a method that is successful for easing the dying process in one place from being applicable away from its point of origin. What we need depends in part on who we are and what we believe.

Our uniqueness makes the dying process different for each of us, yet it is something that we will all share. As we face the conclusion of our lives, we can find support in one another. Through conversation, we can learn how best to provide care as we die. We can discover how to share the joy of comforting our friends and family members while dying just as we did while living.

35 Gallanan, Maggie, and Kelley, Patricia. Final Gifts. (New York: Bantam Books, 1993), pp. 81-2.

Linda J. Austin writes from experience as a nursing assistance and a family caregiver. "When I was assigned my first hospice case, I found my place in life." Retired from several careers, Linda is studying creative art therapy.


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