Love Me Until I Die
by Schramm, Daniel
Time is fast fleeting for all of us, but if you are dying, time is of more value and each moment is precious since you don’t know how much longer you have with those you love. However, sometimes it is difficult to express your desires or feelings during this time of uncertainty. This booklet is written to help facilitate a conversation with those you love or those who are caring for you at the end of your life.
If you are caring for a loved one who is dying, despite your feelings of overwhelming stress and sadness, there are many things you can do. This booklet offers helpful tips and ideas of what you can do to help your loved one be comfortable and peacefully say goodbye.
In my diverse international experience of twenty-five years serving as a pastor, chaplain, and professor, I have been with numerous dying individuals and have observed that these amazing people and their loved ones are often caught by surprise. And the ones who don’t have any regrets are those who maximize every moment to give and receive love. I want this booklet to teach people how to maximize love for those who are dying and minimize the regrets for those who are left behind.
Love Me Till I Die
Listen to My Feelings and Wishes About Dying
My life is almost over. I feel stunned. People who get into a fatal accident, drop dead of a heart attack, or die in their sleep are here one minute and gone the next. They don’t experience the fear, sadness, and pain that I am enduring. I know I am dying. I have time to think about my human journey coming to an end. I have time to contemplate my life and what I am leaving behind.
Death used to seem like a distant event that happened to someone else. However, death is staring me in the face, and I am afraid. However, I know I am not the only one who is scared. I know it is hard for you to see me decline. I realize that you are worried about me. I also realize that as you watch me decline in health, you are thinking about your own demise. This is only natural, but it leaves both of us emotionally raw.
Even though I may wear a brave face or say that everything is fine, I need you to walk beside me as I near the end. Dying makes me long to be loved and listened to more than ever before. My final wish is to love you without reserve and feel your love in return until I take my last breath. It may seem selfish to ask you to love me so much, especially if we have had our differences, yet love will strengthen the bond between us and heal any wounds that may be festering.
Please listen to me; in return, I will listen to you. There is wisdom in this quote by Ralph Nichols: “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”1 Please listen to me, especially now that I am dying. Listen to me reminisce about my childhood or my favorite hobby or a cherished family memory. Listen to me talk about my feelings, my fears, and my reaction to the news. Continue to listen to me as I share with you my desires and my struggles as I live out my final days. In exchange, let me extend to you the gift of listening.
Understand That I Feel Stressed
It is an emotional rollercoaster to know that you are dying and wonder when it will happen. You know it is coming, but no one can tell you exactly how much longer you have on this earth. At varying times and degrees, my emotions range from that of anger, sadness, joy, disappointment, gratitude, confusion, and acceptance. These feelings are compounded by my physical pain and decreased energy. I do not intend to take out my frustrations on you, but please understand that the stress I am under causes me to snap at times. I love you dearly and do not want to say or do anything to hurt you, but dying is stressful, and sometimes I speak without thinking.
Don’t Hide From Me
I am not blind to the fact that this is also an emotional rollercoaster for you and that you, too, are dealing with your own stress in relation to my health. I’m sure you feel overwhelmed at times and do not know what to do or how to relate. When we don’t know what to do, it is natural to remove ourselves from the situation. However, please deny your natural inclination to distance yourself from me. Please do not hide, regardless of our past or your fear. If you live nearby, please come see me. If you live far away, please call me. Rather than hiding, please come even closer.
When we talk, whether in person or via the phone, share your feelings with me, laugh with me, cry with me, and listen to me express my feelings. I would even welcome you sharing your sadness with me—there is no need to act strong. Avoid acting happy if you are depressed or angry. Not only can you hide from me physically by not visiting or calling, you can hide from me by masking your emotions. Please don’t do this. Don’t worry about doing or saying the wrong things, simply love me. As George Sand said, “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”2 Don’t hide from this chance to draw nearer to me. You can start by simply telling me you love me—love will help soothe the stress.
Notice What Makes Me Feel Loved
Although our time together may be short, take whatever time we have left together to learn more about me. Ask me what communicates love to me. Ask others who know me well to share insights as to what they have done over the years to show me love. If you have the time, take it one step further and read about the five love languages that speak to different people. Learn about what makes me feel loved3, and then shower me with those things.
Accept Outside Help
To better understand the emotions I will experience as I prepare to die, I encourage you to seek professional guidance from a counselor, mentor, pastor, social worker, medical professional, or hospice nurse. Most specifically, hospice nurses specialize in caring for people who are dying. I have heard that these nurses are dedicated to supporting families and making the dying person comfortable. Hospice’s services are covered by insurance or Medicaid/Medicare, so please do not hesitate to enlist their assistance. Professional input could alleviate some of your stress, which in the end will result in better care for me.
Accept Me and My Medical Condition
I need you to accept the fact that I am dying. I need you to accept my terminal medical condition and my healthcare decisions. I no longer want heroic interventions. I have fought heroically to live, but now I ask you to join me in accepting that this is my time to die. However, this acceptance does not mean that I want to stop living while I am still alive. While coming to terms with my death, until that day comes, let’s keep on living. Time is a precious gift, and I want to make the most of what time is left. We can’t change the inevitable, but once we accept that, we can enjoy the time that we do have together.
Help Me Live in the Now …
Help me focus on today. “But few of us live in the present. Having a life-threatening illness takes away our future and glorifies our past. It gives us the opportunity to live in the present…”4 My terminal condition is a reminder that this day is sacred and may be the last one we share together. Each day is a gift, and we must live it to the fullest, cherishing the moments that we do have.
I understand that it is uncomfortable to discuss death, yet this is my reality, and sometimes I need to talk about it. Please do not leave me to face my mortality alone. I feel lonely when you are in denial. Be emotionally aware that, while I am striving to live each day to the fullest, I am still dying, and I can’t completely ignore or bury that fact.
As I endeavor to live in the here and now, there are some practical things you can do to increase my quality of life. I hope that doing some of these things will also help you to get rid of your feelings of helplessness. You do not need to follow all of these suggestions, yet some of them will help us enhance our remaining time together.
… Beautify My Living Space
Please make my living space as neat, clean, and beautiful as possible. Kindly get rid of clutter so I can enjoy the simplicity of my favorite things. Place a cozy chair in my bedroom or in the living room where I can relax during the day. Arrange the furniture to face a window so that I can drink in the beauty of the outdoors. If there are no flowers or birds outside for my window, please hang a bird feeder or a potted plant near my window. I want to enjoy pretty things both inside and outside my room.