Don't try to be too wise; don't always try to search for

something profound to say. You don't have to do or say anything

to make things better. Just be there as fully as you can.

And if you are feeling a lot of anxiety and fear, and don't

know what to do, admit that openly to the dying person and

ask his or her help. This honesty will bring you and the dying

person closer together, and help in opening up a freer communication.

Sometimes the dying know far better than we how

they can be helped, and we need to know how to draw on

their wisdom and let them give to us what they know. Cicely

Saunders has asked us to remind ourselves that, in being with

the dying, we are not the only givers. "Sooner or later all who

work with dying people know they are receiving more than

they are giving as they meet endurance, courage and often

humor. We need to say so .. ." 3 Acknowledging our recognition

of their courage can often inspire the dying person.

I find too that I have been helped by remembering one

thing: that the person in front of me dying is always, somewhere,

inherently good. Whatever rage or emotion arises,

however momentarily shocking or horrifying these may be,

focusing on that inner goodness will give you the control and

perspective you need to be as helpful as possible. Just as when

you quarrel with a good friend, you don't forget the best parts

of that person, do the same with the dying person: Don't

judge them by whatever emotions arise. This acceptance of

yours will release the dying person to be as uninhibited as he

or she needs to be. Treat the dying as if they were what they

are sometimes capable of being: open, loving, and generous.

On a deeper, spiritual level, I find it extremely helpful

always to remember the dying person has the true buddha

nature, whether he or she realizes it or not, and the potential

for complete enlightenment. As the dying come closer to

death, this possibility is in many ways even greater. So they

deserve even more care and respect.


People often ask me: "Should people be told they are

dying?" And I always reply: "Yes, as quietly, as kindly, as sensitively,

and as skillfully as possible." From my years of visiting

ill and dying patients, I agree with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who

has observed that: "Most, if not all, of the patients know anyway.

They sense it by the changed attention, by the new and

different approach that people take to them, by the lowering

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