Why? Because wrapping up a life requires time to tie up the practical details, deliver final messages, bid farewells, and savor all the myriad “last times:”
Last birthday or bike ride, vacation or dance.
Last scent of fresh rain.
Last kiss of a beloved.
These moments are essential. Validating. Sacred. They’re like rare, sparkling jewels scattered through a gathering dusk, and their aching sweetness is life multiplying itself a thousandfold as it picks up speed.
Yes, definitely–receiving the news that we’re going to die is a blow like no other, and trust me, delivering the message sucks, too. But the alternative…to strip a person of their opportunity to gaze around in final wonder, to direct them instead to keep their head down and keep running, running, running on some exhausting, futile wheel of cure-seeking or worse, allowing them to die bewildered, panicked, or lost…is to strip them of life’s final and greatest miracle.
Now. Having said all that, there’s one situation where it’s advisable not to inform someone they’re dying, even if they say they want to know. It’s when they’re suffering from short term memory loss. Whether the damage sources from dementia, brain injury, alcoholism, or pharmaceutical side-effect doesn’t really matter. The effect is still the same. Each time they hear it, it’s like hearing it for the first time all over again.
Personally, I think people in this situation should still be told initially, even though they’ll probably forget. But telling them repeatedly would be kind of cruel.
Nobody needs that.
copyright Dia Osborn 2011