What does dying feel like?
Science is Just Beginning to Understand the Experience of Life’s End
“Do you want to know what will happen as your body starts shutting down?”
My mother and I sat across from the hospice nurse in my parents’ Colorado home. It was 2005, and my mother had reached the end of treatments for metastatic breast cancer. A month or two earlier, she’d been able to take the dog for daily walks in the mountains and travel to Australia with my father. Now, she was weak, exhausted from the disease and chemotherapy and pain medication.
My mother had been the one to decide, with her doctor’s blessing, to stop pursuing the dwindling chemo options, and she had been the one to ask her doctor to call hospice. Still, we weren’t prepared for the nurse’s question. My mother and I exchanged glances, a little shocked. But what we felt most was a sense of relief.
Up until about 100 years ago most people passed quickly – farm accidents, plagues and childbirth. Modern medicine has changed how we experience death with most Americans passing from heart disease, cancer and lung disease now.
In this well-written essay, author Jenni Dear shares her experience with her mother’s recent death and some of the latest research as science begins to peek “beyond the horizon” into how we experience death: