Elderly perspectives on Death

My uncle on the right

My uncle on the right

When I was conducting my interview with my 75 year old uncle I was amazed at just how insightful he was. Through all his years he had gained so many different experiences that I could only dream of. I felt very comforted actually talking to him about death and dying. A topic that was so scary to me was almost a non issue for him. I do not mean that he took it lightly or disregarded it, but he seemed to be at peace with the fact that he would die. He related it to being energy and that we would be uniting with the one ultimate energy (God) after our death, and when he put it that way , it felt so complex to me but yet so simple and comforting at the same time. I loved every second of the interview. We went on a few tangents of his college life and the people he lived with. The overall experience for me was one of immense learning and intellectual nourishment.

He told my about the difficulties he had with losing so many loved ones and friends over the years. At this point I could not help but feel sad for this man. He told me about losing his wife back in 2004 and how even now sometimes he has intense feelings of loneliness and sadness and how he always thinks about her. I have the feeling that it is easier for him to think about himself dying than the fact that his wife died. When I heard this from him I remembered what we learned in class about how a spouse feels when they lose their significant other. Although I understood it on an intellectual level at the time I only really comprehended how tough it must be when my uncle talked to me about losing his wife.

Coming Together

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When I first decided to take this class I thought it was going to be an easy class that I was taking for fun. A week before classes started I found out that a close friend of mine had been shot and killed the night before after we had left Applebees. That moment rocked my hold world and made me have a different view of this class. I came into this class more confused about death then I have ever been. The only other death I had experienced was that of my grandpa whom I was never really close with because of family issues. When my friend died I truly felt the pain that i’ve heard so much about because I had a strong connection with him. I remember walking into the funeral home and just seeing people everywhere crying. At that point in time I realized what an impact a death can have on those around us. At times it may seem like nobody cares about us and that we have no one to turn to, but in that funeral home I saw how many people showed up to pay their respects to my friend and realized that we have more people that care about us than we think.

My friends death was acknowledged, but his life was celebrated. The impact he had on others went unnoticed until he died and people reflected on him. This shows that death, no matter how terrible a tragedy, brings people together to recognize the impact a person had on them. There may not be many things that can help console a family through a death of a child, but my friends family was at ease because of their faith in God. They believe that because my friend loved God with all his heart that he is up in heaven watching over all of us and does not want us to grieve for him. Religion is a powerful tool in helping people overcome the grimness of death because it provides comfort in knowing that their spirit lives on and his watching over them.

By taking this class I have learned that it is important to find something or someone that can help prepare and console us during the death of a loved one. Even though we may not understand death, it is important that we shift our focus to the impact that our loved ones leave behind and how that impact will shape our future. My friend has personally impacted my life by encouraging me to always be a better person and to put others first. Even though a person has passed, their memories never die.

Blog 4: Chapter 12 (Suicide) + Awareness

After taking this course, I have more knowledge about issues concerning death and how it affects our lives.  What stood out the most to me was the chapter on suicide.  The discussion on suicide was well-done, but I feel that though this is a difficult subject to discuss, we should bring more awareness to this subject.  For the sake of brevity, I will focus this blog on adolescent/adult suicide and awareness. I will also draw from my personal experiences. My goal for this blog is to educate others about suicide, take away some of the stigma whenever suicide is discussed, and to uplift people.  Due to the nature of the subject, I will do my best to be sensitive in how I discuss this topic.  I ask that you do the same with your comments.

Mature Topic about sucide

Mature Topic about suicide

Life is hard, especially when one is trying to find him or herself in this world.  It’s even harder when you’re stressed and you have a difficult time coping.  Everyone should be aware of a few of the warning signs for suicide : depression, anger, thinking about suicide, recklessness, and more.  High school and college students have a lot of pressure to succeed in school, at home, and in life.  That pressure to do well can overwhelm people, along with the negative feelings when they don’t succeed or feel worthy.  It is important for us to notice these signs and be brave enough to ask if one has the desire to commit suicide.  What I would like to emphasize the most is for people to be slow to listen and quick to help when someone shares what is hurting him or her.

Everyone can learn to be aware of suicide.

Everyone can learn to be aware of suicide.

I have had to deal with suicide in my own life- my own suicide attempt when I was 17.  I don’t want to be arrogant and say that my experience was the same as another person’s.  It is demeaning to the individual and I look ignorant.  I can say that the loneliness and despair I felt was painful.  When I was 17, I had a lot of events happening in my life.  I didn’t fit in my school’s cliques because I didn’t act the way I was expected.  I was bullied, occasionally because of my race (I am of Hispanic and African American heritage) and because I chose to have friends who looked at my character instead of my appearance and I did the same.  I did have family problems as well.  During an argument that my parents had between each other, I tried to stab myself with a knife.  My mother took the knife away from me before I harmed myself.  She held me, and I realized at that moment, how much she would miss me if I had succeeded.  The police came to our house and confiscated the knives.  I wasn’t baker-acted or hospitalized (as I wasn’t hurt, thank goodness) though.  In the short-term, I was glad that my mother intervened.  We talked somewhat about the problems I’ve had and how they bugged me.  It took until college for me to better understand what I was going through.  Through counseling, I discovered that I had depression.  I could communicate with my counselor, who was understanding and didn’t shame me for being depressed or getting help.  At around the same time, I found God.  It took me a while, but I learned how special and valuable I was but how everyone else is special, unique, and valuable too.  Today, I still have to manage my depression, but I’m doing better.  I have a wonderful niece, a fuzzy kitty, a loving girlfriend, and others who are supportive of me.

I know that not everyone has a happy ending, so to speak.  That’s why we have to be aware and open our hearts when we hear or learn about suicide.  Looking back, I wish I would have had the resources that I have now when I was in high school.   We can make a difference and save lives.

 

You can make a difference in a person's life!

You can make a difference in a person’s life!

Faith

My journey in life has been based on my faith and hope in better tomorrows. I was brought up catholic in a Hispanic culture, in which we celebrate El Senor De Los Milagros in October. For us Peruvians October is a celebration of faith and reassurance that God exists and we will have our final judgement. My father told me the legend of how a small town was under slavery and they were banned to pray and practice their religion from the conquistadores. There was a man who heard the voice of God with the instructions to paint a mural on a wall. A devastating earthquake took out the town, hundreds died but the mural lived through. It is a symbol of the existence of a higher power, so we celebrate it in my traditions. 

However, in regards to death and dying faith is an important role to understand too. My faith and traditions come from what I was brought to understand and learn to pass on to my children and a way for me to live my life. I carry the patron saint in October make my prayers and release myself from anguish and sorrow. But everyday I know that my beliefs and prayers go to the sky in reassurance that my days are laid out to one day go to heaven. The first time I carried the saint I was in my early teens, and every October since then I wear my heels and purple I make my prayer in the hopes that my family will be safe for the year to follow. 

Faith does not have to come from a religious man who goes to church on Sunday, I believe it is merited by the good that is in your heart and the actions you carry out in living. You must be compassionate and honest, share the wealth that is granted to your privilege with those who have nothing, and always forgive those who have done you wrong.

The journey through the white light, long tunnel, or endless sea can  be the most liberating experience one has because in the end you are finally in the most peaceful existence of the world. Until then make sure you live your life whole kindheartedly so when you look back in the years past you close your eyes and patiently await your light.

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Immortality

Immortality

I found this quote by Margaurete Duras appealing and up for interpretation. She says life is immortal while “it” is still alive. Everyone of us feels invincible in a sense until a moment comes of tragedy or ill diagnosis. The illustration and words were thought provoking, I hope someone enjoys it as I did.

No boundaries, no rules, no restrictions, and no restraints.

 

 

Brooke Hopkins and Peggy Battin, appearing in the magazine last month.

Browsing the web I came across this article:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/magazine/a-life-or-death-situation.html?pagewanted=3&_r=0

 

I’m going to be honest it’s 10 pages so I didn’t read the WHOLE article. It’s about a couple — Peggy and Brooke — who feel very strongly about autonomy and having those advanced directives in place. Peggy has written plenty of scholarly articles and has even testified in court for the rights of others to be able to make their own decisions about EOL. Both Peggy and Brooke have AD’s that state that if either of them are in a traumatizing accident or obtain a chronic illness, they do not want any treatment that would only “unnaturally” prolong the time of death and the dying process(especially if it left them in a vegetative state). They quickly realized that these decisions are much harder to make when you’re facing them head on.

 

While on a bike ride (without Peggy), Brooke suffered a broken neck and had lost the ability to breathe. His EOL wishes were not known and he was resuscitated and rushed to the hospital. Brooke’s life was saved however, he was paralyzed from the shoulders down and continues to live a life with his wife Peggy.

 

We have talked about AD’s this whole semester and how important they are. But what if it came down to that moment where you are in a position to make that EOL decision for yourself? It’s one of those “easier said than done” scenarios. If Peggy was there when Brooke had his accident, the power of Brooke’s life would have been in her hands. She would have had the decision to either tell the paramedics about his AD or not. Brooke’s AD would have let them know not to resuscitate him. From the article I gather that Peggy would have told them about his AD, but situations like this could happen to anyone; Under that kind of pressure, who knows what a person would do? During his hospital stay, Brooke was fully competent and aware of his situation, though he was on a ventilator. He could have very well told the doctors to remove that device. But he didn’t and chose to live out his life. If his wife was there on the day of his accident he might not have been able to make that choice.  

This reminds of the point that it’s never too late to change your mind about your previous AD’s. You will always have that decision and the fear that your wishes won’t be carried out should not deter you.  Brooke chose to stay on the ventilator when his AD could’ve stated to refuse that treatment. It’s your life; No boundaries, no rules, no restrictions, and no restraints.

In an updated article Brooke eventually chose to end his life. This one’s pretty interesting too!

http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/choosing-to-die-after-a-struggle-with-life/?ref=magazine

BLOG 4- Suicide

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When I was a junior in high school, my family and I had gone through something tragic that had happened in my family. My aunt had committed suicide and since then it became the hardest thing ever for all of us. My aunt was always close to me. She was like my second mom and understood me more than anyone did. It’s been four years since she passed away and there’s not one day that I don’t miss her dearly. My aunt was the happiest woman I ever met and she never had a problem with anything.

I took Death and Dying because I really wanted to learn about the emotional aspects of death. Even though it has been four years since my aunt passed away, I still get depressed thinking about her and always wonder what caused her to commit suicide in the first place. By taking this class, I was hoping I would get a better understanding as to how people grieve and whether it is okay to grieve. When I heard about this class, it really got me interested since I thought I could open up to people that might have similar stories such as mine.

After taking this class, I feel much better now than how I was before walking into that class in the beginning of the semester. This class had taught me that it is completely okay and healthy to grieve. This class has taught me that there are different phases of grief and I now know that the one that I am going through is the period of acceptance where one has to move forward with a life that can not be changed. This one death really changed my life but I really am trying to move on. I wish that I could go back in time to change it, but life is life and it just continues on.

Overall, our culture is a death and denying culture. Many people try not to think of death of their loved ones or even themselves. But in the end, death is irreversible so cherish the moments you have with the ones you love. I’m glad that I took this class because it helped me understand more about death and especially my losses.