and I somehow tuned in. Prior to this, I had never
had any kind of psychic ability and I have not had
anything as extraordinary happen since.
The hardest part about dying for families is
that waiting period when they’ve intellectually
accepted that this loved one is going to die and
their dying lasts longer than what's comfortable.
I try to acknowledge how difficult that waiting
period is and explain to families that there's a lot
going on in the dying person’s head, even if they're
not able to talk.
I call it 'the negotiation' as in the negotiation stage.
That's based on something a hospice patient told
me. He would actually have a conversation with
someone I couldn't see, and then he would come
out of it, and tell me what was going on. He actually
used the word 'negotiating.'
We walked around the facility the day before he
died. He told me that it felt like he was going to get
into a spaceship. Then the night before he died, he
tried to sneak out of the facility with tennis shoes
on, his backpack over his shoulder.
This is what happens. The dying know they're
going somewhere. It’s as if waking life becomes a
metaphorical dream to the dying. I’ve seen people
in bed, apartment hunting the week that they die.
They know they're going but they don't know
where. I feel that their conscious mind doesn't know
that they're dying. But their subconscious knows.
Another patient was in her nineties, with dementia.
She ended up being in hospice for four years where
I was a volunteer. She got to this point where she
started to tell me things like, "We'll see each other
again." "I wonder what we’ll wear in heaven.” I
thought this was really cool. In her final week, her
daughter told me she was dying. I went to see her. I
wrote down, "God loves you." She read it, and then
she looked up at me and said, "God loves you too,
Elizabeth.” My jaw dropped because I didn't know
54 | ART OF DYING
she knew my name. She said, "That is your name
isn't it?” I was like, "Yes." I was crying.
If the patient expresses fear then they're close.
I would say they're within a week. Prior to that
fear death feels hypothetical. If I meet them for
the first time and they're expressing fear then
I feel that somehow they know that they're
going. But 99% of the time their fear is settled
before they go. You can see it on their face. I call
it the “angry elevens.” When they're sleeping
they have this furrowed brow, and they look
like they're talking to someone. Then their
brow relaxes. Then you know, ‘Okay they've
been through that negotiation. They're finally