Some years ago now, I was afforded a rare and invaluable opportunity to gain a glimpse into one man’s final journey and his attempted answers to question posed in the immediately preceding blog paragraph. I had known him as a patient for more than a couple of years and although for several months early on his disease had remained in stasis, he eventually began to lose ground physically and sadly, died. Some time after his death, the man’s widow so kindly showed me her late husband’s (and my patient’s) written account of his feelings at that time. Apparently she had found it among his papers following his demise and it affords a truly priceless opportunity to witness such thoughts and feelings from what surely was the “sharp end” of encounter. The lady concerned very kindly and thoughtfully passed a copy of it on to me in a letter, “to share with others as you think fit…so long as you keep our identity and personal details private”: a request…and a commitment, which I shall of course fully observe and honour. This is what he wrote: –
“This is my account, as much, that is as can recall of it, of the ways in which such thoughts and feelings, can and do creep up upon nearing what I shall simply refer to as “the end”. Even though I have known at one level for some time that I might not make it, I seemed at first, and for a further but shorter passage of time, to be successful for most of the time to be succeeding in keeping it all at bay.
For some weeks now the thought has been around, something like a bird flying around our house and garden; sometimes in a larger, but other times in a much smaller circle. Yet somehow, with diversions, a bit of bargaining and haggling, I’ve somehow always managed to keep the thing in the air. Then comes the day when it lands for the first time – somewhere on the outer fence of the garden – before taking off again. Each time it lands you somehow come to expect it always to be nearer to the house itself. Also the times of its landing seemed to coincide with thoughts about things still needing to be done, affairs-wise that is; and tidying up matters, as well as other odds and ends to be attended to. Or then again, it could be cause and effect, I really don’t know. What I do know is that it is now becoming impossible to avoid issues to do with the ending of this life (some words and sentences here were either indistinguishable or of a very personal and private nature) and having dealt with the big issue, I am making my way through the others better than I thought. (C)SB.