A Final Wish


I have written this blog post as a reflection of an experience often had, when guiding my clients through the end of their life or that of another.  My hope in writing, is that for each reader, new light is shone on the complexities experienced when losing one we dearly love.

The battle of being mortal is the battle to maintain the integrity of one’s life - to avoid becoming so diminished or dissipated or subjugated that who you are becomes disconnected from who you were….or want to be.
— Atol Gawande (Being Mortal)

We encounter death countlessly through out our lives, knowing it will eventually take our life. Yet, how difficult to confront death’s reality, especially when the dying is beloved.  Often, an unspeakable complexity arises when one, be that elderly and frail or sick and suffering, decides” it is time to go”.

“When will this be over? I just want to die…my family tells me I should not think like this.” My heart hurts for all when hearing these words.

Can we allow another to die on their own terms, particularly if that person whom we may have known all our lives and whom we love so much, is ready for life to end?

It seems one’s decision to accept death often evokes another’s opinion that this is “giving up”. Implied is a great moral wrong.

In the face of another’s hope for life to end, painful, inevitable loss, religious beliefs, loyalty and even outrage may be evoked. Our love sometimes reflects such paradox! Perhaps, when we most want to hold on to another, needed is quite the opposite: acceptance, love, understanding and most of all, a rare personal courage to acknowledge another’s final wish in the face of our own exquisite loss.  Equally, if we could simply listen to our most loved, no matter how painful, with profound understanding for another’s experience, might we then provide the greatest comfort of all, as life comes to a close?


Dr. Ira Byock, is a remarkable advocate for all of us. His frontline work and loving portrayal of his experiences in his life-changing book, Dying Well, leaves the reader with hope and a direction in the face of life’s end.  He is a rare and gifted advocate for all in the final weeks of life. Very directly he advises:  "Illness can dissolve who that person was…….by ignoring, dismissing or minimizing facets of a person’s identity, doctors or family add to a patient’s suffering.”

Perhaps his wisdom allows us in the face of so many complex emotions, to decide to honor the expression and wishes of those facing death, and who seek to do so, on their own terms.



With uncanny insight and experience, a physician, as a physician and son, faces these very heart breaking issues. A must-read.

A truly beautiful portrayal of this very topic.