Acceptance of Death

This was the 4th time I had my Gamma Knife procedure. We came to the Admissions of the Health Science Center at 5:45am. There were total 10 other patients there plus the caregivers. A young couple came in-the lady was on a wheelchair. The lady was very thin but she was not showing any discomforts or distress. But the young man accompanied her appeared to be quite stressed and nervous.  From his body language, it was not difficult to tell his distress and sadness. The sharp difference of the couple made me look at them twice. My husband also noticed them and was upset for the young couple.

I, on the other hand, felt normal, to certain extent, about this couple. From my experience, we, cancer patients, accept death, ie., we have peace with God. When we are forced to confront death, we have to and we will come up with some kind of peace. But for caregivers, this is harder and takes longer time for them to accept death of their beloved ones. That’s why I feel that the lady was remarkably calm.

“Accepting death” is a critical step for us, the cancer or terminal patients. It changes everything, I mean in a good way. It’s often not understood by healthy people.

I cannot forget when I ended up in the emergency room that I was diagnosed with cancer. I read something that I would never read or think before I was sick. That was about doctor assisted suicide. It happened when I was the Manitoba Chamber Orchestral as a board member. We were organizing a function in early 2010 and a lady named Susan Griffiths was one of the helpers there. She stood out to me, I still don’t know why and how. When I was in the emergency room in 2015, especially at night, I read the internet about the doctors assisted suicide, and I came a cross of her story. I noticed her and she was the first person in Manitoba to go to Switzerland to commit doctor assisted suicide in 2012. Canada passed the law to allow the doctor assisted suicide in 2016. It was illegal in Canada in 2012. She had multiple system atrophy, a rare disease that robbed her ability to perform the basic body function, and there was no cure or hope for remission. She was actively lobbying the government for allowing the doctor assisted suicide, but in vain. I specifically remembered reading and watching videos of her last moment: her daughter and the family were around her outside a hut type of house in Switzerland. They sang ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’. She was smiling and her daughter was also smiling, a real smile as if it was a picnic. There was no tears only peace. At the time, I didn’t know why they were so content, and what they were thinking of. There was a peace at the moment and I noticed it. Now I feel finally I get it; it’s the acceptance to death in a profound peaceful way.

I think being a cancer patient, we desperately want to live and we know how valuable each minute is. That is why we are so involved in fundraising, donating tissue samples for research and participating in clinical trials. But at the same time we all have some ideas of how we are going to die in a near future, and we accept it. This is I called “make peace with God” no matter which God you believe in. Once we have it, life is totally different, at least for me is like that.


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