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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Dying can be a terribly lonely business. But it doesn't have to be that way

I'm not a huge fan of clerical collars. But when it comes to seeing people in hospital they do function as a handy "access all areas" backstage pass. That is the upside that helps when you tend to forget visiting times.
The downside is that once you arrive at the bedside, the poor person hooked up to the drip may experience your presence as not unlike a visit from the grim reaper. You can see the cogs whirring … is he here to give me the last rights? Blimey, I didn't think I was that ill. Or is he here to pray with me? And will the person in the next bed think I'm a religious nutter?
And yet if someone really is very ill and has been surrounded by well meaning friends reading their magazines and lying to them about them getting better, often the very thing a dying person wants is the presence of someone who will not back away from speaking about death, thus allowing them to express their fear.
Dying can be a terribly lonely business if all you ever experience is a wall of relentless optimism and the false hope of "it's all gonna be alright". Charting a course though all these complex social and existential pressures is a tricky business. The hardest thing of all is walking into the centre of someone's life, at a time of extreme vulnerability, without the shield of some predecided plan of action.
You can't do that because it's not all about you and your nervousness at the situation – it's about them. Which is why a lot of people decide not to go, excusing themselves with the justification that they do not want to disturb, be a nuisance etc. But the first rule of hospital visiting is simply to turn up. Read more...

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