Dr. Kathryn Mannix – entertained a packed and attentive audience. She was talking about her book ‘With the end in Mind’. This can be bought from Amazon see…
No gloom, and no doom. Particularly as the subject was about an unmentionable word. No! Not the three letter SEX. Do I dare mention it here? Which reminds me there are two things I tell my friends…
“We all must pay tax and at some point after we are born we die – both are inevitable”
Sadly, I nearly missed this event as I spotted it in the programme at the last minute. But more seriously while travelling I had a little doze on the bus. I awoke to see the West End of Edinburgh depart from my eyes. I hurriedly pressed the bell and left the bus at Princes Street. An additional 5 minute walk to the Book Festival. Making me even later to collect my desired ticket for the event.
Falling asleep in the afternoon. Just like my grandmother! She started doing so for a hour, then two, and over time to eight. All sleeping in this case after mid-day. I always wondered did Gran sleep at night? I am assured she did as her night time snores were loud and clear. Therefore something else must be happening.
She was dying and was experiencing the death process. Something we no longer talk about. For some reason it is taboo!
As Kathryn so eloquently put it… “A hundred years ago we would be talking about Pomp and splendour of death”. Now we worry about chatting to anyone that has lost a loved one.
The author explained that there are rituals that surround birth and death. There was a time that women in the community acted as a centre of health wisdom. Giving advice, about birth and death, and anything in-between.
However, these days we happily talk about life, sex, birth and all it entails. We understand all of this and any associated rituals and the pain a woman suffers during the birth of a child. Yet many come back for more.
But death, the normal process is not as understood by our society.
When we start to die we notice that we have less energy, we can’t do things as we used to. It might not be so easy to breathe and we sleep longer/more frequently and at times become unconscious
It is important that there is somewhere in the sequence of events that someone needs to explain the natural process of dying. That is what her book ‘With the end in Mind’ is all about. It describes the end of life experience for people in a hospice. Each individual experience interspersed with a ‘homework break’ for the reader.
The author explained that Natural Death is not painful, it is an opposite and a complete contrast to the pain endured at the end of pregnancy, that is the birth process. I must say not everyone experiences a natural death and people are not aways forewarned.
This needs to be understood by the person in the hours, days, weeks, months or years before they die. If explained It gives an opportunity for the dying person to see how they can help their intimate and closest friends, family, and their tribe. That is to cope with their loss after they have gone.
For those dealing with Palliative Care they need to know who and what the person is – that is not only their own personality but their family, their tribe, village and relationships.
By the end of the book people should be familiar with the process. In that book there are many stories told but here is one very emotional story…
It is of a Senior Male Doctor explaining the process to Sibien in a nursing home. Kathryn went along to join the senior doctor.
He explained the process to…
Sabien. She is a Wonderful women, a French Women with a fantastic French accent. She was in the resistance movement. Married to her husband that was parachuted into France. He died as a hero. But she had bowel cancer. The pain was going to be terrible. Her religious belief was such that if she was not brave she might not be in the same part of heaven as her beloved. That is her very brave husband.
Sabien adored the very bones of the male Doctor. Her eyes lit and face shone as the Doctor started to tell Sabien about dying.
“I hear that you have some worries about dying. Would it be helpful if I could describe it?
“You may notice that you are weaker and you need more sleep”
“Can I describe it you?”
“You become more weary as time goes by. Your stay awake period is less. Some of the time you will sleep but others you will be unconscious”
Kathryn thought “He is not going to tell her all the details is he?”
The doctor continued…
“The periods of sleep and unconsciousness become longer”
“Eventually your breathing will slow”
“Towards the end you will Snore. Your breathing will be shallow – your breath will gently slow and stop”
“No pain – just a gentle close.”
She held his hand. She was relaxed. Her eyes glowed with a peace.
Then Kathryn said…
“I will always remember his words. For some reason my cheeks were wet”
“We need to tell everyone about the process of death.”
“Currently in acting, on TV, films etc – dying is about as interesting as watching paint dry and is not included as part of the story. Normally the scene is set of a person starting to die and it suddenly switches to the funeral. The death scene omitted as that all important Drama is needed”
The event continued with more discussion and a question and answer session. The applause at the end was rapturous and the tears from the audiences eyes were mopped by an army of paper tissues.
(Editorial note that may help directors of Soap Operas) There has been the occasional death bed story, – and I have seen it done well. I am a fan of Handel – the drama I watched was a death bed scene that covered about 1.5 hours. It was a reflection of Handel’s life. The programme “God Rot Tunbridge Wells”.