Dignity in Dying

(c) I.White
There doesn`t really seem to be much dignity in dying, no matter in which way you go.  Death is still a taboo subject within society.  We don`t really have strategies of how to handle it.  When people die of old age, it creeps up upon us and with the case of all my Grandparents different forms of dementia set in.  Grandparents and loved ones are then seemingly locked away in sterile units with strangers suffering similar fates and the long waiting game that often is a long drawn out process reaching a certain sense of peace sets in.  If this time is used wisely, it is chance to treasure the quality moments with grandparents or loved ones that are dying.  It should be a peaceful time, which at times it is, but more often than not, it is an intense time.  Family members are brought together and old wounds are opened.  This is so they can be healed, which gratefully does happen, even if at times it feels like salt is being rubbed in the wounds.
    Sitting with my Gran today weeks after her stroke, I had wanted to say so much, like many other times visiting her in the retirement home before, but instead all I could say is “How are you gran”? and “I love you”.   Somehow you expect to have all these grand gestures and words that come flowing out in these precious last moments, but instead, I was lost for words. 
(c) I.White
    Suddenly, I remembered a book that I read not too long ago about spending time with people who are passing over in ‘Close to the Bone’ Jean Shinoda Bolen.  She emphasised how touch was more often one of the best things that you could do.  It´s too much pressure and energy for those you love to respond, it is enough that you are there, talking amongst all that have come to visit and to to be with them. Her heavy breathing and rapid eye movement continued as I kept my hand on her arm and chatted away about trivia such as who was winning at a Wimbledon game or a wedding party that had convened temporarily in a country pub just opposite the nursing home. She awoke and strained to tell us, how much she loved weddings.  We called a nurse so that she could be repositioned and propped up and to see the wedding party out the window.  A woman full of joy, still able at 93 to sense celebrations of love as they spontaneously appear around her. 
    The stately home where she will see in the last of her days was built in the middle of the 1700`s.  It`s original ornate lattice work upon the ceiling and marbled fireplace have been kept in tact.  Like a ghost house the rooms  were silent and empty, with each patient safely tucked away in their quarters.    It seems that we are so concerned with preserving what is new and shiny that we hide away what is aging or dying, far from view.  Such a taboo.  We saw only one resident, in quite good health and cheer, despite her age and walking aid, making her way through the canary yellow and white conservatory. 
    Leaving the home, we walked upon the expansive lawn stretching to reach a wild dutch flower bush blooming and heavy in scent.  The owner of the house with brilliant white hair, came out to meet us and described the different types of flowers that had sprung and were giving the garden all it´s English wild charms.  After commenting on how friendly he seemed, I was reminded that he was running a business to keep the customers, namely my dying grandmother and her family happy.  How naive I suddenly felt. 
    Nevertheless, what little dignity there is left in dying, Gran has been given and maintains that within herself.  Though it strained her to say she managed the words “I love you” and her piercing blue glass-like eyes still had the will of the strong woman I always knew her to be.  She is the last of my Grandparents.  A Kennedy, a Scot, true, deep and enduring to her last breath.