"Let death be what takes us, not lack of imagination."
November 10, 2015 9:58 PM   Subscribe

I've just read the transcript, and this man and what he and his hospice do are so amazing. I wish that level of care was the norm for end of life transitions.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 10:08 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I’ve mentioned the This Is Actually Happening interview with a former Zen Hospice project worker before, but I’ll gladly do it again: “What If You Witnessed A Thousand Deaths?”
posted by Going To Maine at 10:17 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

For most people, the scariest thing about death isn't being dead, it's dying, suffering.

Honestly, not for me. A period of discomfort doesn't worry me; being wiped out of existence, most terrifying thing I can think of.

...a sense of wonderment and spirituality...

Seriously - really seriously - no thanks. I don't doubt the Zen Hospice is great for many people. Sure, when you're definitely dying you might as well smoke or take risks. Redesigning our relationship with death? Don't call me; I'll be in that sterile hospital you have such easy contempt for.
posted by Segundus at 4:06 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

being wiped out of existence, most terrifying thing I can think of.

I'm feeling you there, but there isn't anything anyone can do about that, I'm afraid. The older I get, the more I'm convinced that the first step in learning to die well lies in facing that limit.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:46 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Zen Master Huangbo had some interesting tips for the dying:
If an ordinary man, when he is about to die, could only see the five elements of consciousness as void; the four physical elements as not constituting an 'I'; the real mind as formless and neither coming nor going; his nature as something neither commencing at his birth nor perishing at his death, but as whole and motionless in its very depths; his mind and environmental objects as one—if he could really accomplish this, he would receive enlightenment in a flash. He would no longer be entangled by the "triple world"; he would be a world-transcendor. He would be without even the faintest tendency towards rebirth. If he should behold the glorious sight of all the Buddhas coming to welcome him, surrounded by every kind of gorgeous manifestation, he would feel no desire to approach them. If he should behold all sorts of horrific forms surrounding him, he would experience no terror. He would just be himself, oblivious of conceptual thought and one with the absolute. He would have attained the state of unconditioned being. This, then, is the fundamental principle.
So that's my plan. If some kindly volunteer wants to bring me flowers and chocolates that's fine too. If they start babbling about death being "sacred" though I'll probably chase them out with my cane.
posted by mbrock at 8:01 AM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Zen Hospice Project is the last place that I was a volunteer caregiver and if I am able to do volunteer work again, it will be there.

We never banged people over the head with our view of their death. The ZHP precepts are:

Welcome everything; push away nothing.
Find a place of stillness in the middle of things.
Don't wait.
Cultivate "don't know" mind.
Bring your whole self into the room.

They're not bad precepts to live by, even outside of the hospice experience.
posted by janey47 at 11:35 AM on November 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

Going to Maine, that interview isn't with just any volunteer, Frank is one of the founders of ZHP. He is a remarkable teacher, just remarkable. And that's what he's focusing now -- teaching. He's one of the people who framed the precepts I listed above.
posted by janey47 at 11:42 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, as I write this, my husband is in a beautiful, peaceful room at Zen Hospice and it is really the most amazing place. After caring for him for about a month at home as he went into serious decline, I reached my limit and secured a spot at the guest house for him. It is seriously the best decision I could have made and the sense of relief and unburdening that I've felt in the 36 hours since he arrived there is off the charts. The environment and the people there are beyond incredible.
posted by Mrs Roy G Biv at 9:31 PM on November 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

As a physician, and an oncologist-in-training who tells people on a near-daily basis that they are rapidly nearing the end of their life, I can't agree more with this talk. I have expressed and often feel alone among my peers when I tell people that I didn't become a doctor to save lives - I became a doctor because I want to do what I can to make people feel better. Sometimes that means curing them and saving their lives -- but it usually doesn't. Having said that, I have felt for a long time that we have to have a whole specialty dedicated to making patients feel better - we should all be palliative care doctors.
posted by honeybee413 at 6:17 PM on November 25, 2015

« Older Raw Art, post-circus physical acts of beauty...   |   (gently) break on through to the other side Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments