Pure Land Centre plcoaadmin


Caregiving as Spiritual Practice

Story #15: Caregiving as Spiritual Practice [1]

This is one story in a series of 15 on End of Life.

Marisa, a vibrant and pretty doctor in her mid-thirties, asked me how to deal with an angry and demanding patient. I suggested she try one of the Buddhist meditations she had learned, especially before going into the patient’s room.

Marisa took time to do the compassion practices of ‘Seeing the other as another you’ and ‘Exchanging places’. “When I exchanged places with my patient, suddenly I was this old woman who had constant pain, felt ugly, helpless and unwanted,” recalled Marisa. “And when I saw this attractive young doctor come into the room, full of smiles, I hated her more than anything.”

Complete your reading on Caregiving as Spiritual Practice

[1] Extracts from Facing Death and Finding Hope:
A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying By Christine Longaker, Broadway Books, New York 2001, 262 pp


Healing and Concluding the Relationship

Story #14: Healing and Concluding the Relationship [1]

This is one story in a series of 15 on End of Life.

Getting stuck in any kind of emotional unfinished business prevents us from completing our mourning. We may sustain an unbalanced image of the deceased, seeing him or her as our lifelong nemesis or as a saint who could do no wrong.

After a death, whether expected or sudden, we are challenged to communicate all of our conflicting emotions, frustrations and unexpressed regrets. If we didn’t do so previously, we will also need to conclude our relationship and say goodbye.

Jenny, an old friend of mine, showed me her account of her encounters with death, which was written for a college class. In two pages, she described in great detail her father’s illness and death, which had occurred three years earlier. I was startled to see one sentence standing alone at the end of the story: “Six weeks after my father’s death, my mother died.”

Complete your reading on Healing and Concluding the Relationship

[1] Extracts from Facing Death and Finding Hope:
A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying By Christine Longaker, Broadway Books, New York 2001, 262 pp


Prayer for Those in a Coma

Story #13: Prayer for Those in a Coma [1]

This is one story in a series of 15 on End of Life.

My second grandmother, my father’s mother, was a widow well into her eighties. She had become very frail in the last few years, and had begun to prepare for her death. Before going into surgery for a bowel obstruction, she’d made out a Living Will, requesting to dispense with any artificial means of life support if she were dying. During the surgery, she did die, and was eventually resuscitated, but she came out with severe, irreparable brain damage. She lay in an unresponsive coma for days, connected to every means of life support, with a respirator going constantly and a monitor tracking every heartbeat. My father had pleaded with the doctor to discontinue the life support, showing the written evidence of her wishes, but to no avail.

Complete your reading on Prayer for Those in a Coma

[1] Extracts from Facing Death and Finding Hope:
A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying By Christine Longaker, Broadway Books, New York 2001, 262 pp


Compassion and Dedication

Story #12: Compassion and Dedication [1]

This is one story in a series of 15 on End of Life.

Jean, a close friend, called me in distress. She would be visiting her dying father-in-law soon, probably for the last time. Ed was comatose, so Jean wouldn’t be able to have a normal conversation with him. Her feelings were mixed – she knew it would be good if she could help him let go and die peacefully. Yet because of his alcoholism, he had brought considerable emotional suffering to his entire family, including his son, Jean’s husband. Over the twenty-five years she’d been part of the family, the family members were always distant from each other, uncommunicative and unsupportive.

Complete your reading on Compassion and Dedication

[1] Extracts from Facing Death and Finding Hope:
A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying By Christine Longaker, Broadway Books, New York 2001, 262 pp


Supporting Those Who are Nonreligious

Story #11: Supporting Those Who are Nonreligious [1]

This is one story in a series of 15 on End of Life.

Paul’s mother, Isabelle, did not have any religious faith and clearly told her family she didn’t want to speak about spiritual matters. Near the end of her life, Isabelle became quite agitated and anxious and required frequent doses of pain medication. Whenever Paul visited her, he spent part of the time silently continuing his practice of the Essential Phowa while she rested. After a few such visits, Isabelle confessed to her daughter that whenever Paul was with her, she felt much more peaceful and was able to skip her next dose of pain medication.

Complete your reading on Supporting Those Who are Nonreligious

[1] Extracts from Facing Death and Finding Hope:
A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying By Christine Longaker, Broadway Books, New York 2001, 262 pp


When time is running out

Story #10: When time is running out [1]

This is one story in a series of 15 on End of Life.

Each afternoon, when the father of a twenty-four-year-old son who was dying came to the hospital to visit, the nurse, Anne, observed a similar painful scene. The father entered his son’s room, slightly hunched, his face a mixture of sadness and feigned cheerfulness. He would move a chair to the side of the bed, hoping to look into his son’s face, and every day as he started to speak, his son would turn his head toward the opposite wall.

A week passed with this continuing standoff, a week closer to the son’s imminent death.

Complete your reading on When time is running out

[1] Extracts from Facing Death and Finding Hope:
A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying By Christine Longaker, Broadway Books, New York 2001, 262 pp


The family’s journey towards death

Story #9: The family’s journey towards death [1]

This is one story in a series of 15 on End of Life.

Just before midnight, the call came. As she listened to the young woman’s description of her mother’s condition, Lee, a hospice nurse, assessed that the mother would probably die during the night. Lee gently informed the daughter that the physical changes she was witnessing were normal and no cause for alarm.

“Are you aware that your mother is very close to dying?”

“Yes. It’s hard to hear it once again but I knew deep down that the end was near. She wanted to have a peaceful death so I arranged everything I could to bring her home to die. We’ve only had one visit from the hospice nurse since the. I feel so unprepared. Is there anything I can do for her now?”

Complete your reading on The family’s journey towards death

[1] Extracts from Facing Death and Finding Hope:
A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying By Christine Longaker, Broadway Books, New York 2001, 262 pp


Confronting the dying person’s denial

Story #8: Confronting the dying person’s denial [1]

This is one story in a series of 15 on End of Life.

Judy was thirty-five years old when her father, Harry, was dying of cancer. Although the whole family had been informed together that Harry was close to death, he adamantly refused to let anyone speak about it. Continually tense and angry, Harry attacked anyone who tried to come near. After many unsuccessful attempts at making a connection, Judy and her family became increasingly frustrated and distanced from him.

Complete your reading on Confronting the dying person’s denial

[1] Extracts from Facing Death and Finding Hope:
A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying By Christine Longaker, Broadway Books, New York 2001, 262 pp


Don’t hide from each other

Story #7: Don’t hide from each other [1]

This is one story in a series of 15 on End of Life.

Angie was forty-four, and her mother meant everything to her – more, she said, than her own husband and children. Angie’s mother, Helen, had developed multiple metastases from advanced breast cancer, and her liver, spine and hip all had new tumours. When I met Helen in the hospital, I observed how frail and weak she was. She revealed to me that she knew her lifespan was limited.

Angie was agitated and tense when we met soon thereafter. “Whenever we visit Helen’s doctor he says she is going to get better,” Angie told me, “But the nurses in the hospital say her condition is terminal. So tell me: is my mother dying or not?”

Complete your reading on Don’t hide from each other

[1] Extracts from Facing Death and Finding Hope:
A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying By Christine Longaker, Broadway Books, New York 2001, 262 pp


Healing a relationship

Story #6: Healing a relationship [1]

This is one story in a series of 15 on End of Life.

Joe’s children and grandchildren were so warm and loving and their communication was so open, that Mark, the hospice volunteer, wondered if he should have himself assigned to another family. Before asking for a transfer, Mark privately approached the dying man and asked, “Is there anything you can think of, anything at all, that I can help you with before you die?”

“I’m so glad you asked,” Joe said, “I’ve been troubled by one thing that I really want to clear up before I die, but I need help to do it, and I didn’t know who to ask.”

Complete your reading on Healing a relationship

[1] Extracts from Facing Death and Finding Hope:
A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying By Christine Longaker, Broadway Books, New York 2001, 262 pp