Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dying Well – Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life – Ira Byock, M.D.

Dying Well – Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life – Ira Byock, M.D.

299 Pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: No
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReaders: Yes
5 Stars

Dr. Byock's dream is that all of us, when we reach the end, should have the chance to Die Well. He has dedicated his life to that end, and I am grateful.

All of us will die, hopefully not for a long time, but we all will die. And we should have the opportunity to die well, where we want (my mother wanted to die in the hospital, her brother in my home), surrounded by those we love and who love us, and to die free of pain, free of smells, and filled with dignity.

This book contains the stories of several people and their deaths. Dr. Byock starts off on a personal note, about the death of his father, and what he learned as both a son and a doctor.

There is nothing morbid in this book. In fact, quite the opposite. As I read the stories, and shed tears in some, I remembered something I read years ago by Father John Powell, SJ. While in Seminary, he needed to visit the infirmary for some minor ailment, and the Brother was tucking in two of the priests who were admitted. One was a real grump and short tempered, the other was an old sweetheart, and kind and thankful. I vaguely remember that both were dying, but not sure. At any rate, Fr. Powell decided at that time that he had a choice. He could be either of those two old priests, when it was his turn to die and the choice was up to him.

I'm relatively sure we all have our day dreams (night mares?) of what it will be like when we die, and how we will do it, but how many of us have taken care of terminally ill loved ones? How many of us have any idea of what will happen let alone how it will happen?

Dr. Byock lists five things he recommends to those of his patients and their families who are terminally ill. I recommend they be considered now, while we are (hopefully) in relative good health. He goes into detail in Chapter Seven, Writing a Personal Script for Dying: Steve Morris (not his real name) but I will list them here. Something to think about now – I forgive you, please forgive me, Thank you, I love you, and Goodbye.

That script is geared for those who know they are dying and have time. But I know from experience, it's good to think on them, and discuss them earlier. There is not always time. Death can come quickly and quietly in the middle of the night and too often, there is unfinished business and a brick load of guilt after. I suggest you let your loved ones know now, and often, how much you love and appreciate them, in case Death comes on a whisper when least expected. You will feel better if you do.

If you have thought of death (and who hasn't?) – either your own or someone's close to you – I strongly recommend this book. There are places where you may even laugh out loud. And tears are healing. The more you know, the less fear there will be.

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