Saturday, December 8, 2012

On Death and Dying Alone

When we lose our loved ones, especially after we begin losing our siblings, our mortality rears up and roars at us. How long do we have left? How will we depart and how long will it take?

Reading the book given by Hospice on what to expect from your loved one as they begin to transition from this world to the next, is almost ghoulish, but I suppose it is something we need to know as we sit with our dying person. They tell us the rasping sounds emanating from the person we love is “normal.” 

Nurses at Hospice know when to call in the family as the last stages of life leave the patient They know when we need to be there to say our last good-byes. They can’t help us with this chore, and they can’t tell us how to do it to make the passing easier for our dear one. But they know all the symptoms of life leaving the body.

My question is how do the writers of this book know? 

As I spoke in my sister’s ear and told her I love her and urged her to sleep well, her breathing became faster and her eyes opened, unfocused, for a moment. I was sorry I spoke to her and wakened her from her journey. Perhaps it is best to leave the traveling to the dying because no matter how many people gather around, we still die alone. 

Even the little book says we withdraw from this world, gradually losing interest in reading, TV, news of the world around us, children and grandchildren, and we become totally self-absorbed. I imagine I would not be interested in the noisy television that seems to be a necessity in every hospital room. My sister said to turn it off.

When read to, she already seemed to be away, just smiling at the reader. My sister June had the nicest smile and the kindest heart. She would not be rude and say, “Stop reading. I don’t want to hear it.” Her smile became a sad expression in those last days as the hopelessness became more apparent. 

After watching death claim my loved ones, I understand that the process of dying is strenuous, is all consuming, and requires total self-absorption. 
Those of us left behind and grieving are just in the way. 
I think my sister would have liked to say to me, “Leave me alone. Go home now. I’m busy dying.”
And she completed that task only fifteen minutes later. 

Three sisters, Glenda, Gay and June in chair


DJan said...

What a fine picture of three beautiful sisters. I have four sisters myself and am the oldest. We are still all here but that will change as time passes. I am so sorry for your loss, Glenda. Peace and blessings to you.

Robert S. King said...


I share your pain. I too have watched firsthand this process of leaving the world. And yes, it makes us remember our own mortality. Not surprisingly, I tried to deal with it in verse:

The Flight

When my time comes
may solitude be my company.
May the room’s only shadows
move beneath the clock hands.

May I not be stained by tears
nor deafened by the deep moans
of weeping that arrive before the hour.

If I need water, give me a hard
nurse to bring it quickly and go.
My will is left to you who loves
me most: Please celebrate
the comforts we gave to each other,
the peak where we look back
down our lives.
When the clock strikes
and they cover my face,
see me as chrysalis
about to butterfly.

--Robert S. King

Glenda Beall said...

Thank you, DJan. I miss her already and my sister, Gay, will miss her most as Gay went to see her about three times each week and did many little things that made June comfortable. She was a wonderful caregiver for June.

Glenda Beall said...

You said it best. May i copy this and put with my End of Life directions?
Is this poem published elsewhere?
Thank you so much for posting.

Robert S. King said...


"The Flight" was recently published in The Bookends Review (, but you are free to reuse it wherever you like.