Most of us tend to think of death as a time of loss and pain. Seldom do we imagine it as an adventure with opportunities on the other side of a mountain that we may have spent a lifetime reaching. Our own anxiety tends to block our vision of any potential peace that the dying person may be experiencing. This is a sad loss, for surely we must have learned by now that there can be pleasure in every natural act, including the natural act of dying.
I have not had a great deal of personal experience with death, but the little I know leads me to feel that we do ourselves and dying ones a disfavor to treat it in any other terms than as a time of expectation of an extraordinary experience.
I believe that most dying persons want to share their dying hours with those whom they love. Death does not have to be an antisocial, solitary experience but can give hope and promise to the living when shared. It can also provide a welcome support system for the traveler, not unlike the cheer we bring to a friend about to head off on a trip around the world.
I am not talking here about violent death or premature death, where a person has had no chance to anticipate or use the process for his or her own development. Nor do I pretend to be an authority on death in general. But in those few experiences where I have been privileged to share the dying process with a loved person, I have come to feel that these days can be a fulfilling end to life on earth.
For example, when I learned that death was around a near corner for my husband, we determined that in his dying, as in his living, we would fill our days with every possible ounce of joy. He had been an apostle of the thesis that "the days that make us happy make us wise." And there was no reason to deny this as death approached. Throughout our 37 years of life together, its practice had yielded us a treasure house of rich experiences. We decided to use his limited days of relative mobility going once again to those places where we had shared peak moments.