Lindsoe, R. Nyk
Dr. T. Rohman TED
“What Really Matters at the End of Life.”
WOW, this could not have come at a more inauspicious time for me.
I was born with a congenital defect of my lungs – they would not adhere to the chest wall for proper expansion during inhalation which resulted in a several spontaneous bilateral pneumothorax (lung collapse) episodes throughout my life. Due to the damage caused, my lungs are now beginning a shutdown process which cannot be reversed and, not being a viable candidate for transplant will eventually end in my death. This was tough but not unexpected news considering my age. I’ve outlived most of my family and now my time approaches.
Years ago I read a book called “Death: The Final Stage of Growth” by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and I became fascinated about the topic. I was able to use many of her suggestions when dealing with the dying and their families in my work as a Para-Medic.
I can remember one gentle man who was dying of colon cancer that had metastasized throughout his entire body except for his brain. He was in great pain and dreaded every time we had to pick him up and take him to the hospital for treatment. He and I became friends during these bi-weekly journeys and we would talk about family, kids, and his fears of what would happen to them after he was gone. He rarely spoke a word about dying until one day I asked him how he felt about dying. He said “I’m dead set against it.” The ice was broken and the tears flowed that day.
I visited with him as much as I could on and off duty until late one evening his wife called me at home to say he had gone to “sleep.”
“He left something for you. I would like you to be one of his pallbearers.”
I humbly accepted the honor.
At the ceremony at the cemetery his wife pulled me aside and handed me a handwritten letter. When she gave it to me she gave me a hug and said, “Thank you for helping him die on his feet.” A reference to my helping him get outside and actually stand for a few minutes. After being bedridden for several months it was an alien feeling for him.
I won’t cite everything that was in the letter but I will say this, he said “You helped me die like the man I always wanted to be. Thank you for caring, listening, crying with me and making treating me like a real person and not a patient.”
This man gave me more than I could have ever given him but I never told him. Perhaps one day, in the not too distant future he and I will be able to sit down together and talk once more.