I posted yesterday about the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP). Before Mass this morning I spoke with a nurse who works in our local hospital, and discussed the LCP with her. That conversation reminded how much the words that we use in describing the end of a patient's life communicate messages about how we value - or do not value - that time in a patient's life. Different words that we used in our conversation were "difficult", "horrible", "cruel", "existing, not living".
I was comfortable with the word "difficult" - reaching the end of your life, or accompanying someone else as they reach the end of their life - can be difficult. But I think a major part of the problem in being pro-life in the context of the end of life is that we do not promote a positive and hopeful language to talk about that time of a person's life. The experience of hopelessness, both on the part of the patient and on the part of those accompanying the patient, seems to arise simply because no-one challenges a language that enshrines a hidden agenda of despair.
I then saw this post at Diakonia - and was very struck that here the moment or time of a person's dying was seen as being worthy of a photographic record. Yes, accompanying someone as they are dying is difficult. But it is also, like other great moments of life, an irreplaceable moment, a moment that should be lived in its full meaning rather than being abandoned to despair.