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You'll never hear your last fart.

personal experience and musings

Photo of Glenn Welby
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As a Registered Nurse I have seen many dead people, I've held the hands of a few as they breathed their last.  Ive "laid out" many of them, for every person who I washed for the last time and dressed in a shroud everyone farted as they were rolled over to have the shroud put on, hence my title.  

Death is described in old Nursing methods as one of the activities of living..the last one.  I always found it profoundly moving and an honour to sit and listen to those who knew that they were just about to die.  Fear, peace, humour, solemnity were different reactions. 

What often struck me then, and strikes me now as my parents and parents in law age, is the challenge we all face in having the discussion.  How can we help people manage an inevitable fear of the unknown.  How can we manage our own fear of loss and the absence forever of the ones that are close.

My answer as a Nurse was always to enquire about the persons feelings to give space to them, to sit comfortably with silence and to try presence...remarkable in hindsight for a flighty unreconstructed 20 something.

What can we do as a society, as individuals to find the bravery to consider the fear and be present with it.  How can we ask our parents our loved ones what they want to happen, to begin the conversation early and practice bravery for when the time of death is close by.



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Photo of Morgan Meinel

Glenn, Thank you for this great contribution! As a fellow nurse, I share your sentiment on what a privilege it is to care for the dying. 

You shed light on many important aspects of this inevitable process and the challenges we face as a community. I especially love when you wrote "my answer as a nurse was always to enquire about the persons feelings to give space to them, to sit comfortably with silence and to try presence..." 

The thought of having a conversation surrounding illness and death and dying can be quite a daunting task, but it can start with offering supportive presence, giving our loved ones time and space to process and express their emotion, and letting them know they are not alone in this journey. We are all in this together! 

I have found this resource especially helpful on talking about death and making end-of-decisions: http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/dealing-with-a-loved-ones-serious-illness.htm

Thank you, again, for your thoughtful contribution! 

p.s. Fantastic title! :) 

Photo of Aaron Wong

Yes to your points and, Yes, Fantastic title! (definitely made me laugh).
I don't have a lot of experience with nursing, but your insight about space resonates with me as well.
I think that for personal and meaningful conversations to happen, we need to have intentional spaces to hear people out and to freely express ourselves. The simple act of listening and being present is often unrecognized and underappreciated but so important!

Photo of Morgan Meinel

Aaron, I absolutely agree! As you stated, the simple act of listening and being present is so tremendous and beneficial. As a healthcare provider, my initial instinct is always to offer verbal support and attempt to find some "fix" to each of my patients concerns. Most times, simply listening to them and holding their hand - reassuring them that they are not alone - is the most effective and helpful! Thanks again for contributing this :) 

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