Long Beach, California—Grief and gratitude make strange bedfellows.
The best goodbyes happen when letting go is able to hold hands with giving thanks. I’ve seen this quite a few times in my grief coaching practice—
how, in the midst of the deepest of sorrows, the bereaved manages to give thanks at the moment of passing for the life now gone, or about to depart.
I saw this most recently in the undying love that a dear friend’s husband showed for his wife. My friend Michee had been battling breast cancer on and off for the last five years. There were good years and there were difficult years, and through it all, her beloved George was her strength, her rock.
It helped tremendously that Michee was a woman blessed with an amazing sense of positivity and faith in God. Hers was a smile that could light up an entire room. She always managed to soothe the nerves of the patients and families she attended to in the course of her work as the customer relations head of a private hospital in Manila.
Michee was always beautiful, and she personified grace under pressure. Even in death.
In the final days of her life, when the pain became too much to bear and symptoms of her disease would no longer respond to treatment, causing her great distress, Michee and George opted for palliative sedation. According to the National Cancer Institute website, palliative sedation (PS) is “the use of special drugs called sedatives to relieve extreme suffering by making a patient calm, unaware or unconscious.
This may be done for patients who have symptoms that cannot be controlled with other treatments. PS may be used in patients who are near the end of life to make them more comfortable. It is not meant to shorten life or cause death.
PS is not euthanasia. The intent of PS is to relieve unremitting and intractable suffering through sedation, while euthanasia is termination of the patient’s life.
George said, prior to being sedated, Michee was able to say her goodbyes to everyone in her family. There is always so much grace in this final gift, which enables both the dying and the soon-to-be-bereaved the opportunity to say thank you for the life that was, and at the same time to let go and say goodbye.
Not everyone is given that grace. And as painful and heartbreaking as it might be, it is still a rare and beautiful gift.
And so it was that while Michee “slept” peacefully, her family gathered around her, to watch and keep her company while waiting for her to depart. When the moment came, said George, “She was so beautiful, and so at peace as she slipped into an eternal slumber so quietly and gracefully.”
What kept him steady in that moment, he added, was seeing her no longer in pain. “I will miss her every day, but I am grateful for all the years we were given together. She is now in the best place she could possibly be, and someday, I know, I will see her again.”
Farewell, Michee. Thank you for teaching us to live with kindness and compassion for others. Thank you, too, for modeling for us what it means to give thanks under every circumstance, and to graciously let go.
My Good Grief workshop series begins on May 19, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., in Bonifacio Global City. The workshop equips the newly bereaved with the tools for navigating life after the death of a loved one. For more information on fees and reservation, e-mail [email protected] or text 09178821964.
E-mail the columnist at [email protected]