Myriad Gifts

A Story Of Dying And The Gifts that Can Flow From That

By Stephen J. Healey

I entered my 92 year old father in the Hospice program on Monday September 28th 2009. The week preceding this I had struggled with the decision and made sure everything that could have been done for him, was. By the time I made the decision, with as much input and indication that I could obtain from my father, I was at peace with it, but almost felt as if I had waited too long.

Hospice recommended a book called Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley. It speaks of a phenomenon the dying go through called "Nearing Death Awareness," what to expect as your loved one moves through this process, how you can help them and how this experience might help you, thus the title "Final Gifts," plural.

The first gift I received was that reading this book shifted my paradigm from one of anxiety and fear, to one of hope. It also gave me a road map to help navigate the way and, most importantly, tools to help me, help my father. The book speaks of ways to assist your loved one reconcile outstanding issues, to encourage them as they look past you into the distance, perhaps seeing predeceased loved ones or feeling enveloped in the warm light of unconditional love, so often described, or perhaps the presence of God, pending your beliefs.

On the preceding Friday I had seen my father looking into the distance and reaching out. Instead of scaring and upsetting me, I saw this as good for him and as a notice to me that the time of his passing was drawing closer. I had spent a lot of time with him in the nursing home in the 2-3 weeks before he died working on my computer and trying to talk with him, whenever he was cognizant. After that "reaching out" I spent even more time in his presence. That Friday was the last time I had any verbal communication from him and the next to last time I saw him open his eyes, although all indications are that the dying can hear you right up to the time they move on.

After a week in Hospice my father passed on Monday, October 5th at about 6:30pm, with me at his side, along with our Hospice nurse Vicky, who was my most wonderful and deeply appreciated guide. Recognizing the signs, thanks to Vicky, just before my father died, I held his hand, had my other hand on his chest and then he opened his eyes for the first time in 3 days. He was looking beyond me into the distance, initially, and then looked me straight in the eyes, but was unable to speak. I told him he had been a good father, that I loved him and that it was ok to let go, to help him release. He took three more breaths and then moved on. My sincere hope is that I was able to give him the second gift in this story, in that I eased his passing.

The third gift is that this experience was powerful, profound and sacred. I was privileged and grateful to have been there with my father as he left our mortal world. I can tell this experience has shifted me somehow, akin to how the birth of my son shifted me to be a better man and become a father. I now realize that both birth and death are sacred events, only at different points. The gift of some faith may actually be the fourth and most profound gift, from my ever loving father to his son.

Finally, if this story has spoken to you and you believe it can benefit others, then please feel free to re-gift it and pass it on. Perhaps then I can continue to make some good of both my father's life and his death and the flow of gifts will be truly "myriad."

Definition: myriad
Function: adjective
Date: 1765
1 : innumerable <those myriad problems>; also : both numerous and diverse <myriad topics>
2 : having innumerable aspects or elements <the myriad activity of the new land -- Meridel Le Sueur

"Spirit offers us defining moments when life is going to forever be different, if we pay attention, and if we do not, life will just continue to be what it was. These moments are God's voice speaking to us in a way that catches our attention and we can either say, "Nice message," and keep going, or we turn aside from the way we've been headed and begin the walk into our greatness." --Mary Manin Morrissey


Helpful Resources

Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying
By Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley


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