Category Archives: In Search of A Good Death

Stories and Ideas about creating a “good” end of life and dying experience

Dad didn’t feel like dying. He felt full of life and longing to live. He had more to do, more to say, more to feel, to taste, to write, to experience. He was angry and sad, disappointed and confused, scared and brave, unaccepting and, finally, accepting.

For the past three years, I talked to him daily to be as close as I could. I listened as he told me everything he could think of about his day; he often told me the same things twice. Our time together was coming to an end, and although we didn’t know when that would happen, we knew it was coming sooner than we wished.

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MiniBlog “What a way to go!”

Tuesday, 11 Dec 2012 10:28

I am a Southerner, and we Southerners are historically, deeply tied to the earth. Most of the people in my area are either gardeners themselves or are first-generation descendants of farmers. So, it is not unsusual for me to have patients who come to the ER after having some type of an “event” in their field or their garden.

One day, I had an 82 year old female patient, named Mrs. Steele, who fainted and tumbled off of her tractor without sustaining any injuries. I was impressed by her feat, but nevertheless wanted to admit her for observation. She said she felt fine and wanted to go home.

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I pulled the stifling surgical mask off my face as I left my last patient’s room. I had just finished suturing a complicated facial laceration and was bone-tired from the evening. Glancing at the clock, I saw that mercifully, my shift was over.

Collapsing into my chair to finish up my charting, I was slightly annoyed when my nurse held a clip-board in front of my face, “Here is your next patient.”

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Last week, I wrote about the concept of a “good death” and how it can be created. If there is meaning and utility in comparing and contrasting ideas, then this week I should identify what might constitute a “bad death” and suggest ways to avoid this   Please prepare yourself, the “yuck” factor is, at times, fairly high in this discussion.

I will begin by begging you to avoid a bad death at all costs.  I have seen too many and can assure you that this is not the path that you should allow yourself, or any one to take. You should plan to avoid a bad death with just as much motivation as you plan to create a good death for yourself and those whom you love and care for. Continue reading

I have decided that if I am going to continually encourage my very elderly and terminally ill patients to decline artificial life support measures at the end of the road, and instead, choose a “good death,” then I need to be able to explain and provide this “better” alternative more effectively.

So, I thought it time to revisit an article published in 2006, analyzing factors that define the concept of a “good death.” The author, Karen Kehl, MS, RN, ACHPN, gathered forty-two articles from diverse sources including medical, nursing, patient perspectives and sociological literature, and extracted concepts most frequently mentioned as contributing to the creation of a good death. Continue reading

Emotional wellness is important to cultivate in all phases of living, but may be most naturally available at the end of life—the very time when the wellness of the body may be waning.

How is this so?

When people have a sure knowledge that they are nearing the end of their lives, a new type of energy is unleashed. Old inhibitions and blockages may be released. An emotional and spiritual window of opportunity opens which allows love to be shared more freely, old grudges to fall away in insignificance, and relationship healing to occur which seemed unobtainable at other times of life. Continue reading

I have been an ICU and ER nurse for 16 years and during this time I have seen very few, if any patients or family members that have been “prepared” to die.  I have seen a lot of miracles that have kept people alive, but never have viewed a death as a miracle, until the case of “Mrs. Elizabeth”.

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I am often described as a sassy, confident, lip-gloss wearing trauma nurse who does not mind “telling it like it is” or stating my opinion.  When I am doing my job critical or not, I am very focused and serious and feel that I have to hold back my emotions to provide the best care for my patient. This said, my co-workers are shocked when I get upset over a patient or when I become gentle and sweet because I am moved by a patient experience. Continue reading

He looked dead. The paramedics brought him down the hall toward one of my critical care beds, and for a moment I thought the patient was dead. He was nearly the same color as the pale sheet covering his thin frame. His cheeks were sunken in and his eyes were gazing upward, in what I sometimes call the “death stare.” Then, surprisingly, he moved his arm upward to push his oxygen mask off of his face, resting it atop his head like one would wear a pair of glasses not in use. Continue reading