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The final act of care, small gestures with lasting impact

If you knew the end was approaching, what would your final act of care be?

Last week, during my end-of-life doula training, we discussed various topics, ranging from how and when to approach conversations about death, personal experiences, to even the smallest details that can make a significant difference. These small details include something as simple as preparing a cup of tea at the right temperature. It brought back memories and made me reflect on how, as death approaches, we often find ourselves rushing around frantically, sometimes forgetting about the importance of 'rituals' and those small acts that can bring joy and comfort. Staying attuned to our intentions becomes essential to avoid being distracted by everyday anxiety and emerging medical issues

During these discussions, a phrase emerged that has really made me reflect this week. We discussed 'the final act of care,' referring to the actions taken to care for a person in the final stages of their life. However, I believe that this 'final act of care' can work both ways, if health and other circumstances allow it. I have witnessed 'final acts of care' from those who are dying as well. These can take the form of letters, words that will last a lifetime, physical items, or even a simple touch.

So…what was my final act of care?

I had a hard time choosing just one, so I'll share a few, with the most meaningful one saved for last

  • Getting him a mattress topper that would make his bed more comfortable

  • Installing grab rails around his room and bathroom for comfort and independence (which was important to him)

  • Breakfast on-demand every morning

  • Travelling 9000km back and forth quite often

  • Getting him an electric reclining chair so he could enjoy watching tv in different spaces

  • Accepting that he needed professional care

  • Gifting him a book that will help him process his situation as I was not able to fully help him with that

  • Getting his favourite lunch from the market (as per his request), knowing he would not be able to taste it (as he was losing his taste) and would leave it half way through anyway

  • Saying I love you

  • Not losing my temper when he was moody at me. I knew he was frustrated that he was not able to put his shoes on on his own anymore

  • Hearing the same story over and over again and listen it with the same enthusiasm every time

But my final, final act was asking him a few hours before his death if he wanted me to get there straight away, and he said no. I listened and agreed, even though I might carry that regret with me for the rest of my life. I find comfort in thinking it was his choice.

See you next week!

Fernanda

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