There is a great deal that we can do which, in its way, can be both supportive and productive as we prepare for a loved one’s (or indeed our own) death. It may be hard or difficult to undertake but it somehow becomes the only way forward to true peace of mind. Almost everyone, it seems, will feel impelled at such a time by some strange but powerful inner drive to put one’s life and affairs in order. Often such feelings are a stimulus to other forms of contributory behaviour, e.g. writing things down, talking (where feasible and one is able to do so) so that wishes and desires can be clearly and unequivocally expressed and understood. I knew one patient, a lady in her ‘fifties’ who wrote individual letters to each member of her family, mainly – and as she put it to me – “just to say to those left behind, what in words I am unable to say once I have gone; “thank you””.
The writing of a will is fairly commonplace these days and can certainly make things clearer and easier for executors whose responsibility it is to administer the wishes of the deceased. Another helpful and for some important task to be undertaken, might well be to leave clear instructions about how one might wish the funeral service to proceed. The preferred order of service might contain a favourite poem, hymn or prayer. Or then again, what about writing something of the kind one’s self and asking a favourite relative or a close friend to read it when the time comes?
I once had a patient, a lovely man and a consummate pianist. His love for and ability in music had served him well as “Head of Piano” at a well-known and prestigious Music College. Barry was not at all a religious man but, once again, possessed that very obvious intuitive ‘spiritual feel’ about life. He discussed some such matters freely with me, since that very apparently was his choice, including the desire for a particular hymn tune to be sung at his funeral. The problem was, he couldn’t find words to suite the sentiments that he wished it to express. “What precisely” I enquired, “do you want the words to say?” He was lucidly clear in his response and having – as I have had and do have a love of poetry from childhood days on – I went away and came back with my composition. He was delighted and some three weeks later, a huge congregation of loved ones, friends and colleagues sang them to a favourite hymn tune just as he had requested. (C)SB.