Always Look On The Bright Side Of Death…

1.27.2010 | Facts, Motivation

This morning I am going to attend the Memorial Service of a lovely man who I sat Vigil for recently. This particular gentleman (I’ll call him Gent) was in a palliative state for many days, almost defying all odds. This can be a stressful, painful time for family and friends, as they simply want to see their loved one pass away peacefully.

Gent’s wife was at his bedside day and night, ready to be there for him in his last moments. Days passed. Nights passed. Weeks passed, but still she sat. She talked with him, read to him, listened to music with him; she brushed his hair, held his hand, and kissed his forehead. They had been married for over 40 years.

Gent held on. We began to wonder what it is that could be keeping him from taking that last step through the door. All the children came in to say goodbye, all the grandchildren did, too. Friends came over, the Priest came in and administered last rites, but after many days, Gent was still not ready to leave this world.

It is believed that, to a certain degree, a palliative person can “choose” when to die. I can honestly say that I have seen this on a number of occasions. The thing is, one must remember that it is the dying person’s choice, and no one can rush them. Gent was making that abundantly clear!

His beautiful wife talked with him and told him that he was going to be ok. She told him that she was going to be ok. She told him the children and grandchildren were going to really like having him watch over them forever. She told him that they would never forget about him. She told him that there was nothing to be afraid of. Gent listened. For days.

In my experience, humour at moments like these can be a tricky, tricky thing. One has to be able to gauge the others in the room before cracking a joke that may be considered offensive in such a situation. However, Gent’s wife is a woman of great, dark humour and at one point she stood up, looked at Gent, threw up her hands and said, “This is so like you! You’re so stubborn!” then she ran her fingers through her hair and let out an exasperated growl. And then she laughed.

She and I then sat in Gent’s room and began to wonder aloud why he was taking such a long time to make the decision to die. She had run through every conceivable scenario with him, and now she was finding the humour in the fact that he was hanging on. “He’s in the boarding lounge, but he’s not getting on the plane!” she said. We wondered if the plane was being de-iced.

I had been relatively silent until this time, wondering just how far a humourous comment could go… I took the chance: “I think that maybe the TSA has taken over at the Pearly Gates, and Gent is stuck in the security line. Have we checked his pocket for metals?”

Gent’s wife absolutely lost it, and she and I both started to snort with laughter and were doubled-over with tears in our eyes as the scenarios for why Gent was still with us came pouring out of us. Gent’s wife joked that he was just toying with us all and had “one foot over the line, and was dancing back and forth, playing a game with us”. Gent’s wife knew that Gent was laughing, too, as he had a good sense of humour, and would certainly have appreciated the tension realease.

And then, after we were all but exhausted, we stopped laughing. The room went quiet once again. We listened to Gent’s easy, gentle breathing, and stood there looking at him with our arms around each others’ shoulders. And Gent’s wife said, “You know what I think it is? The earthquake in Haiti has created a pretty big backlog at The Gates, and being that gentleman that he is, he’s simply stepping aside to allow the women and children to go in first”

And that was that. That’s exactly what it was. It just made sense, really.

And so, after hugging one another, I stepped out of the room and left Gent’s wife to sit with him in silence one more time. He stayed with us for many more days after that, but when he finally did make the decision to ‘step into the line’, his wife was by his side, and had gently encouraged him not to be scared. It was a quiet, peaceful moment between two people who shared a great love for one another.

And for me, it was a great honour to have been a small part of such a huge moment.

Godspeed, Gent.