Before cremations as part of the cremation services offered in Clinton Township, MI, advanced age or terminal illnesses are often what ends up causing a loved one to die. Our society puts a premium value on living and it suggests that we do everything in our power to avoid and delay – even though it eventually comes – death.
Dylan Thomas’ famous poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, is a good example of this mindset. In the poem, the narrator urges his aging father to “rage against the dying of the light.” However, this mindset can ultimately end in a life that may have quantity, but that has little or no quality. It can also lead to unnecessary pain and suffering for the person who is dying.
We seem to have an instinctive desire to continue to live. We experience this desire as wanting to eat, to do things, to learn, to grow, and to look forward to the future. We have very strong emotional attachments to other living things, including our families, friends, and pets, and we don’t want to leave them. While we aren’t able to decide to continue to live, our actions can make living automatic.
When age and terminal illnesses reach an advanced stage, our thoughts are not of ourselves, but of others. We want to be with our loved ones and we may even feel a responsibility to not fail them or cause them pain and grief by dying and leaving them.
We may have unfinished business in the form of making amends or reconciling relationships. We may fear losing control of our lives, being dependent on others, what will happen as we die, and what will happen after we die.
All of these things may bother us so much that we find them difficult to think about. It is not uncommon for feelings or resentment, guilt, sadness, and anger, when the time comes that we have to face them, to arise with both the person who is terminally ill and their caregiver(s) because nobody wants to end up this way or see anybody else end up this way.
Even as death approaches, however, usually a sense of hope remains. But what that hope looks like changes as death nears. While it once may have been hope for the illness to be cured or for a little more time, hope is now transformed into present and immediate terms: a good night, one more visit with friends or loved ones, or, perhaps, an easy death.
Eventually, in the days and weeks before death, many people don’t have a desire to live anymore. They are not suicidal nor are they depressed. Instead, they have an innate sense that it’s time to let go.
This may manifest itself as a profound tiredness that doesn’t go away with rest. Often people reach a point where they’ve hit the limit of how much effort they can put into prolonging life. While refusing to let go may prolong life a little, death is still inevitable. Prolonging death may translate into a time when more suffering than living actually happens.
Some family members and friends also reach a point where they understand that letting go is best for them and their loved one. They’ve seen their loved one fight, struggle, and suffer, and they don’t want them to experience any more of that. Other family members and friends, however, may not be able to accept that dying is the next best step for their loved one and they may refuse to believe that is what’s happening.
Letting go does not mean our loved one wants to die. Instead, it is an expression of their acceptance that death is the next step in their journey.