When I am dying …

hand of patient in hospital bed touching hand of loved one

Agitating for change, offering glimpses of a vanishing Australia and documenting life ensures our 91-year-old columnist Peter Leith rarely has a moment to spare. In this column, he (typically) doesn’t mince words.

When I am dying … please do not sit by my bedside holding my hand. It will only upset you. 

If I am conscious, I will know why you are there and that will upset me as well as you. 

If I am unconscious, what useful purpose does your sitting there serve?  

You would be much better employed doing something useful, like walking the dogs or watering the garden … something to do with living things, a celebration of the fact that life does, and must, go on.

Long, long ago, I learnt to avoid unpleasant situations by going to sleep – if it is at all possible. That is the strategy I hope to use when I am dying.

When you think about it, dying is the only thing that all of us ever do entirely on our own. Why mess up our only solo starring role by trying to share it with someone else? 

We each should ‘hog the spotlight’ – revel in our one and only chance at a truly solo starring role.

The very idea that we might have deep and meaningful communications with those we love at their death bed is, in itself, a tragedy.

Could and should we not have tried a bit harder a bit more often, a bit sooner, to communicate with our loved ones?

There is a very old saying that used to be directed at children who did not eat all their dinner. It was … ‘eat what’s put before you and do not complain, you may not get the chance again’.

That phrase, you may not get the chance again, applies to many things in our lives.

Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to newsletters@yourlifechoices.com.au and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.

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Written by Peter Leith

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