Thursday, 18 December 2014

On Death

Back in October Barbara Winter tended to Corporal Nathan Cirillo as he lay dying after the Ottawa terrorist attack.  'You are loved, your family loves you.  You are a good man.' she told him. After looking for a wedding ring and finding none she went on, 'Your family loves you.  Your parents are so proud of you.  Your military family loves you. All the people here, we're working so hard for you.  Everybody loves you.'

'When you are dying, you need to be told how loved you are.' she told the TV cameras.

My friend was admitted into hospital as an emergency last week.  There was an old lady in the bed next door dying alone.  Staff popped in and out now and then.  But there was no-one to remind her that she was loved. How often is this happening?  It shouldn't be even once.


  1. It happened to my uncle. I promised to be with him as I had been with both my parents, but I couldn't in the end as hospital visits would have comprised my daughter's pre- and post-operative heart surgery. He was a widower with no children. To make it worse my eldest cousin arranged his funeral (15 minutes - tragic) without consulting anyone and his ashes were not buried with his wife but scattered with no name marker. Despite his quirks I had some affection for him (but my cousins disliked him I think).
    Unfortunately not all people are loved and sometimes there are reasons for this.
    My husband wouldn't visit his dying sister because of their history and left his mother's (hospital trolley) bedside earlier this year without saying any loving words despite the fact she was a kind and loving mother.
    Perhaps the lady in your friends story was surrounded by love from another place. Let's hope so.

  2. This is one of the things that has haunted me in the almost 20 years since my Dad's death; that and the thought of him being put into a fridge and then a post-mortem being performed on him. He wasn't alone physically; a team of people were working hard to save him, but CPR, electric shocks and drugs being adminstered are violent, even though they were part of the efforts made to save him.I doubt very much that anyone had the time to speak any words of comfort, even if they were inclined to, so in my mind, he was alone. A different scenario to that you have described, but painful to deal with, even after all these years.

  3. As Susan says, perhaps the lady was surrounded with love from another place, but that doesn't excuse a society that writes off elderly people as useless and cuts NHS staff so they have no time for anything other than medical care. Having no children, it made me think...

  4. Thank you for this, LG. I know a lot of people feel guilt for not being present at the dying moment or not saying the right things. All the more reason to say them now.

  5. I'm a nurse. No patient dies alone in my hospital.

    If you have a patient who is actively dying, your workload is changed. If there is no family or friends to call to come to their bedside, you stay with the patient until he is taken to the morgue, then and only then is he left.

    I remember calling one patient's best friend to come and sit with her. The friend hadn't expected the call because she wasn't listed as next of kin (the nearest blood relative was 350 miles away). The friend was extremely happy(poor choice of word, I know) but it turned out they had come to Canada together after WW2. The lady dying had never married and sponsored various relatives to move over as well. The friend had married, had children and my patient was regarded as their Auntie.

    She had a good death.

    1. I was extraordinarily shocked this happened in a British hospital. So reassured to hear it doesn't happen in yours so might not be common practice.

  6. Thanks for all your thought provoking comments on this x

  7. What a very moving post this is, thought ptovoking too. I am off now, to ponder about my end.

  8. Good post Lovely Greyx