Around 11 am yesterday, shortly after I got off the phone with Maggie’s sister, who is staying with her 24/7 along with her brother, Maggie’s behavior shifted dramatically from a determination to live to an urgent desire to get up and go. This is NOT the same as a desire for suicide. Restlessness is a common experience at the very end of life. To people like me who believe our souls are immortal and eternal, it looks like the soul begins to experience itself as a separate thing from the body and is trying to get itself free. Sometimes it seems like it’s wild to get out.
When you are attending someone experiencing this type of dying process, you really have to pay attention to them to figure out what they want and what they need in order to keep them feeling as safe, loved, calm and empowered as possible. Even so, they may need anti-psychotic medications. No matter how many death scenes you’ve seen on TV or in films, you’ve never seen this.
So, yesterday Maggie began to pick at the covers and make gestures of doing various tasks. She’s talked about getting out of a basement and down from scary heights. She said her mommy and daddy were there and mad at her — that everyone was mad at her. After getting anti-psychotic medication at bedtime, she had a fairly quiet night and got some sleep. But this morning she was so determined to get up and get going that she had torn out her medication port and IVs before her sister and the nurse could stop her.
When Maggie’s sister tried to comfort her that everybody loves her and no one is mad at her, Maggie couldn’t believe it and remained stuck in her fear and shame. You can’t easily get people to shift to a new position by resisting them — they’ll just dig in deeper. But they WILL move if they see a better place to go and a plausible way to get there. So I made some suggestions drawn from the books of Unity Church minister, Dr. Catherine Ponder. I suggested telling Maggie that the Angel of Forgiveness and the Angel of Love were there healing all the anger and replacing it with forgiveness and love in ways that were for the highest good of Maggie and everyone else involved. I suggested that when Maggie was afraid that they tell her that her Guardian Angel was with her to protect her. And, finally, I suggested they tell Maggie that Jesus is with her all the time now, making her safe, and that Jesus and the angels will take her to heaven when it is her time so she won’t be alone.
The report this morning is that this is working. It just has to be repeated like it’s brand new because the dying process affects the memory, so Maggie forgets after about five minutes. But for a few minutes, she relaxes and feels safe.