Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Poems from beyond the grave

Extraordinarily moving to find this piece

one of the last poems written by an African poet, Kofi Awoonors, killed in the Westgate Centre in Nairobi.

Who knows when death will come for us?

Sometimes we have an inkling.

Sometimes we just write of what is sure to come

one day.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Emereging template for a good death: baby boomers want to change the way we die.

The emerging template for a good death isn’t all about choosing your moment, though that is the biggest part of what is changing. And much of what makes a good death today has long been the case. Here are the key aspects of a good death:
  • Control of the process You want to make decisions around all aspects of your illness and be certain that your wishes will be followed even if you are unable to see to it yourself. “People want more control in the months and days leading up to dying,” says Megory Anderson, founder and director of Sacred Dying Foundation. “They have clear ideas of where they want to die, who is with them, and what medical intervention is used.”
  • Open Communication You can’t be in control if you aren’t getting an honest and coordinated discussion among doctors, patient, and family. This should include frank talk about chances of recovery and burdens of treatment on the patient and family.
  • Broad support You want to know the medical staff will stay to the end; that your family is on board, finances are not the deciding factor, and that professionals will help you prepare emotionally. In The Good Death: The New American Search to Reshape the End of Life, author Marilyn Webb writes: “There is recognition of the need for family strength, an understanding that the good or bad legacy this death creates will endure in family lore.”
  • Spirituality Many look to their religious traditions during the dying process. But spirituality encompasses much more than faith and traditions. It’s about creating a peaceful and comforting environment that may incorporate prayer, meditation, music, and candles. This is highly personalized and may provide the kind of signature departure that many boomers demand.
  • Minimal suffering Today’s powerful medications make it possible to relieve physical pain while remaining lucid longer. But mental suffering can be acute too, and one way to relieve it is by placing limitations on treatments early in the process and clearly delineating what measures are to be taken to keep you alive. “More end-of-life-care clinicians are coming to the understanding that aggressive treatment doesn’t universally deliver better quality or quantity of life, and isn’t always in the best interest or reflect the wishes of patients,” says Colleen Wadden, director of external communication for Providence Health & Services.
  • Meaning Boomers have always sought a better way. They want to feel their dying experience is just right for them. This is what drives the hospice care movement, where terminally ill people get the care they need to live long enough and with minimal pain to go out on their own terms. “Death is seldom good, desired or welcome,” says Dr. John Shuster, chief medical officer at Alive Hospice in Nashville, Tenn. “The task is to help patients and families bear what may seem unbearable, to work toward relief of as much physical, emotional, and spiritual distress as possible, and to enable patients to live well during this precious and important time with as much meaning and dignity as possible.”
  • Closure Unsettled affairs make death more difficult. You want to use your final days to make sure loved ones are cared for as best you can, mend fences, and leave memories. “Baby boomers build and preserve meaning through narrative, and the telling and sharing of important stories,” says Shuster. “This is healing for all ages. Celebrating and focusing on important relationships adds meaning to life, especially in the setting of a life-limiting illness. An advanced illness can be the stimulus to heal important broken relationships.”

Read more:

Sunday, 14 April 2013


      (i.m. Elizabeth McFarland)
It must be easier if one believes
The soul's immortal, and survives someplace,
Say in Heaven, where it keeps its face
And to such singularity each cleaves,
Or, as in childhood, when I used to think
That souls were points of light in the Milky Way,
Casting their sight on us, as though to say
Between two worlds there's but a casual link,
And whenever someone died a brand new star
Would suddenly appear in the distant sky;
There'd be no dissolution, then, to die,
Existing ever, a grain of light, afar—
But you and I, free of such superstition,
Lived and loved each other with each breath,
And now I know the love that transcends death,
Keeping you in memory's inner vision,
But where is personhood when one is gone?
As body is reclaimed by earth, or flame,
Does Death's sharp saber-tooth exempt a name
So those who loved you feel you linger on?
You, when young, dreamed you'd become a tree,
Where words gathered among your blossoming
Branches, bickered, birdlike. You made them sing,
As now, in verse alive with bel esprit
Don't fade into your photos ... for you lift
My spirits, those of friends, and of all who feel
The joy, the wit, the passion your lines reveal,
So like your love, an imperishable gift.

I really like this one
Simple and thought provoking as I see pictures of Gill change on my screen