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.