Old Timers Resisting High Tech


Before we can talk about the end of life, perhaps it might be worthwhile to talk about the meaning of life. The meaning of life is different for almost every individual, depending on their family background, life experiences, religious training and intellect. Before we get into the details of the END OF LIFE, we're going to tackle one interesting perception of the meaning of life. It is up to the reader to determine for him or her self whether this perception is aligned with the individual's belief, or opposed to it. After that, we will approach the end of life issues.

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Life is a blast because it beats the alternative all to pieces. To get out of bed every morning is a true victory. So do you want to know the true meaning of life? We'll give you our definition.

First comes life.
Then comes consciousness.
Then comes wonder.
Then comes the thirst for knowledge.
Then comes knowledge.
With knowledge comes understanding.
With understanding comes wisdom.
With wisdom comes peace.
With knowledge, understanding, wisdom and peace, comes all things.

This is probably as good a meaning of life as any and will suffice until we know much, much more. Truly, the meaning of life is the quest and the journey.

We'll close by quoting a poem we wrote several years ago.

Copyright January 2001
by Ron Ewart

In all living things a life force resides.
The will to survive is paramount.
Living is a battle and you have to take sides,
For to do otherwise, the soul that is you will not count.

No matter what life has in store for me,
Each new obstacle shall harden my resolve.
Be it fortress or mountain or just a large tree,
The life force within me will never dissolve.

Should an event cripple me and leave me with one leg.
I shall hop forever if that’s what is demanded of me.
Should somehow I be left with no legs at all,
I will find the strength to slither or crawl.

If I finally end up with no legs or arms,
I will use my teeth to keep up the pace.
When my eyes will no longer show me the way
I will use my ears or the nerves in my face.

For my destiny is not getting to some temporary place,
Where I cannot stay for but a moment or a smile.
For everyone knows it’s not getting there, it’s the race,
And it’s the life force within me that makes it worthwhile.

When nothing is left but a shallow breath,
And my heart beats with a dying sound.
My mind will look skyward as I wait for death
As the life force within me seeks higher ground.

And when finally the light has gone out of my soul.
I will allow the winds to carry me far.
Because the life force within me has me on a roll,
And I dare not let go on my way to a star.

What does this poem have to do with the meaning of life? Keep staring deep into the night sky and maybe, just maybe, one day you will know.

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Each person's journey to death is unique. Some people have a very gradual decline; others will fade quickly.

As death approaches, your role is to be present, provide comfort, and reassure your loved one with soothing words and actions that help maintain their comfort and dignity.

Hospice Care

When your loved one's health care team recognizes that he or she is likely within 6 months of dying, they may recommend switching to hospice, a more specialized care for people with a terminal illness who are expected to die.

Your loved one will still get treatment for pain relief and comfort, but hospice also offers emotional and spiritual support for them as well as you and close family.

Signs That Death Is Near

There are changes you can expect to see as an adult body stops working. These are a normal part of dying.

Children and teens have a similar process, but it can be harder to predict. They often stay fairly active and continue to ask a lot of tough-to-answer questions.

1 to 3 months before death, your loved one is likely to:

Sleep or doze more
Eat and drink less
Withdraw from people and stop doing things they used to enjoy
Talk less (but if they're a child, more)

1 to 2 weeks before death, the person may feel tired and drained all the time, so much that they don't leave their bed. They could have:

Different sleep-wake patterns
Little appetite and thirst
Fewer and smaller bowel movements and less pee
More pain
Changes in blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate
Body temperature ups and downs that may leave their skin cool, warm, moist, or pale
Congested breathing from the buildup in the back of their throat
Confusion or seem to be in a daze

Breathing trouble can be distressing for family members, but often it isn't painful and can be managed. Pain can be treated, too. But your loved one may have a hard time taking medicine by mouth.

Hallucinations and visions, especially of long-gone loved ones, can be comforting. If seeing and talking to someone who isn't there makes the person who's dying happier, you don't need to try to convince them that they aren't real. It may upset them and make them argue and fight with you.

When death is within days or hours, your loved one may:

Not want food or drink
Stop peeing and having bowel movements
Grimace, groan, or scowl from pain
You may notice their:

Eyes tear or glaze over
Pulse and heartbeat are irregular or hard to feel or hear
Body temperature drops
Skin on their knees, feet, and hands turns a mottled bluish-purple (often in the last 24 hours)
Breathing is interrupted by gasping and slows until it stops entirely

If they're not already unconscious, your loved one may drift in and out. But they probably can still hear and feel.

At the End

In the last days or hours, your loved one may become restless and confused and have hallucinations so upsetting they may cry out, strike out, or try to climb out of bed. Stay with them. Try to keep them calm with soothing music and gentle touch. Sometimes medication helps.

The room should be well lit, but not bright. Make it as quiet and peaceful as possible. Constantly assure them that you're there.

Ironically, a loved one may also become clear-headed in their final hours.

When to Say Good-bye

One of the hardest decisions is when to call in people to say good-bye and to make memories for the future.

Let family members and close friends know as soon as it's obvious that death is near. The care team can help you all prepare for what's coming, both what will happen to your loved one and your own physical and emotional reactions. Being together allows family members to support each other, too.

Even though you've gathered, don't assume it means you'll be there at the end. Often the person doesn't die until those who sat with them for hours have left, as if he or she was unable to let go while the ones they loved were there.

Help and Support

Caregivers, families, and friends of someone who is dying can turn to:

Family Caregiver Alliance
Hospice Foundation of America
National Caregivers Library
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

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Here is another poem that is relevant to the end of life.

By Ron Ewart, Copyright January 2001
- All Rights Reserved -

From that day that you were born
To the day you’ll take your last breath.
You struggle with the mystery
Of birth and life and death.

Although you cast your doubts away
And dilute your nagging fears.
You drown the real feelings
That began in early years.

And even as you grow older
When the youthful zeal subsides.
It’s funny how you think you can
Turn back the ebbing tide.

Some think they have the answer
And get lost in fleeting whims.
Still others turn ever inward
And snap like brittle limbs.

It seems the awful thing we face
Is that our life is not infinite.
So we enter in the silly race
And end up buried in it.

Why do we delude ourselves?
The evidence is quite clear.
It’s one moment and you are gone,
When the one before you were here.

Should it be so awesome
That our life just merely ends?
The Universe seems full enough
Without cluttering up the Heavens.

Give up this crazy notion.
When it’s time to die, just die.
But while you’re here old man,
Don’t sit around and cry.

You’ve got to love, work hard and give,
And put your trust in fate.
But live! Live! Live!
And don’t be second rate.

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