peaceful endings

I caught a familiar line on the radio after a brief story about the deceased:

“He died peacefully at home with his family at his side.”

I was struck by the “with his family” part. I thought to myself how nice that must have been.

But maybe it wasn’t. How awful to be surrounded by the people you’ve known and loved all your life and to look up at them and realize that you may be disappointing them with your passing. Or, worse, to realize that you’ve been disappointing them with your living. Or, still worse, to feel that they’re tired of standing there, waiting, waiting, waiting, until even you feel impatient waiting for the onset of death.

So I’m not sure how peaceful that would all be, mixing together the delicateness and potential landmines of hosting a Thanksgiving dinner with one’s last breathing moments. Perhaps it just depends on your family. Perhaps it depends on the one deceasing. Perhaps the lesson is that we should live our lives in such a manner as to preserve the patience of our loved ones.

Perhaps this reflection on passing could be funny in that uncomfortable, slightly tense way; and at first I thought it would be, but now it’s just morose. Like death. Because, after all, it’s about dying. It’s about leaving. It’s about being left behind. It’s about someone who may still have obligations to others and others who feel a deep love or resentment or any-other-emotion for the one they’re leaving behind.

And then I wondered if it would be more like this: Maybe with all the family around I could still be asking if they’d cleaned their room and maybe they’d be whining about something, and the cats would be fighting again, and maybe it just wouldn’t be peaceful at all, in spite of the way we characterize it. And maybe it would be better to go quickly. Or unexpectedly, in your sleep. Or expectedly, but not with the drama. But I’m not sure what I think of the sleep thing, the go-to-sleep and really not wake up. There’s a missing of something. I’d miss having to tell my daughters that I love them, that they need to clean their room, and what are the cats fighting about now?

So maybe the at home version would be peaceful. Maybe that’s the best we can hope for. Maybe that’s what we all work for — the peaceful end where all is understood, and everyone has nothing left to say, not even clean up your room.


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