Closure at the end of life
Working hard at a peaceful passing
There are many positive aspects of being the last one, in a family, to reach the end of life. The positive aspects are primarily focused around financial and material issues. The negative aspects are those of social and personal characteristics of aging. The negative issues are in many instances more difficult to circumnavigate than the positive.
When we reach a point in our life that requires little or no choice as to the distribution of personal effects, this creates a lifting of the burden. We no longer need to worry about who gets what, who will treasure a bit of family history or who will be hurt and possibly angry at the distribution of items. At this point we are the one distributing and the choice is ours. We can decide to ask for an individual to liquidate all assets and pay out the proceeds to a charity or individual we deem to have the proceeds of the liquidation or we can simply give the power of distribution to an individual with no strings attached as to what will happen to the proceeds.
The social aspects held so close to our heart can be the most debilitating. Yes debilitating – people look for closure and peace when orchestrating the last weeks, days and hours of their life. If we have not been able to find closure and comfort in this period of time, (it is a difficult time indeed), chances are that a closure will not be reached. I have sat with people who have reach the last day, hour or minute and one thing which is key at this time is having reached closure. If we have resolved all questions, concerns and pressures in our life, we will have a peaceful passing. If we are still trying to resolve a problem, which maybe known only to us, our time is spent trying to facilitate this closure. I was sitting with a gentleman who was at the end of his life. He appeared to have no family and no assets; he had lived in a skilled nursing facility for many years and was medically very old (in other words his body was wearing out, organs failing and on). He had spent the last two weeks giving away every item he owned. One thing was very clear and that was something was bothering him a great deal. As we sat discussing his life and putting a bow around the package, he told me that in his young adult life, he and a young woman had a child. He had not seen or spoken to this person in over 50 years. And at this point he only wanted to say ‘good-bye’. We did not have time to locate this person and the gentleman was certain the adult child would not visit even if he knew of current situation (the passing of the gentlemen I was sitting with). The gentleman was struggling with leaving such an open-ended cesium.
There are many different ways to reach closure. And since sometimes it is impossible to bring all players to the table for closure, we can facilitate a closure of sorts. Above and beyond closure which involves all parties coming to a meeting of emotion and values is certainly the best and most concrete. There are times this is just not possible. Perhaps the two parties are reluctant to come together; perhaps the pain is too great and perhaps the closure cannot be remedy because of the lack of information regarding the whereabouts of both parties. Those of us working with individuals who are near death and dying, finding this closure is so substantial we must help when we can. Without closure no amount of Morphine will reduce the pain, no amount of clergy anointing the body will help the person to be comfortable, no amount of relatives will ever allow this person the peace necessary to pass in a calm and peaceful manner.
We in this field must help the person passing to have closure with all early bonds. And this can be as simple and carefree or as elaborate and involved as possible. I believe that simplicity is the answer, there has been a time in my life when elaborate was the flavor of the week. What we must remember (and this is vital) the person seeking the peace is where all emphasis must be. It does not matter what has taken place in the past for this person or what egregious wrongs this person has perpetrated, if this person is unable to seek peace. It is not our duty or place to judge, it is our place to make this passing as simple as possible.
The gentleman I spoke of earlier in this article was never able to meet or ask forgiveness from his adult child. What we were able to do was a small ritual of letting go of the guilt. This is not a ritual of absolution it is simply a small amount of time close to the end of life, when a person is able to own up the wrongs and shunning they have perpetrated. The gentleman was able to give this terrible discontent through the help of a clergy and quickly move on from this life.
Please do not misunderstand; this is not our earthly forgiveness of wrongs that are of the most egregious. This is the admitting of wrongs that have been perpetrated and never made right. All of us have done things that we are not proud of and all of us have moved from one station of life into another without setting a record straight. Very probably the largest of our missed steps are where family and friends are concerned. Those of us working in this field are not here to sit in judgment rather we are here to help the person be as comfortable as possible.