Sitting across from this beautiful patient, she tells me that it is time for her to take the medications that she obtained through the Death with Dignity process. Through many conversations during her time with hospice, I have gotten to know this patient really well, and without crossing boundaries, have grown to appreciate and love who she is. She has shared many very difficult things with me, has laughed with me, has inspired me, has taught me, and today is expressing her thankfulness for our time together.
“You have brought such sunshine to me every time you have visited. You are a light to me, and others around you. Don’t forget that”, she says through tears of thanks. “When it is your time to have your final journey, I will be there waiting for you.”
Whatever I believe about Death with Dignity, I can see how this person used the days and hours before her passing to see those she loved, have conversations with those she loved, share her thanks for those she loved, and live until she died. It’s actually a beautiful process to be a part of and I will take the lessons I learned through this process with me every day. This end of life process makes what seems to be the hard part, watching someone take their medications to end their life, easier in some ways. Knowing that someone was able to choose, to do the things they desired, and to have their ideal death is invaluable.
Working with all of my patients is an honor and they teach me things all of the time. This work we do is difficult but so powerful. Not everyone can sit with someone when they are dying, and when you are the one that can, it can take a toll. That’s why it is so important to take care of ourselves in sharing our stories, practicing self-care, and holding on to those lessons learned from our beautiful patients.