There’s Nothing Wrong with an Ordinary Death

I was moved by an essay in the NEJM, August 22, 2019, by Caroline Wellberry, a doctor who has been part of many deaths. We all talk about dying a “good death,” in peace, free of pain, still in control, maintaining dignity, believing that one’s life had purpose and meaning. If you don’t believe in an afterlife, the term “passing” has no meaning. You’re not going anywhere. You simply die.

Shouldn’t your loved ones be at your side, comforting you with expressions of love, atonement for old conflicts, emphasizing your life’s accomplishments? Shouldn’t the air be filled with intense emotions?

Many find this oppressive, and instead prefer humor and mundane conversation. The dying may not care about finding meaning in death. The living do and want guidance in navigating their own mortality. Best to let the dying die as they’ve lived.

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