By: Stephen & Ondrea
Posted: November 12, 2012

How do I die with dignity and have control over my decisions that may be against my family's or friends' wishes? 
Designate an OMBUDSMAN to speak up for you when you may not be able. It is another level of the wishes of the Living Will which legalizes your wishes for the extension or diminishment of care at a time when a Code Blue might be called to resusitate a failing body.

OMBUDSMAN: We have known more than one case when a dying patient did not want previously abusive FRIENDS OR FAMILY into their “dying/birthing room” How many we have seen at the very end requiring a certain control over their death that others have used to diminish their life. No one wants a wars zone at such an intense time in one’s letting go of life and raw, uncooked old issues. Judgmental parents, betraying family and lovers, who might well have benefited from some last moments of forgiving and asking for same, deprived because their account at karma savings and loan has long been over drawn.

Although it may at last be satisfying to “ get them back” as well as protect yourself or a loved ones from the continuation of long accustomed unkind commentary on one’s life there may arise naturally a sense that it is time, now as time diminishes, to offer and accept forgiveness, mercy and perhaps for the well being of all in this same situation, in this same dying bed, to remind the others on that raft to not just let go of the body, but also anything that blocks the entrance into the heart.

It has repeatedly been observed that those who forgive the most profoundly seem to heal the deepest and quickest. Love is the ombudsman of the heart, the gatekeeper, that unlike most, struggle to keep the gate open and the sluice runs flowing away the unfinished business, the fetters and restrains that causes most to wake frightened just beneath the surface each day.

All our work with the dying of course was not limited to workshops and retreats, or the 24 hour foundation Dying Phone but indeed was predominantly to work directly with those who asked us to be a guide and ombudsman for various spiritually inclined people often benefiting the patient, as one might imagine, with compassion m guided meditations and what Buddha called “noble silence:, a profound sharing of hearts, a tuning in on the shared common tap root from which we sprang and from which now its shrinking blossoms dream of Spring.

But sometimes we have been called by a wounded passage way to the heart, the stone rolled into the mouth of the cave.

I was asked to attend the dying of one woman I knew quite well who had been for years a member of a large spiritual group who were gathering in her home to help her across as they saw fit. Also attending was her mother, a member of a wildly incestuous clan with a hand gun in her purse. 

At first it seemed, though the personalities in the room were quite different, that because they all had a common focus on the well-being of the extremely ill woman dying in the next room, all was relatively peaceful. But the spiritual group had tried and true rituals they felt would help which seemed very odd, perhaps demonic, to the woman’s mother. Her mother wanted to help her daughter both of whom were willing to step back from the life and friends she had chosen. But gradually many, even within the spiritual group, were disagreeing about what should be done for their family member. Her mother was becoming increasingly agitated and the group increasingly superior. Arguments were breaking out. Her mother said she wanted these weird hippies to get out. A general hysteria was brewing. The sick woman’s best friend arrived and sort of coordinated the swirl acting as her head caregiver, making sure medications and treatments were provided.

So everyone cooled off for a while. But most were not satisfied with the environment. The group wanted to be there for her, feeling they knew what she would want and what was best for her. Good, though a bit pushy, intentions. Mother wanted something a kin to peace and quiet and control of her daughter’s house. The most centered of the group spoke very kindly to her mother and tried to ease her feelings. But the mother felt her attachment to her daughter trumped their spiritual concerns. The days were long and the different sides could have used a mediator but I was spending all my time in the next room sitting beside my old friend. I could hear the rising and falling tumult but had my work cut out for me as the pain my friend was going through needed my complete attention.

The mother who spent a good deal of time in the room with me and her daughter wanted only to ease her daughter’s difficulties and though at times she may have appreciated the group’s intentions didn’t quite abide by their methods. The spiritual group grew increasingly angrier and felt her mother was going to short circuit her daughter’s opportunities to a higher incarnation. The group had quite a different agenda than the woman who had given birth to her. Beside the clash of personalities the mother had a different religion which she too felt was a requirement for her daughter’s most advantageous passing. One group had their talismans and chants, the other individual had a cross and a .38 which she flashed in her purse. Both sides were becoming rather insistent.

The daughter was too ill to care. She just did whatever her mother wanted to ease her mind. I spoke to both parties and found the mother becoming unmovable . No compromise was offered and I had to tell the spiritual group to back off. I spoke to my dying friend but she was far away from these issues as was really best for her needs.

Only a few just quietly brought food and left without being proprietary about their beloved friend.

The spiritual group started fighting among themselves and some were thrown out of the house and told by her mother not to come back. This caused more fighting as to why one was allowed to visit but not another. Even my friend’s best friend was not allowed in . She was very sad at this turn of events, but accepted this as part of her friend’s needs. 

Some who had been asked to leave yelled and fought to come in. I was the “middle man” , the role my teacher always warned us not to get stuck in and he was right as usual. I had to step in or the energy in the house would surely have spun completely out of balance. This was an uncomfortable position but I did my best not to speak unkindly to anyone.

As my friend got closer to the end she turned to her mother’s faith which naturally made everyone crazy.

My friend did not care about the mixed feelings in the kitchen. She was in her dying process and her work was to meet head- on, heart- on, whatever was to come next. Her only work was to go to whatever she recognized as God. The group’s work was to work on themselves and practice letting go of their holding.

This was one of the most difficult dyings I had been with because of the incessant in-fighting.

I felt blessed to be with this woman for her last 6 hours taking every breath with her , breathing “Ahhhh” together on the out breath....when the last breath came I only noticed it because I gave a breath and she didn’t...she died in peace.

But everyone isn’t as spiritual as they might wish to be in the face of mortality, might even have to deal with distracting memories, voices and images that left unattended only intensify unfinished business, but turned toward with mercy for others and even for our often confused self, how do they do?
Most of these passing, though complex at times due to the multileveled energies of family and friends’ grief around the deathbed, on occasion had moments of almost blinding spirit and the revelation of the enormous human heart. We were engulfed in a peace that went well beyond understanding. We experienced the hard work people are capable of under dire circumstances and the grace that often met their efforts, as well as the effortless unfolding of what might be called miracles in any other circumstance but which, on the deathbed, were the extraordinary depth of our very human heart.

Even some who had mean-spirited ,unkind, even violent lives had unexpectedly beautiful, peaceful, merciful deaths. But sometimes the teaching we received around the deathbed displayed the nature of the accumulated momentum of a person’s life, some call karma, comes to fruition is not so reassuring or inspiring. No matter what unknown opportunities may await us all, a few before departure, may fall short of grace.