Earlier this year, I cared for a gentleman during the last six months of his life. His dying happened very naturally and peacefully over the course of a week. I got to put aside the usual daily schedule of buzzing about encouraging him to eat, measuring his fluids, turning him to prevent bedsores. We could tell things were taking a turn when his eyes stopped lighting up when we offered ice cream. There wasn't much to do besides wait. For a few days he mentioned going on a trip, trying to decide if he should stay or go. Later, he murmured about his mother and what a wonderful woman she was. One day, I watched him scan the ceiling above my head, eyes wide and clear for he first time in days. It was a special time. I was very lucky to witness it. This Scientific American article has some wonderful things to say about end of life experiences.
“Just being there and listening—that's really what the patient wants,” Grant says. Acknowledging the personal significance of these end-of-life experiences may help patients and families through the difficult transition from dying to death.