And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world’s sounds – wouldn’t you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attentions to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. – Rainer Maria Rilke
Most of these daily posts contain my own musings. However, my intention with this blog is always to point to whatever is most beautiful and good in the culture and today that means pointing you to a wonderful short reflection by Dr. Alyssa Boyd. She is one of the co-founders of The Living Wish Foundation about which I wrote here.
Dr. Boyd is the medical director at a hospice and she recently wrote about what makes a good death:
I find myself constantly ruminating over this question and am regularly fascinated and surprised by the variations in responses that I see.
It is easy for me to say what a “good death” looks like from the comfort of the nurse’s station. The patient is peaceful and comfortable with family and loved ones by their side. Their final wishes have been honoured. They die quick enough that their loved ones don’t have to sit vigil for more than 48 hours but slowly enough that everyone has had a chance to say their goodbyes. Perhaps the only way my ideal scenario has evolved over time is the additional clause that “there are no COVID restrictions.”
But, that is my own bias. When you are sitting on the other side of the bed, all the above may seem like irrelevant platitudes, only visible as an outsider, as the family grieves through the worst days of their life. If I have learned anything in my musings around “a good death,” it is that I must constantly be open-minded to each family’s unique expectation and not point out anyone else’s silver linings.
Despite my attempts to shelve my own beliefs around this, I will confidently profess that yesterday I was given the gift of bearing witness to a TRULY good death.
Today a Facebook memory came up from three years ago when I happened upon the Church of St. Robert Bellarmine in Rome.
I recognized the patron of the church as the author of a book that I had very much enjoyed reading a few months earlier entitled The Art of Dying Well.
As I stood outside the church, I recalled St. Bellarmine’s remark, “Now every one will admit, that the ‘Art of dying Well’ is the most important of all sciences; at least every one who seriously reflects…”
The most important of all sciences!
Well, if you have not until now considered it a science, here is a excerpt from his preface to introduce you to the tenor of his argument: