Margie Harper died at age 97 at Our Lady of the Rosary Hospital in Castor, supported by her daughters, extended family and a rural healthcare team who knew and loved her. Margie died as she lived on her own terms. There were several memorable aspects of Margie’s death that left a lasting impression on those around her. The following is an artistic interpretation of Margie’s advice about death, as gleaned from a detailed discussion with her daughters, Margo and Carolynn.
“Mom was a woman of great service. She had a final conversation with each of her grandchildren, nieces and nephews before she died. She reminded them that their purpose on earth was to serve.”
You get to decide how you spend the last days of your life. Make sure your loved ones and the medical team understand your values and priorities, so they can support your wishes. Ask a lot of questions: What medications are you being prescribed and why? What tests or treatments are being recommended? What are the pros and cons of each? Discuss each of these with your care team and accept only what suits your needs.
Visiting hours do not apply. Feel free to ask your loved ones to stay by your side during your final hours. The hospital might be able to provide a cot or comfortable chairs for your family to sleep in your room.
Do not feel obliged to talk only in soft whispers around the dying. Let your final days be a celebration of the people and things you value most. If you are a person of faith, pray. If you like poetry, have readings. If you love music, encourage sing-songs. If someone is having a birthday, celebrate it. If things are getting too tense, encourage stories and laughter. Die as you lived, surrounded by love and life.
Final conversations with your loved ones can be difficult, but profound and life-changing. This is your chance to share your wisdom from a life well lived, your wishes for their future and the legacy you want them to carry on after you are gone. Make it count.
“As mom came closer to death, all of the outward trappings fell away, and in the end, all that was left was love. She always said that life and love live on … love never dies.”
Read more about Margie and her family at Our Lady of the Rosary Hospital in the 2017 Annual Report to the Community
Have a story to share about health care? An idea for an article? We value all contributions.