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The Gift of a Good Death

How would you like to pass? Have you asked yourself that question? Have you really given it thought, what will be my course and how will I succumb? As all of us are on this path of mortality, such questions warrant some thought; especially, as we have greater control over our decline than we think.

We can certainly make choices which accelerate or ameliorate our decline. We can continue to make choices which increase or minimize our morbidity. These are choices which can directly impact our course. And, also, in starting to give real thought to our mortality, we can begin to support hospice more.

Most of us know very little about hospice. We think about it as a place to go to die, and our thought about it ends there. If dying does not impact us directly, if we are not currently consumed with fighting for our, or our loved ones’ lives, why should we pay it any heed? We don’t realize in our fearful desire to distance ourselves as much as possible from mortality, that - as John Donne so eloquently said - no man is an island, that we should not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for us. Everyone’s mortality is our mortality, and wanting a good death for all will help us individually have a better death.

Indeed, we should be thinking about our own mortality, and how we would want to pass, in order to give more thought to supporting hospice. The ideal hospice experience, one where the patient and family are buoyed unconditionally with incredible medical knowledge and experience, with compassion, and with dignity, is still amazingly hard to come by in much of the world, including the United States. Most people in this world still pass away with very little support, very little active management, very little peace. Good hospice, then, the embodiment of good management of dying, is actually a gift.

I hope we will come to view a good death as a gift. We may struggle to associate ourselves with others’ mortality, truly empathize with the experience of decline until we face it ourselves, but we should try. Because in understanding that so few still in this world benefit from hospice, and a quality experience at that, if we desire the gift of a good death for ourselves, we should work to change the status quo.

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