Just over 18 months ago my father died. I was fortunate that I was able to spend time with his in his last few months and we were able to talk, not just about his illness and what he wanted at the end, or didn’t want to be more accurate, but about memories, both good and bad, times spent together and apart. Some things he said didn’t make too much sense at the time, but now I can see and understand what he was trying to say to me.
In his last few weeks I would sit beside his bed, and talk. I’m not sure he heard me, or if he did was able to understand but my presence seemed to calm his somewhat. In his last few days he seemed to become more agitated and while I wouldn’t say distressed certainly confused about where, or indeed who, he was.
This wasn’t a simple not knowing that he was in a hospice, or exhibiting the memory loss associated with dementia. No this seemed to be something more than that. Almost as if the world he was experiencing was very very different to the one we live in and he was struggling to make sense of it. Struggling to adapt to the new environment where all the learnt skills and expectations were of no use.
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This is a personal subject, having very recently experienced both the provision of End of Life care to my Father and his eventual death.
Death and dying are, in most western societies at least, something of a taboo subject. Difficult to think about and even more difficult to talk about, We tend I feel to leave this difficult task to the health care professionals.
But the we all have a responsibility to help shape the care that people get during their final weeks and months, and to do that we need to talk about what our expectations for such care are and what informs our views.
Religion of course, dealing with death and what comes after as it does, acts to form the basis of many decisions on what sort of care is appropriate, but this usually means that the decisions are based around the ethics and ethos of Christianity in large part. This is not to suggest that Christianity has it all wrong, but I do feel it is about time the Pagan voice was heard in these discussions and Pagan ethics and ethos fed into the process.
So to this end I would like to start the dialog by bringing together some of my thoughts on what a pagan approach to End of life Care might look like.
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Nobody likes talking about death, it’s one of the last taboos but there comes a time when we need to talk about death and dying either to a family member or to ourselves, after being told we only have so much time left!
This was brought home to me recently on a personal level, suddenly needing to think about death in a personal rather than abstract way and finding that being Pagan made the coming to terms with and talking about End of Life even more difficult.
In our, at least nominally, Christian society there are quite a few concepts and words to express thoughts, ideas and concepts in the task of helping others, or yourself, to come to terms with the idea of dying and what, if anything, comes after. The thought of a ‘loving’ God that even in this time of struggle is working out his plan and caring for you, the thought of an afterlife in heaven, possibly reunited with others or simply comforting words from the Bible, or holy book of your choice if you are not Christian.
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