When to breathe your last breath

If you ask anyone who works with those at the end of their lives whether people can choose when to die you may get some interesting answers.  There will always be a  tale of how someone made a herculean effort to hold on for a family member, willing themselves to hold before quietly passing away after they arrive.  But you will also be told of the family who conducted a continuous vigil around  an elderly person’s bed only to find that the only time there was a gap because someone popped to the toilet or to grab a cup of coffee, the patient died. Both types of stories seem to say that we do have some control. Or could it be all coincidental?

Dr Toby Campbell is reported to have said that “patients tend not to have a lot of control at the very end of their lives.  But that doesn’t mean they don’t have any”. Some will want to have that special someone there whilst others may want to spare their loved ones the pain of seeing them breath their last.

When I thought about this I thought that at this moment in time, with death not lurking in the shadows, I’d be like that mythical elephant who wonders away from the herd to die alone.  I feel like I’d want to be at peace and able to go when I’m ready.  Much as I’d love my last sight to be that of my beloved family I feel that I’d be distressed at the pain of leaving them and saddened at their stricken faces. Better to say goodbye and embark on my last big adventure alone.

“Dying is a wild night and a new road.”

-Emily Dickinson


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