Yesterday I spent a fair amount of time at the hospital, sitting at the bedside of a 92 year old friend from church. I left her at 8 PM and she died peacefully three hours later. I left her knowing that she might die, but I also believe that I left her knowing that she was not alone.
This has me pondering solitude and the dying process. Common wisdom tell us that people do not want to die alone. Or is it that we, the living, have decided that is so? The answer is yes and no. We can’t control when a person dies, nor if we will be with them when they take that final exhale. We don’t know what they really want, nor very likely do they. At best, we can follow our intuition and offer them the comfort that they are not alone.
When my friend was alert she told me how comforted she was that I had come—how our conversations helped her. I believe that that reassurance continued as I sat with her when she wasn’t alert (we are told that the hearing is ‘last to go’). She knew I was there; she was not alone.
I’ll never know for sure, but I have faith that I am on the right track about this. As someone who likes solitude, I’d like someone to accompany me when I’m dying. Not every minute, but I don’t want to feel alone, and a part of that has to do with physical presence.