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I'm pursuing a postgraduate degree in nursing education. In my philosophy seminar, we're discussing death and its impact on the meaning of life. Drawing upon the many deaths you've witnessed, what insights can you share?-J.E., FLA.
Because we see death as the enemy, we try to eliminate it, one disease at a time. But death is inherent in the human condition, and we need to stop making war on it. I've found that patients who die at peace are those whose purpose isn't to find the meaning of life, but to make life meaningful.
I recall one unforgettable individual, a middle-aged man named Matt. He'd devoted his life to his beloved mother, who depended on him for everything. Some of Matt's relatives felt she'd prevented him from leaving home and developing adult relationships. But it was Matt who chose to stay. She needed him, and he needed her to need him.
Even when he became terminally ill with AIDS, his main concern was his mother. "She leans on me for everything," he confided.
Matt wasn't afraid of dying and continued to care for his mother as long as he could. On the day AIDS finally won, Matt died at home while his mother slept upstairs.
At his funeral service, his mother walked hesitantly down the aisle toward his casket. As she moved toward a pew, she reached out one last time and leaned on the casket for support.
Perhaps, like Matt, we might find meaning in the living of life, not in the ending.
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