How do we Be when someone is dying?
I'm sitting on his bed. I ask him how he feels, but I know I will not hear the words as he cannot speak. The reality is he has not been able to speak for weeks.... but the body speaks.
I've noticed that every beautiful book I've read and every podcast I've listened to on compassionate care for people as they near the end of their life, all speak of a two-way conversation in which the person dying speaks of their wants and needs; their fears and visions. There is a conversation; an illumination provided by vocabulary, a life and death described.
No one seems to talk about the people who cannot talk. Or how we navigate this moment with them.
I am spending time at the moment with a man who is dying. He cannot speak and has not been able to for some months. He is showing me things I have learned as others have died before him: my mother, grandmother, godfather, friends... loved ones letting go. But what makes this different is this man is a stranger to me. I don't know his story, his family, his life. He is a man dying without words or family in a bed in a care home.
This pool of unknowingness means that the only thing to focus on is the journey he is making in the here and now.
And how we both navigate it.
When he has made it through and slipped out of this life, I will share what I have learned about a death with no words, with history and yet with no history, in a blog In the hope it may help someone somewhere.
But for now my reflections on being with dying are:
1: Slow down. Give their body time to talk
2: Breathe together
3: Don't deny a frail hand the exertion of a hug
4: Hearing is powerful so choose your words tenderly
5: The greatest medicine is love