Guest Contributor – War Pig – Discussion on Death and Dying

Now scientists say you do know when you have died and your brain works for a short time after your heart stops beating. Most who have survived a death experience say they were not at all afraid. Perhaps this is a mercy given to us to ease the transition. That’s why I believe in hospice and palliative care. Humans don’t always die peacefully so I’m all for them dying on their own terms when they can.

My good friend’s brother had brain cancer. Very painful. But just before he died he entered a state of grace where the pain was gone and he could thank his sister for taking care of him in his final weeks at home instead of dying alone in a hospital bed.

My dear wife’s mother said the day that she died that her husband of many years was at the foot of the bed, beckoning her to go with him. He had been dead for four years by then.

My own mother said my father, who had been gone for 16 years, appeared before her in her room at the nursing home a week before she died. She said he was dressed in the clothes he wore as a plant supervisor at Rocketdyne during the moonshot program. That was when he was happiest. He had important work and he was in charge. She was also seeing cars from the 50s and 60s driving through her room that week before she passed. She wasn’t at all afraid. When she passed on, she was in a hospital room but in my daughter’s hospital with me, my brother, his family, my daughters and my grandson with her. She finally told the nurses to remove the PAP breathing machine. They told her if they did, she would die. She said that was already decided and it the mask was uncomfortable. So she passed on her own terms.

My wife passed when she took a nap with a headache. Died peacefully from an undiagnosed aneurysm.

I hope I am given the grace to go so peacefully as they.

5 thoughts on “Guest Contributor – War Pig – Discussion on Death and Dying

  • April 19, 2019 at 1:51 am

    Thanks for writing that.

    It’s amazing how when you know someone very important to you is dying the event slows down and illuminates the world around you so that even small things become very vivid and become burned in your memory. I remember almost forty years ago when my father was dying in a hospital and we held vigil at his side. That night there was a tremendous snow storm and looking out from the hospital window I could see lightning repeatedly striking the Empire State Building. I had never seen lightning in a snow storm before and it seemed so surreal. Living in New England now I have seen lightning during snow a number of times but at the time it looked like the Hand of God was supercharging the world with energy for some unknown purpose, maybe just to let me know he was there. But the death of a loved one is so visceral that for a short time it makes us more alive. Later it seems to drain away some of your own life. Probably the emotional strain.

  • April 19, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    Mom was a private person. She only had a graveside service for immediate family and one friend. She refused military honors which she had earned prior to the Korean War. So when she died and when she was laid to rest beside my sister, her daughter, it was just the same group who had been at her side in the hospital, plus the one friend. Her friend was/is the county sheriff, whom she had mentored as a youth in the CETA program. She was so proud of him when he went through the ranks until he was elected sheriff.

    I remember the graveside service was blessed by butterflies (she passed April 17th and was buried the 19th, today, 5 years ago). It was an unusually mild day for mid April, about 80 degrees, sunny and pleasant. Everywhere, on her casket, on her and my sister’s joint headstone, and on us were butterflies. Me and my brother remarked she must have sent them. She loved them so much and planted special flowers (and some milkweed for the Monarchs) to attract them to her house. Not just one or two species but many different butterflies.

    Yeah, the emotions kick in later, especially when you do as I did. I was thinking of something else when I slammed on the brakes as I passed her nursing home, thinking; “I haven’t been to see mom in two weeks!” Then realizing she had passed three weeks ago. Just a knee-jerk reaction. Good thing there wasn’t anyone behind me or I could have been rear-ended. Or when you see something or hear a song or something that reminds you of your loved one passed. I still won’t listen to “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers as that was my wife’s and my song. She’d play it whenever I got home from deployment or a mission. As you said, it’s the little things that can sneak up on you and slap you upside the head.

    • April 19, 2019 at 6:21 pm

      Easter is a good time to remember the departed.

  • June 15, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    I’m about halfway between being an agnostic and a deist and I have absolutely no idea what happens during and after death. I’m too limited by 10’s of orders of magnitude to understand the nature of anything.

    Something tells me not to get too worked up about it, so I don’t.

    • June 15, 2019 at 10:55 pm

      Even despite the range of opinion on death; from complete atheism to unwavering religious faith, people long to find meaning in their own lives and in the lives of the people important to them. The precursors of modern humans performed burial rituals that seemed connected to a belief in the after life. Without a doubt many people feel this is just a natural tendency left over from the connection that existed in life. What isn’t in doubt is that we are wired to mourn our dead and the feelings associated with the dearly departed are in many cases indelible and sometimes a great comfort to those left behind. And the sad thing about getting old is watching the ratio between the dead and the living increase and accelerate.

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