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Expressing ourselves during the dying process

 

All the passages below are taken from David Kessler’s book, “The Needs of the Dying”, published in 1997. This is from the 10th Anniversary Edition.

 

Expressing Emotions

The need to express feelings and emotions about death in one's own way.

 

We tend to have trouble expressing our emotions and feelings in the best of situations. We have even more difficulty accepting the feelings and emotions of others. These feelings become more difficult in times of crisis, when our fears are realized and our feelings are raw. We are afraid to express ourselves. We fear we'll be abandoned, and we fear that our feelings will be bottomless. But if we express ourselves during the dying process, what we share during these difficult moments will be our greatest comfort later.

We have a primal need to express feelings. As death approaches, the need to share and to speak from the heart grows. We rob both ourselves and those around us when we erect barriers to intimacy. It is not only the job of those who will live to comfort those who will not. Just as we comforted each other in life, we should continue doing the same as death approaches. Even though we don't know how to say good-bye and we don't want to say good-bye, if we can break through our reluctance and find the courage to express our emotions, we can bring our relationships to new levels. We can complete them. Sharing emotions while grieving together is not surrendering to death. Grieving in each other's arms can raise us to new heights of intimacy and love.

 

Talking to the Dying

Our tremendous discomfort with death can make it difficult or impossible to talk with a dying person about what's happening. Many times family and friends talk about everything except the fact that someone is dying. I often go into a hospital room, alone with the patient, and ask: "What's happening here?" Many of them calmly reply, "I'm dying." Others are sarcastic or angry or frightened, upset that I seem to have missed the obvious. But in every case, the topic of death is opened. When I say, "Your family and friends think that you can't talk about dying," they usually reply, "No, they can't talk about it." And then we have discussions about disease and dying that later amaze their families. They wonder how their loved ones can talk about death with a total stranger but not with them.

Being nervous about talking to a person facing a life-threatening illness is understandable. Most of us are afraid that what we say will be either too threatening or too trivial. I remember a mother who was losing her forty-two-year-old son, Steve, to leukemia just as he was becoming successful in his life and career. One day, in the hospital room, his mother mentioned that someone they knew had just purchased a wonderful new Mercedes. Steve looked up at her and said: "Do you have any idea how little a Mercedes matters to me now?" His voice was filled with an anger that bewildered her. Was he angry at life for striking him down in his prime? Angry at his mother for being trivial? Angry at himself for not having had his own Mercedes? Angry because she had spanked him when he was a little boy? She never asked.

What do you say to the dying? Does talk about cars cheer them up or make them sad? Should you talk about things they used to do or used to want? About the latest laboratory results? The weather? You never know what someone needs when going into a conversation. The person you are talking to may not know either, for dying is always a new experience. The emotions of the person who is dying may change from day to day or moment to moment. If you do say, "I saw a great Mercedes," only to hear, "I don't care about fancy cars anymore," the more honest you can be, the better. It's fine to say, "I don't know what to say to you. Should we talk about baseball or your chemotherapy?"

Christopher Landon, who was sixteen years old when his father, Michael Landon, was dying, approached the subject of death directly with his father. He shared with me how he took a direct approach and why he felt he could do it without destroying hope.

"Some people in my family thought I was the pessimist, but I was the realist. And my father knew that when he was sick. The first thing I did was research the type of cancer he had. I learned enough to know that he had a very, very slim chance of surviving--and I told him so. I didn't want him to have to pretend he was strong or that he was going to survive, or feel that he had to parade around with the false sense of hope for me. I was ready to go wherever the moment took us. I didn't want him to feel like he had to do that with me, because he was doing that a lot for others. That whole `I'm going to make it, I am going to be okay' routine. I knew that that was really painful for him to stay `up' for everyone else.

"I wanted to be in reality with him. That didn't mean there was no hope. You always have hope, even the day before someone dies. It sometimes becomes hard to distinguish what that hope is, what you are hoping for. Hope wears so many different faces. You initially hope for a swift and speedy recovery or a miracle; then you start hoping for a swift and speedy death because you don't want to see them suffer anymore. We all went through that. It's agonizing to see someone you love suffer, knowing that living in that condition they are in is not living at all. You hope for so many things, and then finally you hope that you will see them again, which I still hope for."

It's all right to talk about dying if the person is receptive. Each situation has to be gauged individually. Not talking about death won't make it go away, but talking about it can bring life back into your relationship. Talking about death is like stepping into uncharted territory. It can be liberating and cathartic.

Even if you've never talked about anything deeper than the weather, you can speak from the heart. Howard and Bob were buddies who had lived next door to each other since they were children. They double-dated in high school and college and raised six children between them, both proud that they'd seen every home game of the Los Angeles Dodgers together since they'd retired. But they had never shared their feelings. When seventy-five-year-old Bob was dying of emphysema, Howard wanted to tell him how much he loved him. So Howard said: "You know, Bob, we played baseball as kids, we've been friends forever, our families grew up together, and we've shot the breeze for sixty-five years. Let me tell you, those have been great years. I really love you and I'm going to miss you."

Howard hoped those words would open the door to a genuine sharing of emotions. He said what he needed to say and gave Bob an opportunity to do the same. Howard's needs were independent of Bob's. Howard needed to complete the relationship, but Bob preferred to keep his feelings to himself to the very end. Simply hearing what Howard said was enough for Bob, and the two friends went back to watching the game on the hospital room TV, just as they had watched countless games before.

Sometimes there can be too much talk of emotions and pills and surgeries and death and dying. Sometimes it's best to say: "Hey, did you know that the Lakers won five in a row?" or "Did you see what Martha Stewart did on her last show!" There are no rules, except to play it by ear and listen to what the dying have to say.

 

Listening to the Dying

Allowing the dying to be heard is one of the greatest gifts that we can offer them. Medical professionals are taught that listening is a way of gathering information and assessing a patient's physical and psychological condition. Even more, listening itself is a powerful way of giving comfort. Loved ones and friends often arrive at the hospital in a panic, afraid to see someone who is facing death. Not knowing what to say, they often turn to the nurse or doctor and ask: "What do we do? What do we say?" The answer is always to listen, just listen. Listen to them complain. Listen to them cry. Listen to them laugh. Listen to them reminisce. Listen to them talk about the weather or talk about death. Just listen.

People who are facing life-challenging illnesses will tell you everything you need to know: how they feel about their situation and--if they're comfortable talking about it--how they would like to die.

Seventy-five-year-old Joseph suddenly began feeling weak. He called his son, Daniel, to say: "Daniel, I feel like something is wrong, more than just getting old. I don't want you to think I'm a foolish old man, but I think that my time has come. You know how we're always talking about going back to Maine, where I grew up and you were born? Let's go do that now. I'd like us to have some time together before I die."

"Dad, why don't you see your doctor?" the worried son suggested.

"I'll see him tomorrow," the father replied, "and then, can we go on the trip? Daniel, I'm seventy-five years old. I've had colds. I've had the flu. I've had arthritis. I know what old age feels like. This feels different. I can tell that something's seriously physically wrong with my body."

Daniel decided what to do. If he listened to his father and went on the trip, then found out that his father was all right, Daniel could live with the fact that they took a trip and everything was okay. But he felt that if he did not listen, and if something was wrong with his father, he would feel terrible about missing what might be the last opportunity for them to spend time together. He agreed to go on the nostalgic trip.

The next day, as promised, Joseph saw his doctor. Not sure what was causing the fatigue, the physician ran a number of tests. The results would be available in a few days. In the meantime, father and son drove up to Maine. They stayed in a motel not far from the lake where Joseph had grown up and Daniel had spent his early years. They spent the week fishing, reminiscing, and visiting old friends. Despite his fatigue, Joseph talked a lot and Daniel listened. Regardless of the outcome of the tests, after the first day on the trip Daniel was really glad that he was spending the time with his father. Neither dwelled on Joseph's fatigue. They simply had fun together.

A week later they sat together in the doctor's office, stunned to hear that Joseph had pancreatic cancer. At his stage of the disease, there was no cure or treatment that made any sense. In the next few weeks before his death, Joseph became progressively weaker, but both father and son took great comfort in the fact that they had taken the time to be with each other. Now, looking back, Daniel is grateful that he listened to his father rather than responding in his usual way, which was to think that the old man was making a big deal out of nothing.

As we listen to those facing death, we hope that they will share with us their beliefs and thoughts, perhaps comforting us. But sometimes what they tell us doesn't comfort us. Sometimes we don't agree with what they tell us; sometimes we are disturbed to learn that their ideas on death challenge our own. Remember that the dying have the right to believe what they want and to express their feelings about impending death in their own way, even if their feelings are heartbreaking or devastating for us to hear. It is their right to live and die as they choose.

Thirty-six-year-old William Green found out that he was infected with the AIDS virus, HIV. He lived a number of years in good health and likely had several years to go. An engineer, William researched the disease and the different options, learning that there were relatively few good treatments available at the time, the mid-1980s. He didn't tell his twenty-nine-year-old sister, Jennifer, about his disease until after a few years of good health. By then he had become more comfortable living with HIV. Once she knew, she was supportive and optimistic that medical science would save her brother.

One day William did not feel well. He went to his doctor, who diagnosed the flu. Within a week, however, the flu had not cleared up and William was looking worse. Alarmed, Jennifer urged William to call the doctor. But her brother said: "I know what lies ahead for me, whether it's today or tomorrow. I understand this disease. They can't do a lot for me right now, so there's no point in calling the doctor."

William's feelings about death disturbed Jennifer. She wanted him to fight until the last moment, but he didn't want to fight what he felt was a losing battle. He chose to let nature take its course, and he made it very clear that this was his choice to make.

A few weeks later William was having a great deal of difficulty breathing. Jennifer insisted on driving her brother, who was too weak to protest, to the doctor. The doctor, shocked to see how much William had deteriorated, started an IV, gave William oxygen, and arranged for him to be rushed to the emergency room. Jennifer demanded that her nearly comatose brother be placed on a respirator and that emergency measures be taken. Despite the best efforts of the doctors, William soon died.

Jennifer was in a "fight" mentality, but William was not. He had made his choice and expressed his feelings. Jennifer didn't like his choice and was unable to hear it, but the choice was his. By fighting his choice, Jennifer missed the opportunity to share her feelings with him about their lives together, to finish their business, and to grieve together.

We can cry with our loved ones, we can analyze treatment strategies, we can disagree, and we can deny the situation entirely, but in the end, the best thing we can do is to listen.

And when they tell us that the end is near, we need to listen even more carefully.

 

When Verbal Communication Is No Longer Possible

Ultimately, we will cease to have the luxury of verbal communication. Due to illness, unconsciousness, or the nearness of death, our loved ones at some point will no longer be able to speak. Many assume that they no longer hear as well, simply because they don't seem to respond when spoken to. At this point, many people say that they wish they had said this or that, or had said "good-bye."

It is widely believed that hearing is one of the last senses to go, which is why medical professionals are taught to behave as if patients can hear right up to the end. When people ask me if their loved ones can still hear them, I always answer yes. If not physically, then they can hear you spiritually. They may not be alert, but if you say something from your heart, they will hear it in theirs.

You can still say what you wish you had said, even if your loved one is in a coma. Say it out loud if you can; if circumstances do not permit speaking out loud, say it in your mind. Much of our communication is nonverbal. Much can be said with a smile or a touch.

When you do talk to them, share your thoughts and feelings. Tell them things that would be of interest to them, such as the latest news or stories of mutual friends and family. Sometimes you may do a lot of talking, other times you may not. Don't be afraid of the silence. Holding hands or even just sitting nearby can communicate all that needs to be said.

 

When Speaking Is Taboo

Saying what hasn't been said can bring us closer together. It also allows the dying to continue participating in life. He can still be a parent helping his children, a boy gently ribbing his brothers, a child impressing his grandparents. But these conversations don't always go smoothly. They can have unexpected repercussions, especially if they disrupt the family dynamics.

Since birth, Don suffered from a rare, degenerative liver disease. He had lived with it for all of his thirty-five years; it had never hampered his health or activities until an acute onset forced him to sell his real estate business and move back in with his parents. Although they gave their son total care, his mother and father never acknowledged that this was now a terminal situation.

Shortly after Don moved back into his parents' house, his younger brother, Mike, flew into town to be with him. The two brothers, who were close, had often spoken about the illness and its possible outcome. Don's condition deteriorated rapidly during his brother's visit. One day he and Mike were sitting in Don's bedroom when Don asked, "I'm getting better, aren't I?"

Mike looked him in the eye and sadly answered: "No, you're not."

"Well, how am I doing?"

Mike answered honestly: "You're dying." They discussed death and then, teary-eyed, they told each other that they were glad they were brothers. That's when their mother, Hannah, walked in. Without thinking, Don looked up at her and said: "I'm dying. Did you know that?"

Horrified, Hannah turned on Mike and snapped: "What are you doing to your only brother! Why are you coming in here and upsetting him like this?" In tears, she ran out of the room.

"Oops, now we've upset her," Don said.

Mike asked, "What happened?"

"Mike, you said the `d-word.' Death is not supposed to be

discussed."

"What should I have said when you asked me if you're getting better?" Mike asked. "Should I have lied?"

"Mom would have preferred that you said, `Some days are better than others.' That's what they say."

Mike struggled with his conflicting emotions about what had just happened. He hadn't intended to upset the family. It certainly would have been inappropriate for him to have walked into a conversation between Don and their mother and said: "Today we're going to talk about death." But he had been speaking one-on-one with his brother, responding to Don with the same authenticity that they always had in their relationship all their lives.

Sometimes, in our effort to communicate, we will upset others--perhaps those whom we love the most. Mike was in a difficult situation: There was no way to honor his relationship with Don without breaking the family taboo against admitting that the disease had become fatal. But when we feel it is time to talk about death, we should not hesitate to do so.

Although Mike and Don's mother was upset when the taboo was broken, I once walked into a hospital room to find a daughter thrilled that the subject had been broached by the hospital priest. "I didn't know how to bring it up with Mom," she said. "It's not something we ever talked about in our family. I'm glad the subject was open, so now we can talk about it."

Even though they may be difficult, the last days you spend with your loved ones are ones you'll remember vividly. At times you may feel as if you're walking on eggshells, but everyone should be allowed to say what needs to be said. This is a sacred time because of the authenticity of the emotions that occur. We must let ourselves and our loved ones express feelings and emotions, no matter what the reactions may be. I am often in awe of the expressions of feelings between the dying and their loved ones. These feelings are among the purest found in life. Honoring these expressions is a holy obligation we have to each other.

 

Making Relationships Current

At every stage of life, we find peace and fulfillment in our relationships that are current. A current relationship is one in which both have said everything they need to say to each other, whether it is supportive or challenging. Our relationships are current when we no longer harbor unexpressed feelings.

When there is a blockage in the relationship, however, when things have been left unsaid, we are bound to be uncomfortable and unhappy. That blockage and discomfort are most pronounced when things have been held back for years and someone is gravely ill. Ironically, most of us are less likely to make a relationship current when a person is ailing, for fear of doing harm. But if those unspoken thoughts are not expressed, they may never be. The urgency of illness is a golden opportunity to push through ancient blockages and talk openly and honestly.

Stan, a sixty-seven-year-old accountant, was struggling through painful and terminal prostate cancer. He was a charming storyteller, with an elfish grin and a twinkle in his eye that no amount of pain could erase. We often sat together in the living-room-turned-bedroom at his house, talking about this and that. As I got to know Stan and his wife, Joan, I could tell that she was struggling to suppress a huge undercurrent of anger.

I finally felt bold enough to say to Joan, "I sense you have a lot of anger." She admitted that she had never talked through some old but important issues with her husband, adding, "I can't discuss this with him now. He's so frail; he's so weak; he's lost so much weight. For me to go in there now and try to get even with him for the things I'm so upset about would be wrong."

I told Joan that there is a difference between getting it out and getting even. You can express negative feelings without hurting someone. When Joan realized that she had a right to express her feelings and that Stan had a right to hear them, she spoke with him. In a very loving way she told him why she had been suppressing anger for so many years. Not only did their discussion allow her to "get it out," it led to many other tender and loving talks.

Sitting by his bedside, she gently shared how she had felt judged by him during their many years of marriage. She felt that he didn't appreciate her and that he was disappointed because she didn't have a career. He replied that it didn't matter to him whether or not she had a career, for he had always earned enough money. Then he pointed out the many successful ways she had used her talents. "You raised a family," he said. "You decorated our home; you decorated a design home for charity; you painted walls full of art for the children's hospital. Just because you weren't paid doesn't mean that you are not enormously talented and that I don't appreciate you." The more they communicated, the more her anger dissipated. With the anger gone and the relationship current, there was more room than ever for love.

If a relationship is not current, we need to go back and say what we believe needs to be said. I saw how important this was while caring for Rose, a seventy-seven-year-old woman suffering from leukemia. Shriveled and shrunken down to only eighty-two pounds, Rose lay in a hospital bed we had brought to her home. She had suffered through two rounds of chemotherapy and other treatments but was not doing well. Frank, her only child, was at her bedside that evening. He was startled when Rose, who had been too weak to talk or even move her head for days, suddenly lifted her head off the pillow and whispered urgently, "Frank! Frank!"

"Yes?" he answered, worried that she had been hit by a sudden pain.

"I never told you I loved you."

"But, Mom, I know you love me," he replied, puzzled.

"But I never told you," she said. With that she put her head back down on the pillow and closed her eyes. She didn't speak or move again and she died the next day. Frank was perplexed. He didn't understand why it was so important for Rose to tell him that she loved him, when it was so obvious to him.

Rose needed to tell her son that she loved him. It was unfinished business she needed to complete in order to make their relationship current. Unfinished business consists of all those things we feel we haven't had a chance to say in our relationships. When serious illness arises, many people develop a need to finish the business of their relationships by communicating and sharing as openly as they can. When they don't, their survivors often spend the rest of their lives regretting that the business was left unfinished.

If you ask someone what needs to be said in order to make a relationship current, they usually don't have to think about it. They usually know what's been missing. They know that they're sorry for this or that, or that they haven't said thank you for being a caring parent or spouse or child or friend. They've never said, "I'm proud of you" or "You hurt me" or "We had difficult times, but I'm glad you are my friend." Now is the time to say it.

Making a relationship current can lead to life-changing breakthroughs. Other times, we just need to say something. What we say is not as important as giving ourselves permission to say it.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross tells the story of a wife who reminisces about her husband. The wife remembers the time she dropped a blueberry pie on the carpet of his beloved car. She thought he would kill her, but he didn't. The wife remembers the time she dragged him to a dance he didn't want to go to and forgot to tell him to dress formally. She thought he would be furious, but he wasn't. She remembers the time she danced with his friend in order to make him jealous. She thought he would leave her, but he didn't. She wanted to tell him all these things when he returned from Vietnam, but he didn't return. Because she was unable to give herself permission to acknowledge these moments, she felt that their business was never finished.

Sometimes, however, nothing needs to be said. If the relationship is current, just being there is enough.

 

Grieving Together

     Cynthia developed terminal cancer of the cervix. As the end approached, we had many open discussions about death. During her last weeks, her old friend Anne would spend most of the days with her, then go out in the evenings with friends.

Cynthia and Anne were both open with their emotions. "I can't count the number of times we cried together," Anne said. "Or she cried as I listened, and I cried as she listened. I remember, toward the very end, my friends saying `It's odd about you and Cynthia. You don't seem very sad about her. You don't cry about her at all.' "

Anne immediately wondered what was wrong with her. "Cynthia was about to die. Why wasn't I crying with my friends? Then I realized that I had already cried all the tears that I had to cry in that moment with Cynthia, so I didn't need to cry later in the day. My grief was current, and so was our relationship. I always felt close and in the moment with Cynthia, and we had no unfinished business. In the evenings, when I went out with my friends, I wasn't shell-shocked and devastated. I was also in the moment with them, enjoying their company."

Many people don't want to burden ailing friends or relatives with their grief. Trying to remain strong, they become selfless, putting their emotions aside. But when these people tell me how sad they are, I ask, "Have you cried in front of him? Have you told him how much you're going to miss him, how sad you are, how angry you are?" They usually say no.

There is no reason why the relationship should not remain two-way until the end. Andrew lost his older brother Kevin several years ago. Although they had grown up together, one of Andrew's most cherished memories occurred a week before his brother died.

"He was only thirty-two when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Through the many years of his illness, I felt it was my duty to become stronger as he weakened. I didn't think that I should allow my pain and sadness to show. That seemed selfish; after all, he was going to die, not me. My resolve to be `brave' was strengthened as I saw him pouring all his energy into accepting and handling his own situation. I believed that adding my grief to his otherwise-full plate would have been wrong. I tried so hard to be strong, not to cry in front of him. I was able to keep up the facade until a week before he died. Then I finally broke down. To my surprise, he comforted me and wiped away my tears. No words were spoken. The physical act of his holding me as I cried said it all."

It is a deeply moving experience to be comforted by the dying, one that can be extremely important to them. I remember saying to my father, shortly before he died, "I can't imagine a world without you." He said to me, reassuringly, "Don't worry, time will heal all." Being able to comfort me made him feel like a father again. Over the years since his death, often in my sadness, I can still hear his reassuring words.

We tend to look for comfort outside the sickroom and away from our loved ones. But we shouldn't deprive them of chances to be loving people. That's what they wanted to be in life, and that's what they continue to want to be until the end. By opening up, we include them in our life and our grief. We are honest with them, and we honor them with our honesty.

We will grieve alone for the rest of our lives, missing them long after they have gone. There is a brief period, while they are dying, that we can grieve with them. Shortly after they have died, there is a period during which we can grieve with others. During my mother's final hospitalization for kidney disease, my father and I got to know a woman named Edith, whose husband was also in the intensive care unit. Soon after my mother died, Edith took me aside and said, "You've got to be strong for your father. Be very strong. Be a man, don't cry."

And so I was strong for my father. Though I was only twelve years old, I never cried in front of him. But I cried privately in my room, without my father knowing. And I heard him crying privately in his room, not wanting me to know that he was hurting. We never cried together.

Family members encourage each other to keep stiff upper lips, not to openly cry or grieve. I always suggest the opposite: Share your grief. Cry in front of someone and cry with them. Witnessing grief gives the witness permission to grieve. When Peter lost his only son, the fifty-seven-year-old man sat stoically through the memorial service. It wasn't until a business acquaintance gave him a hug and, to Peter's surprise, began crying that Peter also began crying. He knew that his colleague, also being a father, understood what a great loss this was. The two men sobbed together. In this moment, their closeness and understanding allowed their tears.

It's not a matter of if you will grieve but when you will grieve. Don't miss the opportunity to grieve with another who shares your pain. Those who grieve well, live well.

 

Walking to the Gate

     In days not too long past, if a family member was going away, we took them to the airport or train station, waiting with them at their gate until they left. The same was true when they arrived--we met them at the gate, not curbside or in the baggage claim area.

Today we no longer walk people to the gate. We travel more, and there are taxi cabs, airport shuttles, long-term parking, and lengthy security procedures. In the past year I've tried to go back to old habits, taking my family to the airport and greeting them there when they return. When you've been out of town, away from your home and family, it's great to have someone you love meet you at the gate. Going to the airport becomes an act of love.

The concept of "walking to the gate" has much to offer with respect to life and death. Today's newborn is "met at the gate" by his father in the delivery room. The father hands him to the mother and may then cut the umbilical cord. Dad is no longer confined to or content to sit in the waiting room. Just as greeting the newborn at the "gate" is beneficial, we should do the same for the dying.

When Robert, a close business associate, found a suspicious lump near his spine, he was optimistic at first. We talked about the options for treatment, assuming it was a benign growth. Then Robert looked at me, really looked at me, and said, "What if it is the worst-case scenario? What if I am going to die?"

I searched inside for my most honest yet compassionate response. "Then, Robert, my friend, I will be there with you for as long as I can. I will walk you to the gate." Robert's time has not yet come, but he knows that when it does, he will not be alone.

Ninety-two-year-old June was living in a retirement home, just down the street from her son and daughter-in-law. The two "children," both in their late fifties, were always close to June. They visited her a number of times each week and took her out as much as possible on weekends. In fact, the daughter-in-law, who lost her mother when she was young, loved June for forty years like her own mother.

One day the retirement home's doctor examined June and ran some tests. He found that a tumor had wrapped itself around her aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body. Given her age and poor general health, none of the standard treatment options made sense.

Her son and daughter-in-law talked about this new development, then told June: "As you get sicker, we don't want you to go into a hospital and be cared for by people who don't know you. We want you to die in our home, with us around you. Between us and the kids, we'll manage. You've always been there for us, now we'll be there for you."

The idea of walking loved ones to the gate is gradually catching on. We walk our loved ones to the gate when we bring them home to die. We walk our loved ones to the gate when we spend the night in the hospital room rather than waiting in the waiting room for them to die. We walk them to the gate when we let them know that no matter what happens, we will be with them. We finish our unfinished business when we say what needs to be said, we cry with them and for them, and we hold their hands as we walk them to the gate. [18-37]

 

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