Thoughts about dying

For the most part, having cancer is something that hangs out in the background of my mind, shadowing but not a part of my life. It’s not a problem in the present, except in the efforts to keep it from becoming a problem in the future. Even that, I have certain specific fears. I fear what the disease itself can do to you. I fear being a burden on my family. I fear leaving those I love, I fear their grief.

But I don’t actively fear death. This morning when I first woke up, the thought that I have cancer passed through my mind and I felt a stab of fear. And then I let it pass.

My thoughts about death come from certain experiences I have had. General anesthesia is one that has made me more comfortable with death. Call me weird, but I like general anesthesia, the complete absence of pain, thought, the now your are here and now you are not.

But the one that has most stuck with me was the experience of passing out, losing consciousness. I had felt it coming and coming, and I had fought against it. I was trying to get my credit card out of my wallet in my purse to order pizza, and I kept trying and trying, kind of weakly calling to my daughter to help me put the credit card number into the order. Then finally I gave up on trying to hold on. I laid my head down on my purse and let myself go. It was very peaceful until I regained consciousness to hear my daughter on the phone with 911.

Yesterday afternoon, for some reason, I was overcome by weakness for a couple of hours. It is the low period in my treatment. After my blood work on Wednesday, I was told not to take the final pill in my treatment cycle, because my neutrophils were too low. So perhaps it is that, blood counts. I also worked out on my new elliptical trainer yesterday. It wasn’t overly difficult, but it might have contributed. Whatever it was, my knees started getting shaky, so I went to lie down. I laid there in bed and the weakness just spread throughout my body. I could, and did, get up, to go to the bathroom, to get a drink, but for a couple of hours I just felt sooooooo tired.

And as I laid there in bed, the thought of dying passed through my mind. Not that I thought I was dying, but was this what it felt like? My mother passed away from emphysema. I had a friend whose mother had died from emphysema, and I had asked her what it had been like. I had fears of my mother gasping for air like a fish out of water. “It was very peaceful,” my friend said. “She just got more and more tired, until one day she could not get out of bed, and a few days later she died.” And that is exactly what happened with my mother. She got more and more tired, until one day she could not get up. I got her to the hospital, where she slept, and three days later she died, peacefully.

On the other hand, I know a woman whose teenage son died of cancer. Or I should say, I know of her, because her son’s cancer battle captured the attention of the entire Bay Area and beyond through social media. I remember her talking about his death, saying that it was not the peaceful transition that it was supposed to be, that it was horrifying and agonizing. She said she felt the medical professionals had let her down. He died as home, as they wanted, but things and people who should have been in place at that time weren’t. If she gave details, I did not see them, just the expression of her pain over how it happened.

I have no idea why I am writing this. I have just committed myself to ceasing self censorship, which in the past would have told me, “Sharon, people don’t want to hear this depressing stuff on their Sunday morning.”

Ultimately, I am talking to myself. Do they have death with dignity here in Iowa, I wonder? I know they did in California. I walked with a friend through the process in her own cancer battle, through the appointments with doctors, the psychiatric evaluation, the approval, the delivery of the medication to her home. I don’t think she actually used it. I think she died sad and not completely herself. It is a hard thing to actually decide to end your own life, however miserable you are. As much as I tell you that I don’t fear death, I don’t know if I could do that.

Anyway, carry on. Let’s go back to our loved ones and enjoy every moment of this beautiful day. But if you have any thoughts or experience with death and would like to share it, you are welcome too.


14 thoughts on “Thoughts about dying

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  1. My mom once told me that my grandfather from my father’s side had a NDE and the next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital and every thing in between he did not remember. When he did wake up he told my father that it was the most peaceful feeling there was no pain no worries nothing and that if that is what death is like he is ready to go. And exactly one week later on the same day and time he passed away the same way as he did the week before except this time he did not wake up. I love you Sharon wish you ❤ a long healthy live.


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  2. I took care of my mother as she battled terminal illness. She became weaker but was still very mentally present. My sister and I were talking with her, feeding her ice chips, when suddenly we could tell she wasn’t listening to us. The feeling in the room changed, it felt almost sacred. We both stood and stepped to the end of her bed, we didn’t say a word to each other. My mom was looking up where the wall met the ceiling. She smiled, reached out her hand and her lips moved as though she was speaking to someone. She pulled her hand back and then reached out again, still smiling. Then she was gone. She gave me the greatest gift she ever could that day. The unshakable knowledge that there is life after this one, that someone we know and love will come to guide us when it is time to graduate from this life to the next.

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  3. AWwwww Sharon THANKS for sharing your Journey!! ((Heart Hugs))💕👑.
    Here’s a portion of my experience on July 4th Passing of my Christian Spiritual Mentor “Momma ” I shared on my FB and group 2 months ago⚘ “The long 4th of July day was FILLED with abundant alternating-resting in between-attentive physical care , Reminiscing of thankfulness , Scripture readings , Divine #EternalLife Promises Reviewed . In the background Instrumental Christian CD,s and Keyboard played Hymns gently filled the place and offered refocus for the heartbreaking moans that often rose up in between our ministering words and her Amens.
    By 8p.m overwhelming fatigue suddenly hit me and the desperate need of a power nap. My plan had been on my next close to her ear turn time was to read from the Holy Book of John. I had the Bible open when I laid down, silently I read a couple PSALMs to maybe include ..I got as far as reviewing the first line of John…
    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”..
    #InMyDream I saw One in a long robe walking softly toward me. He stopped just ahead, reached out one nail print scarred hand, called my Spiritual Mentor Momma by name and said “… IT IS TIME TO GO HOME” ..a young girl around 8 in the spirit looked at the outreached hand and said ” MY JESUS? ” He replied ” I AM”…and she took his hand and They walked together in the direction he had come from. Perhaps because of the dementia symptoms of forgetfulness her spirit began as a child…Soon I noticed
    EVERY few steps they walked her age and stature in the spirit grew. The Glory of the destiny they were heading to began to Shine forth in brilliance…THE DOOR BELL Rang…I was jolted back but still sleepy & had difficulty getting up. At 15 minutes after 8 I was informed “It looks like SHE HAS PASSED”………….Indeed she had 👑🌹
    I held #TheDream content close to heart ( including added words specific to family things said) until the next 6 plus hours was complete: Calling The Doctor…The sending of a Nurse to confirm Earthly Body Status…The final comprehensive close down of machines etc and bed bath…The call to the Mortuary and long waiting for pick up….😣🌹 😣🙏🙏…
    #TheDream was then SHARED ,and a great peaceful comfort flooded our souls….God’s PROMISES have proven so true to us Beloved Believers in the worst, devastating, heartbreaking times 🌹 #BLESSED ARE THEY WHO MOURN FOR THEY #SHALL BE COMFORTED 🌹Indeed!! ..And So Very Thankful Again Today🤗Amen❤ ” 🙏

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  4. My former art teacher and family friend died in 2018. I had spent some months helping her because her family was somewhat estranged… in hospice she kept looking and talking to the wall and ceiling intersection, as your reader said above. I asked her if she was seeing people and she said yes. She suddenly became very clear minded and happy . Then fell asleep for 3 days and didn’t wake up. She had feared death but in the end she seemed so happy!❤️

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  5. My mom asked to be helped to her bed and told us she would not get back up,while I was sitting with her she started talking to passed family members,asked for some cheesecake, which I fed her, amazed at how much she enjoyed it,then she dozed on and off, awakening once reaching up with both hands calling my sister’s name,she gasped and said “oh how beautiful! She had a drink of water ,slept a little, and then asked me to make some coffee. I went in and started the coffee, heard her stir and I looked in on her and she sighed,I finished the coffee and went to her,only seconds later,and she was gone. Two things stick in my mind, her beautiful smile when she ate the cheesecake, it was pure enjoyment, and her face when she said beautiful, reaching up.I believe she saw where she was going and was ready.

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  6. Sharon,
    I have been reading your blog for quite a while, but have never commented until now. We’re obviously strangers, but I am rooting you on from afar. Commenting now because this is a subject that I have thought a lot about. You don’t have to publish my comment and honestly hope you don’t as I don’t typically share such personal information, just wanted to share my experiences as it can help make decisions we all have to make one day.

    Have lost too many of my loved ones, and was present for both my dad and my would-be father in law (husband and I married later), as they transitioned from this life to the next. My dad had metastatic lung cancer for 11 months. We knew what was coming and thought we knew what to expect. My dad wanted to be at home so we had home based hospice. Our experience was similar to what you shared in your blog. The hospice nurses are not with you 24 hrs a day, and unfortunately for my dad, they were not there at the very end to ensure his comfort. He was awake and scared. It was not at all what my mom and I anticipated (that he would be mostly asleep and drift away). It was up to us to administer the medicine and even though we knew he was actively dying, we were still scared of doing something wrong. Hard to explain. I will say that one beautiful moment that he had as it grew closer was that he saw my brother standing in the kitchen… my brother died in a car accident years ago.

    My husband’s dad had a very rare lymphoma. He went into the hospital thinking it was a crazy flu he couldn’t shake, and then just never came back home. When we knew it was terminal, he went into the hospice in the hospital. Because of the constant care, he was kept sedated and asleep until he passed. He couldn’t talk to us, but he wasn’t in pain and wasn’t scared. It was very peaceful. It was what I would want for anyone I loved.

    If I have the opportunity to know that my time is coming and can make plans for what I want, I would choose to be asleep and not aware of what is going on. Sending nothing but positive vibes and prayers of comfort and peace to you and your family.

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    1. Mandy, I hope you don’t mind that I published your comment, but it was so filled with wisdom I think maybe others could benefit from it as well. If you want me to take it down, though, I will, do let me know.

      My parents were both asleep for days before they passed. My dad was on morphine, because his intestines had ruptured and he was in terrible pain. My mother was just sleeping due to lack of oxygen. I guess it’s hard to know how it will be ahead of time. My parents both passed in the hospital. But what I don’t want is to pass in a nursing home situation. I think it’s beautiful that your dad saw your brother!

      Thank you so much for sharing. As I said, I dill take it given if you would like, but I thought it was do valuable.


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