Saturday, 28 July 2018

I'm scared of dying alone, are you?

I didn’t realise that I was frightened of dying alone. In my darkest hours when I have felt that life is no longer worth living I have fantasised about necking a little white shot of Pentobarbital and slipping away alone in nature or in my bed. Of course that fantasy is somewhat quashed by the laws around Euthanasia here in the UK and the cost (on average you’re looking at around £10k) of being supported by an organisation like Dignitas in Switzerland.

Anyway, I digress as I am not currently experiencing those thoughts, I am working hard on practicing mindfulness and self-compassion, and you know what, I think that is changing dramatically the value I actually place on life, and on my own life in particular.

On Wednesday, as you may have read in my previous post, a dear friend of mine died. She was told only 3 weeks ago that she had terminal cancer, in her lungs, bones and brain and that she had approximately 2 months to live. So she spent the last 3 weeks celebrating her life in her beloved garden, drinking wine, and being cared for day and night by her dearest friends along with a fantastic team of NHS and charity palliative carers. She even hosted a party in that same garden just a week after she had the shocking diagnosis and prognosis. She spent the day enjoying her friends and courageously held court and allowed those that loved and admired her very much to say their goodbyes. I visited her just last week and we sat in nature, admiring the flowers and the work on said garden that one of her close companions in life had done for her. I asked her if there was some excitement about the adventure that dying may be (let's face it none of us know how or when it will be for us) and she said “Yes.” She told me that she hadn't realised how much she meant to people and I said I thought that was probably exactly why she did mean so much to people. She spent her last day at her lovely home drinking and reminiscing with her close friends and what I call her 'adopted' family. She suffered some pain for a couple of hours that was managed by the district nurse who was supporting those that were caring for her in her last weeks, and then breathed a final quiet, peaceful, breath and left life.

My fantasies about dying alone, about controlling when and how I die seem ridiculous to me now. I will remember my friend as a stoic and brave woman who faced death as she faced life, honestly and full-on. I am inspired by the love that was shown to her to continue to develop my own support system as I do not want to live or die alone. I want to feel the hand of someone I love and their final kiss on my cheek. I want to hear the laughing of friends in my final hours and most of all I want my nearest and dearest to know how much I love them as I know they love me.

I am scared of dying alone, and it's taken many years for me to drop the brash “I'm not scared of dying” act and to face up to the preciousness of life and love and friends, whether that be one friend or many. My father too was in the bosom of this family when he died 3 years ago and although his death was a struggle for him physically it was also full of love, I could feel its' presence in the room as his body became still and lifeless.

Life is for living, it's for laughing and loving too and for letting people know how much they mean to you and opening to receiving love back from people. Reach out for help if you feel you need it, for whatever reason, tell your family that you love them if you can, and remember that death could come to any of us at any time. Imagine if you will, how you would feel if these were your last few minutes on earth. Would you have any regrets? Do you want to die alone?

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful piece of writing. I think we are all fearful of dying...that fear of loss of control and a passage into the unknown. For me it is also about leaving loved ones behind and not sharing in their onward journey. Certainly your friend's positivity and courage gives me pause for thought about my fears. Thank you.