Older people say , " So let me get this straight . When I die my body is going to stay right here , and my husband will be able to see me , right ?" And I say , " Yes ." " Well , that feels comforting . Yes . I like that idea . Okay . And how long am I going to be here ?" And I say , " You ' ll be here for two or three days ," and they go , " I can probably see myself , can ' t I , after I ' m dead ?" And I say , " Probably . I don ' t know for sure . But , I believe so .” And this smile comes on their face . They ' ve got a little bit more control now . They know what ' s going to happen because they know that they ' re still going to be hovering around their beloved home , instead of looking at their body in a refrigerator somewhere . They ' ll see their body looking beautiful and they ' ll be able to come up close and say , " Wow . My body is dead ." ( laughs ). And , " There ' s my husband ." And , " I can put my arm around him ."
My biggest teacher last year was a man who did chemotherapy . He drank a spoonful of chemotherapy the day that he died . He was in his late 40s , and the most incredibly conscious man . He was at home with his wife and two kids . He said , " Olivia , if the doctor presents me with this possibility of chemotherapy , even though I can feel every day my body is declining , and I ' m probably going to die , who am I to say no thank you to that ? If that ' s crossing my field , I ' m just going to say thank you . I don ' t bank on it working . I don ' t even hope that it works .”
To say no to it didn ' t feel right to him . But he never leaned upon hope . This man held recovery as a possibility , as just as strong a possibility as he was going to die , neither one had more weight . He didn ' t say , " Oh , I hope this is going to work . Oh , my God . I hope this is going to work ." He wasn ' t attached to it working or not because he was just as willing to hold the possibility that he was dying . It really didn ' t matter to him one way or the other .
He had promised his 11 year-old son , " I ' m going to do everything possible to stay here with you ." And that was important to him . And I think that actually helped him to say yes to the possibility factor of the chemotherapy because it validated to his son , " I ' ll do anything . I promise you that . I can ' t promise you it ' ll work . I can ' t promise you that I ' ll live ." And I think that was a gift to his son . His son then knew there was no blame .
It could never be , " Oh , my dad gave up . He didn ' t try . He was going through this new age stuff ." His father did everything he could , as he promised , with a smile on his face and acute consciousness .
He was such a powerful teacher to me . They all are .
Every person is completely different in the way they approach death . We are like snowflakes .
82 | ART OF DYING
Older people say, "So let me get this straight. When
I die my body is going to stay right here, and my
husband will be able to see me, right?" And I say,
"Yes." "Well, that feels comforting. Yes. I like that
idea. Okay. And how long am I going to be here?"
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