Nowadays, modern medicine expands the human lifespan in such a way that the ordinary time of a human is longer today than it ever has before. These changes have happened alongside the growth and the expansion of the world. The modern response to aging and dying around the globe is usually humane and dignified, however, as Atul Gawande says in his book Being Mortal, “what is a life worth without a sense of purpose?”
Gawande shares the dark picture of death and in such a case that illness comes along that you know will end your life on earth, what decisions should be made? How will you watch the time pass until there is none left? How would you and I act if we held the knowledge of when our lives end, would we live out our last moments or watch the clock tick by?
In a world where death was once precipitous, today it is more protracted.
In a case like my own, the knowledge of my brain tumor is a disease I know will end my life and is what limits my time left.
Communicating death has always been a problem.
When a patient like myself has a life-threatening disease we tend to focus on how we can beat the odds but according to Gawande, “hope is not a plan” and the discussion of death is necessary to give patients the most comfortable passing possible.
Personally, I believe being with the people that not only I love the most but those who love me is extremely important and possibly one of the greatest ways to spend your last moments.
Just as Gwande’s grandfather was supported by his own friends and family, that is one priority I would have before my passing. If possible I would make the health care decision to have myself moved to my home, at the end of the timeline or not, so the people I love would be around me in a comfortable place for my last breath.
In my situation where this certain illness is one where I have to accept my fate, being around family and friends, saying goodbyes and giving farewells may sound like a painful passing but how we seek to spend our time in our final hours will ultimately be dependent on how much time we discern ourselves to have.
A lot of readers when imagining their final moments think, “I want to spend the last of my time traveling the world” but that isn’t always possible. Being a big explorer myself another wish to spend at the end of my life would be to take myself outdoors, alone.
In a case like mine where a disease may keep one from hiking or climbing or running, sitting outside and appreciating what my life has turned out to be, giving grace for the opportunities I’ve been given, and loving every memory is another way that I can not only say goodbye to the beautiful world that brought me a beautiful life but to also say goodbye to what was a great story.
“Life is meaningful because it is a story” according to Gawande and every story has a sense of the whole, significant moments, pleasure and pain, and a seemingly happy human existence. Death is difficult to grasp but when it comes time for each and every one of us, and the gift of life is staring us in the face, rather it is a happy or empty one, “we all have purposes larger than ourselves.”
Guwande shares multiple times throughout Being Mortal that life is greater than each and every one of us and my final priority for my remaining time was not one until reading his book. A wish I have now that I did not grasp before is one that takes place only after I have left this world. After my passing, I wish I have all my belongings, aside from sentimental items and anything that my loved ones don’t wish to keep, to be donated to charity. It is only a hope that my possessions can bless those who are in need.
Through the right health care decisions, I can leave this wish to those who I trust the most, rather they are family members or the nurses that have treated me throughout my time-fighting. As I come to the end of my life, it is my wish that my belongings can now be a blessing in someone else’s. As Gawande states, ” you may not control life’s circumstances, but getting to be the author of your life means getting to control what you do with them.” I’ve always loved serving, and if there is a possibility to continue even after my soul is gone, there’s a happy ending.
Many people consider what they would do when their life comes to an end and its not a realization until it comes time. My priorities in my last moments are to spend my last days next to those I love, have some time to myself outdoors, and that when I am gone my possessions will be donated. The only way death is not meaningless is to see yourself as apart of something that is greater and in the end, we each have created a story filled with peaks of joy and valleys of misery, but each story has an end.