Poignant Timing

I have a slight fascination with the events leading up to the actual timing of someone’s death. Some may call this recall bias, in other words, I simply just remember the one’s that are unique giving me a false sense of the reality relating to the timing of death. This is likely true, but I still find certain narrative’s inspiring.

In the last several weeks I have had several of these perfectly timed deaths. One family feared their father might die on his daughter’s birthday. They had discussed this with him while he was still lucid. The birthday arrived, and he was actively dying. Perhaps he had a choice in the matter, because he hung on until 3 hours past midnight, just making it past the birthday date.

Another patient, an elderly woman known for her vindictive controlling behavior, seemed to be punishing her daughter,who had an overseas trip that had been planned for over a year. The two had the kind of relationship that was tolerant at times but bitter mostly. During an argument, the daughter told her mother, who seemed still to have months left to live, that she was leaving for her trip no matter what.  Looking from the outside, it seemed the mother wanted to put this to the test, suddenly taking a turn for the worse and dying on the eve of her daughter’s big trip. The daughter kept her word, leaving for the airport, and thus missing her mother’s graveside service.

This week I experienced a new one for me. The patient was a young 96, having lived in the same home on her family ranch/farm for the past 71 years. Her only son had adopted the responsibilities of the farm after the death of her husband. I assume it was a combination of a mild stroke and leaving her home that started the slide into a dying state.

The conversation they had went like this:

“I don’t think I’ve got long to live” she whispered to her quiet natured son.

He sat with hat in hand, well worn jeans and work boots. After a moment he spoke up, “Well Mom, I think we’re gonna start cutting wheat this week”

She seemed to mull this over and made her deceleration, “I’ll wait till the wheat’s baled then”

The week came and went and things started to get a bit rough with her transition. I think she was trying to hold on. The wheat cutting then finished, so after some prompting from us, her son let her know the wheat was baled… and she became peaceful and died soon after.

The lesson for me in all this is that while we may not always understand the timing surrounding someone’s death, often there seems to be a reason important enough for that individual to either speed things up or slow things down.

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