March 10, 2009

A Sacred Life

By Stella Montes

The "most difficult" patients I encounter in my work as a Psychiatrist are not the schizophrenics, the depressed or bipolar patients or the severely anxious and agitated ones nor are they the paranoid, the violent or the self-destructive patients BUT the terminally ill.

What do you say to someone who is terminally ill? What words can possibly comfort, alleviate, put at ease the mind of someone who is dying? There are NO WORDS, brothers and sisters... no words in my psychiatric training would suffice to uplift the emotions; no drug could erase the reality of death.

So I prepare my patients for death. I allow them to share their fears, their frustrations, their disappointments, their pain, their dreams unrealized, dreams yet to be realized! I talk to them about God and His plan for all of us... that we are meant for Him and not for this life.

Ours is a journey towards Him. I am where they are in this journey, through this process. I consider it my most treasured vocation to minister to the sick and the dying. What a gift to be able to be with a dying person to the very end! What a blessing it is to minister, to guide, to give, to share, to comfort, to listen, to love... till the very end!

To die alone bereft of family and friends is the saddest of all! I once heard a story about a hospice nurse who took care of an elderly woman in her 80's who had no family. That night, the nurse knew it was going to be her last. She stayed late to be with her. She asked if there was anything she could do for her as this night will be her last. The elderly woman asked for a cigarette. It was all she wanted at the moment of her death. She died the next morning. The nurse couldn't contain her tears and her grief! This was a life reduced to one last cigarette!

I challenge my dying patients to make a choice. To die in fear, despair, hopelessness, despondency, bitterness, anger, resentment OR to die in peace, faith, hope, courage, full of love, prepared to leave loved ones and ready to meet our Maker!

I ask them to do everything in their power to "fight the good fight", "to run a good race"... to battle with the illness, to get the best doctors, to choose the best treatments available, to ready one's defenses... to eat well, rest, meditate, surround oneself with uplifting and positive people, to pray, to seek God. I ask them to assist loved ones who will be left behind, to prepare for death, to ready the soul. I inspire them to have hope and joy in their hearts as they prepare and anticipate to meet the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

With acceptance and surrender, there is peace and joy... yes, even joy in the face of death!

"The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want ... Even when I walk through the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for you are with me... your rod and staff will protect me..." He promises to be with us till the very end.

I pray for a peaceful and glorious death for myself, my loved ones, for all of us, for others. We pray for the same grace for all our loved ones. We pray for the poor souls in Purgatory who can pray for us but cannot pray for themselves. We pray, most especially, for those who are about to die lacking in the state of grace. We pray for God's loving mercy for unprepared souls.

To die in God's grace is TRULY the greatest blessing of all!

God's peace be upon you.


"You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men,that they may see your good works and give glory to yourheavenly Father."

"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

1 comment:

Liz Noel said...

Hello Dr Stella,
I happened to come across your blog as I was researching on alternative medicine.... How precious and perpetually honest are your words!!!

I can't help but comment on one of the essays as I ponder your thoughts in relation to my circumstances. Please know that these are merely opinions of an insane and desperate woman! Ha!

Here goes....
RE: Terminally ill patients
I must admit that I've thought about this countless times. I have a very close friend who is battling with brain tumor (stage 4), but I tell you, I would give anything to have a fraction of her enthusiasm for life and her willingness to continue the fight. I don't minimize her ordeal but I am wishfully "envious" of her concrete diagnosis (supported by bloodwork, MRI, etc.), while I'm still on my seemingly endless quest to find answers to my symptoms. I just simply cannot accept fibromyalgia as a diagnosis, especially when nothing shows up in all the tests I've undergone. Logic would dictate that if the body aches and muscle spasms are rampant, then there must be something wrong. I cannot understand why the medical world has not been able to provide the answers. (Perhaps, this is very challenging for me to fathom due to my software engineering background wherein the job entails finding an explanation for a defect.) Of course, I don't dismiss the possibility of our Lord teaching me something such as relinquishing control.

At the moment, I am extremely exhausted and severely depressed. The last procedure hasn't given me relief (I was told it will take several weeks). Death, I suppose, is much sweeter than jumping from one doctor to another and unceasingly wondering what my future years behold (as my mobility is increasingly getting worse). It also doesn't help knowing that my heart now desires healing more than I desire God Himself! (I never thought my devotion to Him had limitations. Back then, I vowed to even face martyrdom for His sake...but I guess chronic pain is more unbearable than martyrdom itself.)

Anyway, I'm looking forward to our next meeting. I am keeping you in my prayers as you fulfill God's calling for your life through your profession. Please do the same for me, especially a new revelation of His purpose for my life.

His Blessings to you,
Liz Noel