In our North American way of doing all we can to avoid illness, pain, and discomfort by buying into the big pharma dream of skipping through the flower filled meadow of life we can set up a dilemma when it comes to dying and death.
Many of my peers are intent on creating a more conscious death. Here is a definition of conscious so we can all be on the same page understanding wise.
1) aware of and responding to one’s surroundings; awake.
2) having knowledge of something; aware.
3) painfully aware of; sensitive to.
Know too that I am not anti medication, I am pro its conscious and appropriate use. I am mindful though of how we as a culture have a strong tendency to pop a pill or take a shot to make things better for ourselves. And often the medication is used not just for the ill person or the individual dying but also and often more interestingly for those of us bearing witness to the illness or the dying process.
In the specific case of dying and death I know that it can be a very uncomfortable process to watch. I witnessed the final days of my dear late brother Peter’s life. As aware as I am of dying and death and even with all my experience it was an uncomfortable process to witness. It was challenging for me on a couple of levels – emotional and physical particularly. I remember a day or two before he died thinking about going for a beer… I don’t drink!! I noticed how squirmy my body was getting as I watched Peter’s life slowly slip away. I recognized that my body was having confirmed it too would pass. Wow how subtle was that urge.
So, when I imagine others perhaps a little less aware I can see how easy it is to slip into reaching for something to ease the feelings of discomfort for both ourselves and for our loved. The medications are readily available at the hospital, care home or hospice and often encouraged. A challenge in mindfulness indeed.
If you are intending a more conscious death, whether it be yours of that of a loved one, here are a few questions you can use to guide your decision making process.
- What is the intention of taking the medication?
- I am taking the medication to ease the pain of others?
- Am I encouraging the use of medication to ease my own suffering?
- How much medication is really required to manage the pain?
In Peter’s case our goal and his was to manage any pain with the minimum of medication in order the he be a present as his could to those of us who were with him and to his process of dying. We were successful and Peter was very much present for his last breath. It was a gift to him and a graceful passage and to those of us who witnessed his dying. Conscious? Absolutely! Uncomfortable? Yes, but only because of lack of practice.