Have you noticed in recent months that everyone passes on?
We don’t die. We pass on.
Sometimes you pass away, but the fad is now that you pass on.
This is my hobby horse today.
I ride it roughly, curse it, kick it, but it just trots on calmly. Where to, I ask?
And more to the point, where do we pass on to?
If you pass away, at least it means you are gone. Don’t know here. But gone. With a sense of never returning. Of finality.
But passing on seems more active, more positive, as if there really is somewhere you’re going.
Now, we don’t really talk about what may be beyond death. Nor about the actual act of dying.
If you really truly believe we go to Heaven, whatever that is, then yes you pass on. But make no mistake…you die first.
If you don’t know what you expect, or if you expect oblovion, then…you die.
If you pass away, you imply a soul that moves out of your body, away. Don’t know where. But it disappears. Or just dissolves, disintegrates. Like life itself.
If you die you cease. Your body stops working. Your brain stops working. You are…no more.
And, my hobbyhorse tells me, if we call it anything other than dying we are hiding from death.
One of the six elements of the dementia model is “dying well”. That might give you pause for thought.
I think this means being prepared in your mind, and free of pain in your body. I don’t think anyone is ever free of the pain of memories, and regrets.
I think dying well means dying in a place where you feel at home. With loved people, loved animals and loved things around you.
I’d like to die in a wood. Preferably in spring or summer. Preferably during the dawn chorus.
But when I am dead, I don’t actually matter. It’s those still living that have feelings and practicalities to deal with. And we need to have talked about these before it happens. We need to understand what each of is needs when the time approaches.
If we ignore death because it is uncomfortable and unknown we create bad deaths.
Those we love will not know and respect our wishes. Nor will they know or understand their own.
If dying well is to mean anything we should all have prepared for death.
Spiritually and practically and emotionally.
“Dying well” in any strategy or model for dementia should include trigger points which encourage people to talk about death. Health and care staff should regularly open the subject, and when you are ready to talk you will. But probably sooner than if death is ignored and hidden away.
Faith helps a few, but most of us either choose not to believe or do not know whether to believe, in another world or a higher being, life after death or hell.
Me, I think that there is either nothing at all, or it will be good. Why would you have a loving god who sentences you to eternal damnation?
But that is the future…or not. What matters is living now – and being prepared for dying.
So let’s embrace life. Let’s s take risks. Let’s have joy.
And lets embrace the only certainty in life…that we will die.