I appreciate what this particular death midwife is saying: "It is not mysterious or grandiose - bottom line, you're just visiting someone...at a very scary time in life". We just do it. We visit. We attend to needs. We show up.
We never know how someone feels about something until we do. 16 years ago I went to our local humane society and adopted an adorable white and black long haired cat; we named her Alice. My daughters were 2 and 4 years old and I was married to their dad at the time. We have so many stories with Alice and I have a love for her that is pretty amazing since I never really liked cats before then.
I belong to Hospice Community Forum and just had a discussion with an “11th hour volunteer”. An 11th hour volunteer is a person who sits at the bedside of the dying, usually when death is imminent or within 24 hours or so. They are very much akin to a death doula.
Most of us have heard this term. It is the noisy rattling sound a dying person makes that can be very disturbing to hear. Death rattle happens when secretions gather in the throat because the person is too weak to swallow.
As a person nears the end of life, there are some very basic similarities that may be seen which cross the type of illness or 'reason' for dying. Below is a list of some of these behaviors. Usually, the closer to death the more pronounced the symptom.
There is a phenomenon called terminal agitation, which may occur when a person is near the end of life. It may look like this: picking in the air, taking off one's clothes no matter who is around, trying to get out of bed regardless of safety issues...
I found a cassette tape under a bunch of papers on my desk and put it in my recorder (that barely works). This is where it began:
When someone is dying a natural death, there is a breathing pattern that usually happens. It goes something like this: a deep breath or two, then holding it, followed by a shallow breath or two, and so on. It is an uneven pattern of inhales and exhales. It can be scary if you don't know it is coming.
When a person is dying, they are retreating from everything outside of themselves. They have little energy for anything outside of what is going on in their internal world.
When a person is approaching the end of their life, things outside of them begin to lose appeal. You will start to notice they are not doing some of the things they have enjoyed over the years. They begin to not want to see people. This is not to be confused with depression.