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Waiting for Death: Lessons from Life
Timely Insights from a Difficult but Profound Experience
Defeating difficulties is a fundamental part of life. And inevitably, we’ll encounter curveballs. At times, death may intrude upon our lives. That’s my story this week.
(This was not my intended topic. But sometimes the subject of the season chooses you.)
As I sat in the hospital with my wife and her family, watching my mother-in-law slowly drift toward death this past week, I was reminded of the fragility of life. In these moments of waiting for death, we are forced to confront the reality that life is fleeting. And we must make time and space to connect with one another and not miss a moment of the days we have and the relationships we share.
The last few days have been difficult. But no matter the amount of foreshadowing, nothing can prepare you for the moment you realize the end is near. So as we gathered around her bed, holding her hand and offering words of comfort, we were acutely aware that we were in the presence of something profound and profoundly moving.
In these moments, we realize that life is short. And we must make the most of our time on earth. It is easy to get caught up in the minutiae of daily life, focus on our work and obligations, and forget the importance of connecting with those we love. But when faced with death’s intrusion, these distractions fade away, and the truth remains that relationships are what truly matter—it’s all about relationships.
As we waited for death to claim my dear, mother-in-law, Barb, we recalled important lessons about the value of connection and cherishing our time with one another. And we were reminded to make the most of every moment. Because they eventually vanish.
We were also reminded about the power of community and the importance of supporting one another through difficult times. In these moments of waiting, we are not alone. We are surrounded by others here to offer support and love and help us through difficult times. (Health care workers should never be discounted.)
So what can we do to form healthy habits and build closer bonds and relationships with the people we love most? Here are three action steps that everyone can take:
Set aside regular time for connection: Make a conscious effort to prioritize time with the people you love. Whether it’s a weekly family dinner or a monthly date with your partner, commit to spending quality time together.
Practice active listening: In a world where we are constantly bombarded with distractions, it’s essential to be fully present with the people we love. Practice active listening by giving your full attention to the person you’re with, asking questions, and engaging in the conversation.
Express your gratitude: Take time to express your appreciation for the people in your life. Whether it’s a simple thank you or a heartfelt note, expressing your appreciation can go a long way in strengthening your relationships.
In the end, waiting for death is a humbling experience. It reminds us of life’s preciousness, connection’s importance, and love’s power. It forces us to confront our mortality and recognize that our time is limited. But it also allows us to cherish our moments, make space for the people we love, and create a life of meaning and purpose.
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