Dealing With the Process of Dying in Hospice

The cancer in my liver is telling me, I think, that it’s almost time to go. I’m losing my appetite and have very little desire to eat. I don’t feel hungry, and I’m also slowly losing weight. How do I deal with all this?

Today was a low energy, low blood pressure, and almost no eating day, but thanks to God, the cancer pain has not hit me yet. I am wondering – has the end begun, or is my weight loss just a fluke due to much lower consumption of food? Well, the good news is, if I continue this weight loss, I will be able to get into my smaller-size outfits and prance through this facility with the aim of lovingly harassing my poor victims!

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Emotionally, I feel just a little sadness, though, and I am not sure why, because I also feel somewhat optimistic that my physical journey through this part of life is coming to its end. I am seeing the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. 

In hospice care, witnessing your own dying is a very interesting phenomenon. Everything is new, and it can actually be exciting, because I am learning to look back and see the long-term impact of every event in my life. I can see now that the events I originally perceived as positive or negative each represented a step on this long, high staircase called life. Each step taught me lessons I definitely needed to learn.

Yesterday, I gave some of the residents here in the long-term care facility my bimonthly talk – this one about forgiveness. For a long time, whether dealing with a client in my work as a psychotherapist or when giving talks to groups, I talked not only to them but also to myself about forgiveness – both forgiving others and forgiving yourself. I’ll admit that up until recently, I did not feel a hundred percent genuine in that process, although I did my best to be authentic. Yesterday, though, I felt fully authentic, because I had absolutely no resentment toward anyone, including myself. I felt I had forgiven everyone. What a wonderful feeling! What freedom! There was no one left that I thought I had to make peace with, including myself. Thank you, the most loving and the most forgiving Creator, for this beautiful gift of forgiveness at the end of my life on this plane of existence.

The Baha’i teachings ask us all to pray for forgiveness, not just for ourselves but for others. Abdu’l-Baha, in a talk he gave in Chicago in 1912, said:

Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy. Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness. The imperfect eye beholds imperfections. The eye that covers faults looks toward the Creator of souls. He created them, trains and provides for them, endows them with capacity and life, sight and hearing; therefore, they are the signs of His grandeur. You must love and be kind to everybody, care for the poor, protect the weak, heal the sick, teach and educate the ignorant.

However, many of us still struggle internally with forgiveness, with our momentary resentments toward people from the past. I talk to them in my mind, saying to them, ‘If you really meant that – whatever the nature of “that” might be – then you would have done what you did differently.’ But fortunately, I’m now trying my best to let those resentments go, immediately and forever. I don’t want to pass away with those resentments still simmering in my soul. My problem is, I thought I had already left many of those feelings of resentment completely behind. But obviously, this struggle may not go away until I enter into a different realm of existence, and can hopefully see beyond my own ego. 

All in all, though, I have a happy life now. I feel at peace. I have never felt so much love from others, and felt so much love for others. What a blessing!

But then, even after experiencing all those happy and peaceful feelings, I woke up yesterday in great anger. I have not been angry – or at least that angry – for a very long time, perhaps a couple of decades. The reason? For the past several months, my room at the assisted living center has become so cold that my teeth chatter or so hot that I feel like I’m suffocating. Up until now, this issue has not been addressed. I have also been experiencing progressively worsening itching that is difficult to control, and the dry heat is making it worse. So today, I approached the administrator here, who is a very considerate and loving person, with some applicable suggestions – and I’m hoping that before too long, this problem will be solved. Of course, after consulting about the issue with those in charge, I do not feel angry anymore.

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Maybe this was a small spiritual test for me. I hope that I will not fail again by falling into anger like I did yesterday. I must think harder and pray deeper to stay steadfast toward God.

Since I’ve elected to be in hospice care now – which the National Institute of Health defines as “care that focuses on the comfort and quality of life of a person with a serious illness approaching the end of life” – I no longer see most of my medical specialists. The only ones I’m keeping right now are the dentist and the ophthalmologist – the dentist to prevent infection of my teeth and gums, and the ophthalmologist because I cannot handle blindness. So, the number of my doctors’ visits has decreased significantly, which makes me happy, free of the many useless blood tests, since whatever the result, it will make no real difference in the outcome.

So I’m staying active even if I do have less energy, although it’s still sufficient to lovingly harass everybody here. In this facility lately, especially during the holidays, we’ve enjoyed lots of festive activities and gift-giving to us, the inmates (LOL). We’ve had caroling, special meals, and happy times. I’m glad that I can participate in some of the activities, such as when Santa and his Elves came to my room to cheer me up and take pictures. Everyone who works in this place does their best, it seems, to keep us happy. God bless them – they are special people. 

I feel so glad to be here and be cared for by so many loving people. I am so happy that I can truly love so many people and apply the Baha’i teachings about forgiveness to everyone. My heart shrinks when I regress momentarily to my old critical and angry self and expands when I feel so much love to and from the people here.

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