Ironically, dying is an inevitable part of life. The question is not simply a case of when, but how.
In an ideal world, we all wish to pass peacefully in our sleep, having lived a long and happy life. But, in reality that ending is only attainable to a small percentage of the population.
Tragically, a large portion of the world’s population meet a premature death at the hands of terminal illnesses, such as cancer. Aware that the curtain is soon to close on their lives, these people have time to reflect on what they have and haven’t done. They are afforded the luxury of a final farewell before they succumb to their bodies urge to shutdown.
For these people, the best medical care in the world is available in the form of palliative care nurses, such as Macmillan in the UK who specialize in caring for the terminally ill.
These nurses face many challenges on a daily basis, but nothing can compete with the time they spend with patients shortly before they pass away. Their work enables them to hear the final wishes and last words of patients, before they leave this world.
Talking to the BBC, the Macmillan nurses of the Royal Stoke University Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, England, recall the haunting things people say before they die…
“Sometimes they just want a cup of tea.”
To a British person, a cup of tea is universally acknowledged as the best medicine the body can get. The warm, fragrant elixir soothes the soul, giving the drinker a moment of calm. Thus, it is a popular request from those on their deathbed, who crave the comfort of a cup of tea.
“They actually said they were happy to die because they’d had a glimpse of heaven.”
One nurse recalled an occasion “many years ago” when a patient who was “semi-conscious” made a startling premonition. “They actually said they were happy to die, because they’d had a glimpse of heaven and it was wonderful and they weren’t frightened to die.”
“I’ll have my party and then I’ll go.”
Another nurse described a common final wish. “We’ve had people say, ‘I’m 80 [years-old] in a couple of weeks and I’ll have my 80th birthday. I’ll have my party, and then I’ll go’,” she explains with a smile, before adding: “Very strangely, we do see that that happens.”
They reunite with their pet
“To experience the joy on someone’s face when they’re dying and their dog’s been to see them is priceless,” said one nurse, while another added: “We’ve had a border collie and an Alsatian-cross up on the bed with with a gentleman, and that was his wish.”
They ask for something stronger than tea
“We do get people that would like their favorite tipple, a drink,” said one nurse, while another stated that most patients prefer a hot cup of tea. “It’s the one thing that I think everybody wants,” she says with a smile.
A husband and wife requested to have their beds pushed together
One nurse recalled a heartbreaking moment, reminiscent of the cult classic film The Notebook. “An elderly lady on a busy surgical ward,” she begins sadly.
“She was in a side room.Her husband then became acutely unwell and they had a request that they just wanted their beds together, and they just lay side by side, holding hands and they were singing ‘Slow Boat To China’ together,” the nurse explains with a smile, before sadly saying: “They both died on that ward within 10 days of each other.”
“Life is too short”
Many of the patients urge the nurses to experience live their life to the full. “I remember one person saying how life is too short. Do the things that you want, do the things that make you happy,” says one nurse, with a sad smile.
The “dying process isn’t like the movies”
“One thing that was said to me, quite recently actually, was about the dying process. He said it wasn’t like the movies and like what you see on the TV,” explained one of the younger nurses.
Take retirement earlier
“People will often have worked really hard, set a retirement date, and then have often felt that their retirement has been ill health and they haven’t had the time to spend doing the things they’d hoped to,” explained another nurse, her eyes revealing the true heartbreak that she experiences every day.
However, sometimes it is life after death that surprises those still on the planet. This little boy was one of those people, after he visited his mom’s grave…