A lady who became a great friend of ours at Be Independent Home Care, during a time when she allowed our team of carers help care for her friend during his last weeks at home, drew my attention to this letter tonight. The letter written by Jacqueline Cotter to The Irish Independent is a perfect reflection of the privilege it is to be part of a persons final journey and the importance of having the choice to die at home.
A Friend For the Final Journey: I have wanted to write a letter about death for some time.
I was present at the death of my father, mother and beloved uncle — all of whom passed away in the last decade. It meant a great deal to me that none of these dear people died alone.
I remember their last words and their final breaths. I was privileged to be a part of their final journeys. The most difficult journeys I have ever undertaken with another person.
In each case, their deaths were good and they died without pain, having spent the weeks and months prior to their deaths in loving family environments where the quality of their lives was my top priority as I was a carer for my father and uncle.
I am deeply passionate about people having a good death, nothing is too much.
Death is the moment, when it comes, that extinguishes all the life we had and all the presence we had in the world. It ends our time here.
Whatever we think about what happens after, it is the finality of death that makes it such a profound moment in our lives — as big as the moment we were born.
We may say that death doesn’t frighten us, but my experience is that the closer it gets, the more we fear it. My father asked me: “Will you come with me?”
He wanted company on what he saw was the journey “on the other side” because he was a Catholic. I held his hand to the very end. I wish everyone had someone to hold their hand in their final moments.
We offer doulas to lone women during childbirth, we should seek to have similar people for those who sadly have nobody in their final days and hours.
Every hospital should have these people.
I’m passionate that the energy we put into taking care of those who are dying is as considered and professional as the energy we put into the care of those who are being born.
Death is something we need to discuss with our loved ones.
If babies can be born at home, then we need to have the confidence to allow people to die with dignity at home.
Just as families prepare for pregnancy and birth, we need to start to prepare for our deaths in the same way. Regular check-ups and scans during pregnancy should be replaced by regular chats as we reach the final years, months and weeks of our lives.
I personally think that more people should be enabled to die at home and more families should have the confidence, and the support, to enable that to happen if their loved ones have expressed that desire.
Recently, GPs have been told to open up the topic of death with some of their patients and not be afraid to ask what their patients’ wishes are — this is a very positive step.
I wish everyone a happy death. That sounds perverse, but it’s time to pay more respects to this huge, impending event in all our lives.