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Medi(c/t)ating with Morrie

Updated: May 22, 2022

Reflections on end of life and detachment



Here's the thing. I thought the next or rather my first blog would be something upbeat but...I've just finished reading Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I can't quite shake Morrie off. Naturally, I thought I'd write about it. That and I made a vow to myself to be authentic, honest and faithful. This for me means, the first audience has to be me. Otherwise, this whole space feels inauthentic...written in a 'voice' that is not mine and with words that don't reflect who I am. So here goes....Let's Medi(c/t)ate with Morrie.


An extract from Tuesdays with Morrie

“And this is where detachment comes in. If I die in the middle of a coughing spell like I just had, I need to be able to detach from the horror, I need to say, ‘This is my moment.’ “I don’t want to leave the world in a state of fright. I want to know what’s happening, accept it, get to a peaceful place, and let go. Do you understand?”



Mortality. We all have to face it at some point.

Now that I‘m young, I'd like to think (...or rather NOT think at all) ... about what the end may look like for me. When (not if) the time comes, I hope it shall we quick, painless, peaceful, surrounded by family and of course as a Catholic, I'll have had the Sacraments of Confession and the Last Rights. Yet… like most people, I know not the time, place, mode or mechanism.


Assuming for a second the worst… I prefer Morrie’s approach, which is to try and detach from the moment. Let's establish that as far as I'm aware, I'm not dying. I'm not ready...not that being ready has anything to do with it.

Life happens. Life happens to all of us. Like Morrie, I don't want to leave this world in a state of fright. I want to walk out of my life with dignity... full of Joy, Love and perhaps even a small dose of humour. Thus, it is not surprising that Morrie's way appeals to me. Recognise, accept, DETACH and step into Joy.


'Recognise, Accept, Detach, Step into Joy'.

This brings me to my next question. Is it possible??? Is it possible to find Joy... in those last days, hours, minutes or moments despite the unique circumstances for each soul. Is it possible for each (or any) soul to detach from the circumstances and look beyond the moment? My personal experience of looking after patients (and their loved ones) approaching the end of life suggests that it is not impossible.


Lessons from a patient approaching the end of life

Morrie brings to mind a patient of mine who was dying. The last chapters of their life were dragged out and filled with more complications one body should have to handle. During one of their last admissions into hospital, I had the task of informing this particular patient's family that their loved had deteriorated. Things were not good and they needed to come in. They made their way to hospital, as had become the norm after such phone conversations. When the family arrived, they were ushered into the bed space. There lie the patient with every bit of medical equipment attached to their body…. heaving away, which was no mean feat given the critical illness.


Me...silent in room, trying to straddle that fine balance between being ‘visible’ as a source of support for the patient AND their family while being ‘invisible’ because this Sacred space and moment belongs exclusively to the family.

The partner turned to me and said one the most profound things I’ve ever heard ~ Death is not a crisis ~.

A minutes later the patient opened their eyes and with a serene smile added '...No it’s not. Death is not a crisis. But I wanted to see your beautiful faces', drawing an uncomfortable chuckle from everyone in room. This moment changed the tone of the room and of those last days. Having calmly taken in the unusually serene room (all the more remarkable due to the constant whirring and beeping of various medical equipment), the patient slipped into yet another series of complications. This turned out to be the last admission. They succumbed several weeks later.

....death is not a crisis...


Death is not a crisis (contextual of course). This phrase has stayed with me since then. Experiencing Morrie as he approached his end of life, brings all my patients and their families (and my own) to mind. As a HCP, a doctor, I have enough insight and unfortunate experience to know that sometimes life happens. Even with the very best medical, nursing care, all the resources available and the best will in world, people die. Sometimes we have little or no control of the unique circumstances. In those moments, I believe... I have to believe that it is possible to step into Joy on the way out. After all, I have the example of some of my patients. It is possible to die with dignity and Joy. To do that, we must Recognise, Accept, Detach and then Step into Joy.


On a more personal note, if by chance there's family, the Sacraments (the Catholic thing again for me), humour and perhaps a bit of sunshine, then I shall be even more Joyful.

 

I'll leave this here for now.

We need to talk about

How to Practice the Subtle Art of Detachment in day to day life

and it's benefits (not just at the end of life).

 

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