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On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D.

On Death and Dying establishes a psychological fact that most people close to a dying person already know, even if they can't admit it:  One tends to turn away. Even from husbands, even from wives, even from one's own children. Dying people are casualties of life. Their dying, especially if it is a long, drawn-out affair, is a reminder of how vulnerable we all are, and that's something most people want to forget.

It's in our process of trying to forget that the dying person himself is often forgotten. There he is, lying there, waiting to be recognized. Doctors, nurses, friends and relatives come to "see" him every day. But what he is desperate for is recognition, and recognition is what we seem so utterly unable to give.

On Death and Dying is a powerful book, because it forces the reader into the point of view of someone dying. Suddenly you're on the other side of that glass between the living and the dying, and it's not comfortable. But, as Elisabeth Kiibler-Ross points out, the point is not always to "comfort" the healthy. That tendency is a major cause of the intense psychic suffering dying people must endure, in addition to the physical failures that are killing them. This book speaks for die dying in a way they are unable to speak for themselves. It's disturbing, but then so is all education. I'd say this book is indispensable for all people who are living in the presence of someone else's gradual death.

I remember as a child the death of a farmer. Me fell from a tree and was not expected to live.  He asked simply to die at home, a wish that was granted without questioning.  He called his daughters into the bedroom and spoke with each one of them alone for a few minutes. He arranged his affairs quietly, though he was in great pain, and distributed his belongings and his land, none of which was to be split until his wife should follow him in death. He also asked each of his children to share in the work, duties, and tasks that he had carried on until the time of the accident. He asked his friends to visit him once more, to bid good-bye to them. Although I was a small child at the time, he did not exclude me or my siblings. We were allowed to share in the preparations of the family just as we were permitted to grieve with them until he died. When he did die, he was left at home, in his own beloved home which he had built, and among his friends and neighbors who went to take a last look at him where he lay in the midst of flowers in the place he had lived in and loved so much.

He was quite aware that his days were numbered, and his greatest wish was to be moved into different positions (he was paralyzed to his neck).  He begged the nurse never to put the side rails up as it reminded him of being in a casket. The nurse, who was very hostile to this patient, agreed that she would leave them down at all times. This private duty nurse was very angry when she was disturbed in her reading, and she knew that he would keep quiet as long as she fulfilled this wish.

But I, it isn't dying alone, it's the torture that pain can give you, like you just want to tear your hair out. You don't care if you don't bathe for days because it's just so much effort, like you're becoming less a human being.

Everybody expected her to die soon, but day after day she remained in an unchanged condition.  Her daughter was torn between sending her to a nursing home or keeping her in the hospital, where she apparently wanted to stay. Her son-in-law was angry at her for having used up their life savings and had innumerable arguments with his wife, who felt too guilty to take her out of the hospital. When I visited the old woman she looked frightened and weary. I asked her simply what she was so afraid of. She looked at me and finally expressed what she had been unable to communicate before, because she herself realized how unrealistic her fears were. She was afraid of "being eaten up alive by the worms." While I was catching my breath and tried to understand the real meaning of this statement, her daughter blurted out, "If that's what's keeping you from dying, we can burn you," by which she naturally meant that a cremation would prevent her from having any contact with earthworms. All her suppressed anger was in this statement.



 

ISBN: 0684842238

Order it now from Amazon.com!