We imagine a person's final moments of life the way we see them in the movies: a frail, withering body with tubes running up and down its limbs, lying in a hospital bed. The steady inward and outward puffing from the respirator indicates an effort to hold on to life as life is pulling away. Much of the time there's a glimmer of sweetness if the body is surrounded by the one thing that actually can breathe life into this dark moment:
But for too many people, those final breaths are taken alone. In some cases, they are alone because they went through life that way. Others might have just outlived the people closest to them. Whatever the case may be, nobody should have to experience death without the comfort of another person by their side.
Former nurse Sandra Clarke created the NODA program (No One Dies Alone) after regrettably letting down a patient who had asked her to stay by his bedside as he passed away.
"The sense of frustration and anger was overwhelming," she said in an interview with Mayo Clinic. "He had a simple wish that was easily granted and I couldn't do it. From that moment on it became something important to me to find a way that we could be with patients at the end of life."
According to Good Magazine, Clarke's volunteers work in 3-hour shifts rubbing a patient's feet, reading aloud, playing music or just holding their hand.
This story serves as a reminder of how much loneliness surrounds us — and how it might be our responsibility to help.
We could all take a lesson from these volunteers and be the people who provide company to those who need it before it's too late. Maybe, if we spend a bit of time with and get to know them in life, there will be fewer people who actually need this service in the future.
(H/T: Good Magazine)